November is World Prematurity Month. To honour and support the moms of preemies, we are sharing stories of moms who’ve been there and who can offer support from the other side of a long road. This is Emma’s story.
Tell us about the day your baby was born.
The day my baby decided to come into the world, was very unexpected indeed. At 36 weeks pregnant, I experienced a severe bout of gastro which landed me in the ER in the middle of the night. Due to my condition, they admitted me to the maternity ward for observation, as I had lost a lot of fluids amidst copious amounts of vomiting and diarrhoea. The next morning the midwife was checking baby’s vitals, she looked puzzled at the foetal monitor, as the lines on the charts were making large zip zags on the paper. Concerned, she called my gynae to come and have a look. She brushed it off as residual stomach cramps from the gastro and said there is nothing to worry about. However, this nurse had a nagging suspicion that something was up, and she called her back a few hours later. After looking at the readings again, she realised that I was having contractions brought on by the gastro, and the baby was going into distress. I was immediately booked into theatre and told to call my husband as he was going to meet his baby boy today!
After that everything went past in a bit of a blur, and the baby was born via c-section, however, he was not well. His Apgar score was 1 when he came out, he wasn’t breathing and needed assistance. They say hearing your baby cry for the first time is a relief, but when you just don’t hear it, it is frighting. I was briefly allowed to kiss his forehead before he was whisked away to the NICU. He was born at 36 weeks, but he weighed in at a healthy 3.6kgs.
After what seemed like hours, the nurses allowed me to go and see him, while still in my hospital bed. I wanted to cry the first time I saw him, he was covered in tubes and wires, and his little body seemed so lifeless. I held his little hand, but all I wanted to do was hold him, but he was so fragile. It was only after 2 days that I was allowed to hold him in my arms for the first time. It was the best feeling in the world, and I just had to keep pinching myself to remind me that this baby was actually mine.
It was a bit strange being in the maternity ward all on your own, despite being in a shared room, the unit had very few mothers at the time. I would be pumping milk and visiting the NICU 4-5 times a day, or as much as I could, as I was pretty lonely. I had some friends who came to visit, only to find me alone in the maternity unit, no baby (everyone wants to see the baby!).
Over the next few days, the NICU became familiar territory. The sauna heated air, the constant blipping of machines, and the hum of the ventilation. The plastic-covered lazyboy I became best friends with… 🙂 My little boy got stronger and his jaundice went away, and we were able to separate from the life-supporting machines. The nurses in that ward are the most amazing human beings, they wear so many hats. They were there to offer support and advice, and even slap you on the hand once in a while when you forget to wash your hands as you come in!
I was very lucky that my baby only had to spend 5 days in the NICU, I always looked on to the other mothers who came in to visit their babies. Most of them were born way more premi than mine. They would sit calmly next to the incubator and sing/talk to their babies, some of whom they couldn’t even touch. My heart went out to all of them.
Can you describe some of the emotions you experienced during the early days and weeks with your baby?
Many! Extreme exhaustion, teariness, overwhelming love, zombie mom, glowing pride.
Do you have any words of encouragement for a mom who is currently waiting for her baby to come home?
If you happen to be one of those moms, I wish you courage, strength and patience. You are that baby’s rock, their place of safety and their first love. The road is slow but you will get there eventually. From one mom to another, keep it together and know that someone is rooting for you.
All my love, Emma xxx