Some recent occurrences and discussions have led me to ask some questions.
In 2010/11 of 522,000 births with a known gestation length, 35,775 babies were born at 36 weeks or before, 28,489 were born in their 37 week. Now officially a premature baby is defined as one born before their 37th week of pregnancy.
I had been talking to Kylie, who blogs at Not even a bag of sugar , and she asked me if I would write a piece on dads and premature babies. Having spent some time mulling this over, I decided that although I can write about it, from my training, working with dads and work on the MSLC at Peterborough hospital, I hadn’t experienced it. It was further bought home to me when one of my dad’s (yes they are mine!) having attended the first class with me, two days later had his partners waters break at 34weeks and 1 day. I spent the next few days supporting them, when they needed me to answer questions or offer reassurance, and at 34 weeks and 6 days their daughter was born, 5 weeks premature.
Now, 5 weeks premature in this day and age doesn’t seem that bad, and I suppose that’s true, if it’s not YOUR child! They still had to spend a week with their child in hospital, with all the concerns and worries that comes with that.
That has bought me to writing this piece, and I have already realised I cannot do this subject justice in just one piece. So forgive me, but this will now also run as a series alongside Life with a new born, things to expect! Which in its self I think will be interesting as automatically I had been writing that from the perspective of full term new borns, so there should be some interesting differences.
To help with this piece, I have spoken to three dads all who have experienced their child being born prematurely, each has been kind enough to answer some questions for me, and I will share with you their answers. So for now I would like to share with you just a small glimpse into their journeys.
Let’s introduce the dads, first up is Neil, he is the dad referenced above, his daughter Lauren was born at 34 weeks and 6 days, he has started to blog about it here. Next up is Rob, his son Felix was born at 29weeks and 6 days, he shares his story here. Finally there is Ross, his son Frederick was born at 28 weeks and 2 days, Fredericks story is shared here .
So I asked them some questions about their experiences and these are what they had to say. I think it starts to paint a picture and I will look in more detail at some of points raised later . I also want to address some questions of my own and get some views which I will come to at the end of the piece.
Had you or your partner managed to attend any antenatal classes?
No…..we had talked about it, but even up to 28wks, we had not attended any.
Our first antenatal class was booked on the 36th week of pregnancy. Nearly 7 weeks too late!
I had attended the first half of the DaddyNatal class but Vicki hadn’t attended any classes. We were about to attend a Lazy Daisy class but ran out of time!
How prepared were you for birth? Had you done much reading research? (not talking prepared for premature birth)
We were not prepared at all! We were warned around week 24/5 that Freddie was small, not growing….and that he may have to be born early. We assumed around 33/34 weeks, but even then, we did not research or start to prepare ourselves for a premature birth. When he arrived 2-3wks later, we were shocked, traumatised and totally ill-prepared.
I was prepared mentally to have a child, I work with children and love cuddling all my friend’s babies. Regarding research, I had read ‘The Pregnancy Book’ provided by the NHS and I also had various applications on my phone with information regarding pregnancy and baby development.
Fairly prepared. We had both read information on different areas of birth and we were (reasonably) prepared for birth. Vicki was going to do a lot more reading on things during the six weeks leading up to her due date.
What was the worst part of your experience?
Oh, there are many…..you can refer to the blog. Day 3, Day 16, Day 35.
Going to see Freddie on my own for the 1st time while Mummy lay in recovery.
The 86 mile transfer back to a hospital closer to where we live.
Our 1st cuddle (Day 16) ending with heartache and fear of the worst.
I’ve had to think hard about this. I can’t really say the surprise birth was the worst part, however scary it was, it was just a blur and was over in 10 minutes.
When Felix had a bleed from his lungs on Day 2 of his life, my wife and mother were with him. I received a phone call to come straight away and was warned it wasn’t good. When I arrived, both my wife and mum were waiting outside the ward. As I peered through the window, I could see the white screen being set up around his incubator whilst doctors and nurses from different wards appeared to stabilise him. All we could do was wait.
Differing opinions on what actions to take after Vicki’s waters broke. Our hospital has a policy not to induce before 37 but we had a consultant from another hospital who had different procedures and wanted to induce. We had incidents of the different sets of doctors arguing at the foot of the bed on what to do next and it made Vicki very anxious.
If you could turn back the clock, what is the one thing you wish you had known by the time your baby was born?
Huh! That he was going to make it – I wouldn’t have spent 82 days worrying so much! But seriously, I wish I was more aware of premature births…even if we were/were not going to have an early delivery. You are never fully prepared for what you are about to see.
As impossible as this sounds, I just wish I had warning of when Felix was to be born. In lots of premature cases mothers are admitted weeks in advance to prepare for the birth. In this case, the mother receives steroids to hopefully delay the birth and to support the babies lungs. If we had known this we could have had the steroids which may have avoided various complications.
That premature delivery isn’t necessarily a bad or dangerous outcome.
Anything else you wish you had known?
About Bliss Charity prior to the delivery. Fantastic support/resources.
Did we do anything to cause the premature birth of our child? We still don’t know why Felix came so early.
Order your furniture etc well in advance as Mamas and Papas have a ten week lead in time for furniture and even 4 weeks for a moses basket!
We would have liked to have been made aware of signs of preterm labour
What one piece of advice would you give to all expectant parents based on your experiences?
Talk. Talk to other parents who are going through the same experience.
Ask friends for help……travel, costs etc etc.
Stay positive but be prepared! This is how we survived in hospital, we knew it was going to be a tough journey but we genuinely believed Felix would survive. We set up what-if scenarios on a regular basis and came to terms with all possible outcomes so when bad news came our way we had already come to terms with it.
Ignore any pregnancy and birthing related stories that anyone tells you. Everyone is different and every baby is different. Make your own experiences as you go along and try to enjoy them. For men: try to remain calm for your partner, she is nervous enough and does not need other people making her feel worse.
Just reading their answers I was taken with the similarities but also the differences. The difference of baby being born at 28/29 weeks or 34 weeks is still huge, in both the respect of baby and parents.
I don’t want to detract from these answers so as promised I will look to cover some of points in more detail in next post. I also hope some of you will join me, in discussing ways we can better support parents with premature parents, in respect of preparation and more practical support. For now I hope you have been enjoyed a glimpse in to the experiences of three amazing families and you will visit their blogs and gain a fuller insite.
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