World Prematurity Day takes place on the 17th November each year. It’s a global movement to raise awareness of premature birth and the enormous impact it has on families. It’s a day to celebrate our smallest fighters.
Here in the UK, for 2017, we are focusing on #PrematurityIs, what it is, and what it means to you.
Bliss is a UK based Special Care Baby Charity. Their goal is to give premature babies the best chance of survival, by supporting families affected by prematurity, as well as funding research and campaigning for change.
Prematurity is much more than being born too soon. We need more awareness about the obstacles parents and babies face, and overcome, day after day. There are many ways in which you can help with this, which I will go into more detail later.
If you would like to know more about Bliss, please follow this link https://www.bliss.org.uk
The arrival of a new-born baby is a joyous and emotional occasion. However, Prematurity is probably a lot more common than you think. 15 million babies are born early every Year. That’s more than 1 in 10 families worldwide, their baby delivers early. Sometimes as much as 3 months early. A birth this early usually means a long stay in a hospital, with many possible complications.
Premature birth is costing lives. It’s responsible for 35% of all infant deaths and is a leading cause of long-term neurological disabilities in children.
It was a Tuesday morning, and time for my routine visit with my midwife. Still unknown to me, today would be anything but routine. Karen, my midwife was concerned about lack of movement from my baby and a decelerating heartbeat. I was immediately transferred to the Royal Infirmary Hospital.
A doctor was already waiting for me as I arrived at the hospital. His first words to me (that will stay with me forever) were “If you want to save your baby, we need to do a C Section now”. Without thought or hesitation, I said “Yes”.
And then a million thoughts bombarded my mind. My little baby was only 25 weeks +6 days, how could she possibly survive outside of my womb? I knew it was too soon. My husband was at work, over an hour’s drive away, how will he get here to support us through this? My 3-year-old son Daniel was at nursery. Who would pick him up if I’m in the hospital? And the worst thought of all. What if my beautiful, precious baby girl didn’t make it? We hadn’t even chosen a name for her yet, it was still too early.
Scared, alone, and in shock, I was taken into the operating theatre. There was no time for a local anaesthetic, and the last thing I remember was the mask coming down over my face and nurse telling me she was going to have to press on my throat to stop myself choking on my own vomit. The caesarean section was a success, and both my little baby girl and I survived.
My baby girl was born at 11.32am, on Tuesday 17th November 2015 at just 25 weeks +6 days, weighing just 2lbs 5oz. Coincidently, she was born on World Prematurity Day. However, I didn’t get to meet her until 2.30pm on Wednesday 18th November, a whole 27 hours after she was born.
She looked so small and so vulnerable. I was shaking, scared, tired, and thankful. John, my husband, held me in his arms, as we watched our little baby literally fighting for her life. We felt utterly helpless and totally unable to comfort our child. At this point, I had absolutely no idea of what to expect over the coming days, weeks.
Emily (the name we decided to call our little girl), remained in the NICU for a whole 103 days.
When you see your baby struggling just to breathe, surrounded by a mountain of wires, life in the NICU can be very emotional and scary.
The NICU took over our lives. I gave up working and spent all my time as close as I could to Emily. John also took a leave of absence from work, looked after our son Daniel, and came to the hospital while Daniel was at nursery.
Luckily, Emily was one of the lucky ones. Apart from her underdeveloped lungs, we didn’t really have any other major issues. As the days, and weeks went by, Emily’s weight steadily increased, the wires became less, the feeding tube was no longer needed. And then for the best part, it was time to bring our little girl home.
Tomorrow is World Prematurity Day, and Emily will be a very healthy 2-year-old who will be starting nursery in January. This whole experience has brought us closer together as a family and has made us cherish every moment.
How You Can Help Make a Difference
World Prematurity Day is your chance to make a difference to premature babies by raising awareness in a number of ways. Here are some of the things you can do.
Spreading the word on social media
Share this blog, and other articles and posts about BLISS, #prematurityIs, and world prematurity day to your social media networks.
If you or your loved ones have been touched in any way by prematurity, share your stories with us and what #prematurityIs means to you.
Purple is the designated colour for World Prematurity Day, so make sure you wear something purple on Friday 17th November and talk about why you are doing it
Take part in a Little Lights Walk or other events
There are numerous events happening up and down the country. Find some of them listed below. Click for further details.
Talk About It
Share your personal experiences. Tell us about your babies and your journey. How long they were in a neonatal unit for, the hurdles you faced, and how they are doing now.
Donate your time or money to organizations like Bliss. Each donation to BLISS will help to ensure more vulnerable babies survive and thrive.