November is Prematurity Awareness Month, and my close friend Lotty has been posting videos on YouTube talking about her experience of having a premature baby in December last year. She hasn’t properly been able to speak about the whole event, but I remember receiving some hurried text messages in the middle of the night when she went into hospital. Living a few hundred miles apart, and having my own children to care for, I couldn’t just drop everything and hurry over to help, much as I wanted to. Besides, she was in hospital. They weren’t allowed visitors to begin with, because she and the baby were so poorly. But they recovered, and now Lotty hopes to share her experience, offer tips and advice to other parents in similar situations, and use the opportunity to continue her healing process.
We have become very blasé about pregnancy and childbirth here in the UK, I think, and probably all around the world. Women continue to work throughout pregnancy and sometimes return very early after having their babies. The time spent in hospital is usually less than twenty four hours, unless there are medical complications, and we are basically sent on our way and left to settle in to life with a baby. Yes, we are very lucky to have hospitals, midwives, nurses, health visitors, and so many other support staff at our disposal courtesy of the NHS. But I’m talking about the cultural implications of pregnancy and childbirth. Women are expected to get on with the process, to do everything naturally, and to continue life as it was before.
And what about the other parent in the situation? Perhaps there is a husband, a partner, a close friend who is stepping in to nurture the new baby. How do they feel about their life being turned upside down? How do they cope? My husband was brilliant throughout my labour with both children, but during my pregnancies I felt that he neglected me. He was always at work. He did all the overtime he could possibly acquire, because he was conscious of being the wage earner, and he desperately needed to support his growing family. This continued after I had the babies, while I was sitting at home breastfeeding, washing clothes, and feeling overwhelmed with responsibility, doubt and confusion. And mine was just a normal pregnancy, childbirth and introduction to parenthood.
We should honour our fellow parents, whether they are the mothers, fathers, or legal guardians. Having a baby is an incredibly challenging adventure, no matter how mundane it might appear from the outside. Lots of Lotty is running a series of videos throughout November to share her tips about how to cope when your premature baby is still in hospital. You can watch Lotty’s videos where she talks about how to manage your time in hospital, how to support your baby, how to support yourself, and how it impacts on your family and friends. Check out the hashtag #PrematurityIs, and follow Lots of Lotty on Facebook and Twitter.
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Thank you for this article. You are so right. We have become dangerously blase about pregnancy and childbirth in this society. I have friends whose first grandchild died five years ago, a short while after birth because he didn’t get enough oxygen at some point during labour/birth (I don’t know the full medical details). Later the mother contracted cancer and has since died. This was a terible tragedy of the sort we think “It only happens to other people” or it happens in the developing world. But it happened right here in our rich, advanced, privileged society. Now my friends have two new grandchildren whose births they expect in the next few months. Yet they are not getting excited about it. They have the memory of that tragedy in their minds. Even without being supersitious I think we can all feel for them and understand their fears. My prayers and hopes are that the two mothers will see smooth and safe deliveries, and will have healthy babies who will give much joy. But we must all keep in the backs of our minds that we are unwise to “take for granted” this process of pregnancy and childbirth which for so many centuries world wide has been a perilous and a fearful thing for many women.
Wow, what a horrible experience for the family involved. Thanks for sharing, Sheila. Let us continue to support our expectant parents and their young babies.