Worldwide, 1 in 10 babies are born prematurely – that’s 27,000 babies a year in Australia alone. World Prematurity Day, held on 17th November aims to raise awareness of preterm birth, and the challenges both babies and parents face. In honour of this important day, we’ve asked Karrie – mum of not one, but two premature babies – to share her incredible story with us.
“For 1 in 10 parents in Australia, their pregnancy will not be carried to term. Unfortunately, I was part of this statistic twice. My first baby, Evelyn was born at 30 weeks with antepartum haemorrhage, and my second, Oaklee was born at 32 weeks with the same condition following septicaemia.
Needless to say, becoming a mother was nowhere near what I imagined. I didn’t imagine the NICU, the tiny blood pressure cuffs, the oxygen saturation readers, the nurses (who become your whole world while caring for your little miracle), the social workers, the bonds you create with other NICU parents, the list goes on. It’s heartbreaking having to ask to hold your baby, often being told that you can’t just yet or can only do so for a little while. You end up longing for the care times that occur every 2-3 hours involving nappy changes, temperature checks and tube feeding, because that means you get to finally touch them. I will never forget having to fold a Huggies Newborn Nappy onto my preterm babies, otherwise the whole nappy would just consume their tiny frame.
You dread the day you’re discharged from the maternity ward. Knowing you will walk out of the hospital without your baby in your arms – nothing will ever prepare you for that, ever. It’s so important in these moments to fall back on the people who support you, because you truly need them.
In my experience, each of my premature babies were so different. Evie (born at 30 weeks) was huge for that gestation period at 1.8kgs, and Oaklee (born at 32 weeks) was 2.2kgs – also a great size. Despite Oaklee having an extra two weeks inside, she was worse off breathing-wise. Although Evie was highly dependent on CPAP, Oaklee needed to be intubated. I remember my heart breaking all over again, because I was sure that having extra time inside would make it easier – but sometimes this is just not the case.
Although Oaklee was intubated, she came off breathing support so much quicker. Evie was more challenging, needing CPAP for quite a while as she was having dangerous heart rate drops super regularly, as well as low oxygen levels. Every time the machine would alarm, you instantly feel sick wondering if it was for your baby or the next one. You go home every day anxious to receive a phone call from NICU. I’ll never forget the moment we received a phone call telling us Evie had stopped breathing overnight and needed to be revived. Thankfully, she was back on high flow after coming off CPAP. However, those anxious feelings never leave – every time a private number pops up, you hold your breath. Most of the time they’re calling to let you know your breast milk supply is low and you need to bring more to the hospital.
That’s the other thing no parent is prepared for – when your baby is taken to NICU you’re told to pump every three hours to give them the best nourishment you can. As if the NICU wasn’t exhausting enough, being woken up every three hours overnight to pump will be. There were so many times I wanted to give up, because waking up to pump seemed pointless if I didn’t have my baby home with me. Not to mention, the stress can dramatically affect your supply, so many NICU mothers give up early or end up on medication to increase supply.
The last thing no one tells you – having a premature baby will test your relationship. My poor partner and I argued so much while our girls were in NICU. Often about trivial things because we had so much built-up emotion! But then there are the new relationships you form. When you’re in NICU, you feel like home will never come. You celebrate the milestones because you’re one step closer to going home, but you feel guilty because the next mother is wishing for the same. You become so close to your NICU neighbour because you’ve no doubt cried together more than once. People who were once strangers will become incredible bonds. You rely so heavily on the nurses, who you trust to look after your precious bundle with as much love as you would.
Evie was in NICU for six weeks, and Oaklee just two. We were so lucky to bring Oaklee home with a feeding tube, meaning we could bring her home earlier. When home day finally comes, you want to run out the doors, but you’re also scared to not have the machines and doctors confirming your baby is okay. You’re sad to leave the care team, yet so excited for your next chapter.
Going through this once was hard enough, but with two little miracles World Premmie Day will forever have a close place in our hearts.”
Stories like Karrie’s help encourage parents who may feel alone, scared or overwhelmed by life with a premature baby. That early newborn bubble where most families feel bliss can be scary or anxious for premmie parents. Their babies are so delicate (some born too early to be hugged) that the only clothing that touches their skin is a nappy. With that in mind, we created our tiniest nappy yet, the Huggies Nano Premmie Nappy – leaving no baby unhugged.
For more information about our nappy range for premmies, please visit: https://www.huggies.com.au/childbirth/premature-babies/tiniest-hugs