Sometime motherhood begins too soon. For most women, their first Mother’s Day is a reason to celebrate and be joyful; however this isn’t the case for all women, myself included. As you may know, my eldest child, Tristan, was born prematurely at 28 weeks 5 days; over 11 weeks before his due date. He spent the first 46 days of his early life in the hospital.
According to Tommy’s Each day in the UK, 2,127 babies are born, 10 babies are stillborn, 684 babies are miscarried, and 152 babies are born preterm. These are shocking statistics for a developed country, and Tommy’s is funding research into the causes, as well as supporting the parents who are behind these stats.
I’ll be honest with you; it’s no surprise that being separated from your child is a difficult thing to accept. After his birth, Tristan was immediately taken to the NICU; all I saw was a brief glance of him bundled up in a blanket, with a little yellow knit hat on his head. It would be another 10-12 hours before I would see him again.
Back on the post-partum ward, I was in a room with another 5 mothers; all of whom had their babies around them during the day, and in the nursery at night so they could get some sleep. I had no baby beside me. All I heard were the cooes and cries all around me.
I wanted to stay in the hospital as long as I could to be near my son…but after three days I couldn’t take it anymore and had to leave. It would be a 70 mile round-trip daily; depending on others to drive me there in the morning, and Phil to come by for a visit and a ride home late after work.
It was exhausting in that 24 degree celcius SCBU room. The same walls all day long; the bleeps of the monitors attached to Tristan, and the other three babies in the room. Pretending that life was normal and everything was fine. It must have been comforting to Tristan as for the first year at home he rarely slept, but he was guaranteed to sleep between 4-5am when ER was on the TV! If I turned the set off, or put it on mute, he’d awake again instantly!
This collage is my first Mother’s Day. That little hand print in the background was in a card on his cot, along with a little chocolate when we arrived to see him that day. The print and card are now in a scrapbook safely tucked away. I read Beatrix Potter to Tristan, and held him during a tube feed as he was still too young to breastfeed. That looks like nurse Rachael’s hand holding the syringe; she was pregnant and became a Mom for the first time not too long after. I always knew Tristan was in loving care when she was on duty. And it was an honour to see her in Belfast 4 years later and for our children to meet each other briefly.
Tristan came home with us just as unexpectedly as he arrived into this world, and although he did give us a couple of scares, he’s been a regular boy ever since. I know how fortunate we are, as things could have easily turned out differently. Not everyone takes home a baby in good health, and some moms never do take their baby home. The grief would be too much to bear. Being a mom, but without a child in your arms.
Even nine years on, looking back on this time is difficult. One thing that helps me is to try to help other mothers in the same situation. Tristan, Kallista and I currently have a small part in an upcoming resource for Moms who are leaving the hospital with their premature babies, which is a follow-on from the project I talked about in this post about World Prematurity Day: Hope & Rainbows. My part is only small, but perhaps it will lead to something bigger in the future.
My own Mom helps out the Moms in the SCBUs here as well! In addition to making laundry bags and mattress covers that she sends over, this year she crocheted some pretty hearts and sent them over so that they can be distributed to the Moms whose babies are in the SCBU and NICU as part of a local project. I know personally how much those little hearts will mean to the Moms that will receive them. Perhaps next year we will do something special, celebrating 10 years since Tristan’s birth.
A local group has begun to crochet little octopus’ for premature babies to cuddle, as it’s believed the feel of the tentacles is like the umbilical cord, among other reasons. If you’re interested in finding out more, Tommy’s has more information, and the pattern can be found here.
So this Mother’s Day, I’ll be thinking about the Moms whose children were born early, still born, or not born at all. I’ll also be thinking about all of the medical staff and volunteers who help care for our children (and some of us, too) when we could not be there with them. Together, #WeAreAllMums
This post has been sponsored by Tommy’s but the experience has been ours.