World Prematurity Day

S sleeping on my chest, at 5 days old.

Today is World Prematurity Day.

Every year 15 million babies are born prematurely. 60,000 of those are born in the UK.

It seems hard to believe now she is two and a half and full of life and giggles, but S was one of those 60,000 in 2012.

She was 5 weeks early, and weighed 5lb 3oz when she was born. I was told that was a “good” weight for a prem baby. I had no idea; I’d not held a newborn before and didn’t realise just how tiny she was until she came back from a short stay in NICU. As we walked back along the ward to my bed, I noticed the other babies for the first time, and realised just how tiny mine was.

In NICU, at 5lb, she was something of a bruiser. There was a baby in an incubator next to her who was so impossibly tiny, she was about half the size of S. I remember her mother coming in every day and sitting next to the incubator, pumping milk for her baby. She had two older children who were on school holidays and had to sit and colour in the relatives’ room down the hall while she did this. One time I heard her tell her mother she was struggling to afford the petrol to come to the hospital every day; they lived a fairly long way away, and at that time there were no facilities for parents to stay with their premature babies in NICU. I was lucky that, for whatever reason, I was allowed to stay on the post natal ward while S was in NICU.

world prematurity day

S at 6 days old

S was very lucky that although she was premature, she was a healthy baby. She was born before she developed a suck/swallow response, and developed jaundice – but after two weeks in hospital we were allowed home. Despite my constant worrying, she appears to have caught up well with her peers.

I didn’t realise until much later how lucky we had been. Usually when a child is premature, they don’t expect to send the baby home until their due date, or even later.

My sister was born prematurely in 1978, in November. She spent her first Christmas in hospital. It’s a miracle she lived at all; in the 1970s she really was considered something of a miracle. Even now, so many babies born early don’t survive.

There’s not much of a point to this post, except that I wanted to mark the day, and take note of just how lucky I am.

I was terrified when S was born, as all parents of premature babies no doubt are. And I had it relatively easy.

Two and a half years later, people actually ask me if she’s tall for her age. They express surprise when I tell them she was premature. To me, she still seems tiny and too skinny but that’s just a mother’s worry. I know she is fine, and for that I thank my lucky stars about a hundred times a day.

World Prematurity Day selfie

S and I last week. I am so lucky.

Vicky Charles

Vicky is a single mother, writer and card reader.


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