As regular visitors to this blog will know, S was born 5 weeks early. At the time, I was petrified. It was the end of the world. I wasn't ready yet; I didn't know what I was doing.
We were very lucky; S weighed 5lb 7oz when she was born. The only thing "wrong" with her was that she hadn't yet developed a suck/swallow response. They put a tube up her nose and began feeding her formula.
The morning after she was born, a lady from NICU came in to see us. I didn't realise it, but because S was premature, she was under the care of NICU and not the normal postnatal ward. The lady was called Kit. She told me to take my bra off, and she undressed S. I thought she was crazy. What is this woman doing? I thought newborn babies, especially tiny ones, were meant to be kept warm! She placed S on my chest and put a blanket over us. She told me this was the best place for S to be. She explained that my body heat would keep her warm and help her to regulate her own temperature, and that my breathing and heartbeat would help S's to remain steady.
|S and I enjoying kangaroo care in NICU|
Over the following days, S spent a lot of time down my shirt. After her first feed in the morning, I would pop her down my top and go back to sleep. She would come out for visitors and to feed, and at night she went down in her fish bowl, but other than that I loved to have her as close to me as possible.
Even when she was in NICU under the bili lights for jaundice, the staff encouraged me to take her out and cuddle her regularly. Those moments were the high points in my days. When we came home from hospital, she would often sleep on me in bed, if she woke in the early hours and couldn't settle.
Now, S is a 19 month old rambunctious toddler. If I ask for a kiss, I get "nah!" as she pushes my face away. I don't get a cuddle when she goes into nursery in the mornings; she's too busy playing with the toys and having fun. In the afternoons though, I rush down the road to collect her at 4pm and run up the stairs to the Ladybird room. As soon as she sees me she runs across the room, covered in paint and glitter and sand, with her arms out. I get the best cuddle in the world. I look forward to that cuddle from the moment I drop her off at 8am.
Sometimes, in the afternoons, if S is a little tired, she'll leave her toys and come over to me. She puts her head on my lap and her arms around my legs and says "ahhhhh!" and I instantly realise just how lucky I am.
I was very lucky that S was born as late as 35 weeks. I have a sister who was born a lot earlier. I have friends whose babies were born much earlier, weighing as little as one pound. We are so very lucky to live in a country where babies born so small can not only survive but thrive.