Thursday, 5 November 2015

The Miracle of Pre-Term Birth

It's World Prematurity Awareness Month culminating in World Prematurity Day on November 17th. I've been involved in the day since it's inauguration and it's a very special and emotional time for me still.

I've met so many amazing people due to Joseph's birth, and we all share something in common. A unique sadness, that our pregnancies were cut short, changed into a medical emergency. Our first memories of our babies weren't ones we had planned or expected. For many of us they felt unique to us until the realisation that actually many people all go through the same thing. But what I am realising is that we've also experienced a miracle and joy, but some have had that cut short. The uncertainty of it all is something very difficult to understand and to live with.

I know I have been diagnosed as having PTSD but I actually think it's something else. Post Traumatic Sadness Disorder. When  look at Joseph's pictures I feel a sadness as well as elation and joy. I feel sad when I look at pictures like this.

I can see his ribs, his tiny legs, his fingers. So frail and tiny. That's the smallest nappy made for babies, and it's almost down to his toes.

But then contrast it with this.

Our little man just 4 days old, breathing on his own for a little while, out for a cuddle. He made the cutest little squeaky noises. We couldn't stop smiling, and then I left the room once he was back in the incubator and cried. I cried and cried. I was happy, but I was also desperately sad. That 7 minute cuddle was all I had had in 4 days and all I would get for many more weeks to come. My dreams of endless skin to skin, of breastfeeding, of taking my baby home shortly after birth was totally in tatters, and I wasn't prepared for what was to come, but how can you prepare?

I still find it hard to let go, and that's ok. I do let go, I let Joseph go every day. I let him spread his wings, and I push him too, to discover himself and the world around him. I am proud of me for that because I could have just refused to let him go to nursery or school. I could have opted out of it all and kept him with me all the time. But I didn't.

And it's ok that I am still sad about his start, about my start to life as a mother. It doesn't actually dull my parenting experience if anything it makes the joyful times brighter.

I have a remarkable young man who is confident, smart, in tune with the emotions of others. A little boy with a quick wit and sensitive disposition. He is a gem and brightens up everyone's day.

Would I have been a better mother had I carried him to term? Probably not. Would I have been a better mother without having PTSD however you define it? Probably not.

On this World Prematurity Day my challenge to all of you, whether you have a baby on the neonatal unit, had a baby on the neonatal unit or supported or supporting someone who has had an involvement on a neonatal unit, find the joy in the journey. Let go a little of the sadness that binds you to it, and find something to celebrate.

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