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 Kristin’s story.

 

Tell us about the day your baby was born.

The story starts a little while before my son was born. I was at my 28 week checkup, when the midwife checked my blood pressure and it was quite high, she checked in a few different positions and eventually got a more normal reading while I was lying on my left side. Thankfully, no protein in my urine. She educated me on the symptoms I should keep a look out for, and call if I every experienced them.

 

When I was 29/30 weeks pregnant, I started developing headaches, and I felt unwell, and I knew something was wrong. I contacted my midwife and things happened quickly after that. I tested my urine to find protein, and was admitted to hospital for observation and tests. The next day I was diagnosed with preeclampsia, with very high blood pressure, and was told I would have to stay in the hospital until my baby was delivered. I had no idea how long that would be.

 

Things got bad really quickly. My body was not responding to medication, my blood pressure was uncontrolled and very high. I had a terrible headache from swelling in my brain, my liver hurt because it was starting to break down. I was at serious risk of seizures. The only way to move forward was to deliver my baby. My gynae suggested I be induced to see if I could deliver my baby naturally. If that didn’t work, we would have an emergency c-section.

 

When all your plans go out the window, even your backup plans, all you can do is put your trust in God and the people looking after you. I was terribly scared, I had no idea what to do, or expect. I even felt guilty for feeling sick enough that I wanted my baby out so I could feel some relief.

 

I was in the labour ward for 2 horrible nights, I was basically their ICU patient. After a failed induction, the time had come to take my baby out to save me. I was 31 weeks on the day, when I was wheeled into theater. Almost oblivious to what was happening, they worked quickly to get him out. The whole c-section was so uncomfortable but eventually I heard a tiny scream, and I knew my baby was alive and I started crying tears of relief. I got a seconds glance at him before they whisked him away to the NICU staff to attend to him.

 

I was wheeled into High Care for a night, still at risk of having a seizure, my blood pressure did not go down immediately. My husband came to me a few hours later to show me photos of my baby, and I honestly could not comprehend what had happened. My heart could not understand that the baby I was looking at was mine. I did not feel happy or joyful to see him. I felt guilty for letting him down, but relieved he was okay. He was 1,1kg, breathing with some help from a ventilator. I had no idea what to expect next, but I found all the staff incredibly empathetic and encouraging.

 

Can you describe some of the emotions you experienced during the early days and weeks with your baby?

You never expect an early delivery. With a preemie, everything feels so completely out of your control, and I often felt helpless and so completely unprepared. It took 10 days to be able to hold my baby for the first time because he was so fragile, it is heartbreaking waiting so long to just hold your baby. And I really struggled to bond with him, he never really felt like my baby until he came home and we managed to establish breastfeeding. I felt guilty that I struggled to bond with him.

At that point, your baby needs you, and you need to be there. You push all your emotions away, and move forward somehow so that you can be there. You feel numb and overwhelmed with caring for this tiny human. I also felt unsupported emotionally because nobody else I knew had a preemie and didn’t understand what I was going through, I would often get comments that they might have thought were supportive but I found them insensitive and hurtful.

 

Do you have any words of encouragement for a mom who is currently waiting for her baby to come home?

The waiting is so tough, each hour in the NICU feels like ages. Keep focused on the small things, like take each day or hour as it comes. Celebrate all the small milestones like a few grams of weight gain or the day your baby comes off the ventilator, or being able to maintain their temperature. They are all important and another step to having your baby at home. You are a warrior mama who is so strong, fighting for her precious baby like no other. That tiny human needs you, hold them every chance you get, sing, talk and touch them, everything helps them. Your baby knows you, and you are their one and only comfort in this scary, clinical world they are born into. You can make a difference. Remember it does get better, this too shall pass.

 

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