Premature birth is a life changing event for any mother - no matter what the outcome. I spoke to one mother who experienced a miracle, and hopes to help others.
For Perth mother, Rebecca, the birth of her second child was marked with hurdles from early on. Emily – now a thriving three-year-old – was born at 33 weeks due to Rebecca’s pre-eclampsia.
“She was a good weight when born,” recalls Rebecca. “Around 2,050 grams, but she needed to be incubated and treated for respiratory distress.”
To complicate matters, Rebecca had post-caesarian complications, and therefore had to be kept in Intensive Care following the birth. As she recuperated, baby Emily remained in incubation on another floor. Rebecca saw her daughter only once six hours after her birth, and it was another long 48 hours until her next glance. An entire five days went by before she was able to hold her precious daughter.
Three years on, Rebecca laughs at the fact Emily is now keeping up with her boisterous four-year-old brother, but the memories are still painful. “I had problems bonding with Emily,” she reflects.
Rebecca's milk had virtually dried up by the time they made full contact. “Feeding and skin contact was non-existent from birth so my milk supply was virtually zero,” she said. To add to this, Rebecca was diagnosed with a low-level of post-traumatic stress disorder once she and her daughter returned home.
Upon reflection, Rebecca realises how fortunate she was to have the support of her family and her husband who she say was "constantly by her side". But her experience motivated her to help other families experiencing similar situations at a time that should be awash with joy.
“Having gone through a premature birth – even though she is doing well – it really made me feel I wanted to give back to other families going through this," Rebecca said. "It’s a traumatic time, and especially when you can’t see your baby or touch them, smell them or hold them. That is a lot to recover from as a mother.”
Introduced to the Miracle Babies Foundation at a picnic not long after Emily’s birth, Rebecca saw the pieces fall into place. As Australia’s leading organisation supporting premature and sick newborns, their families and the hospitals that care for them, it seemed the perfect way for Rebecca to give back.
According to the Miracle Babies Foundation, there are around 45,000 newborn babies who require the help of a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or Special Care Nursery (SCN) each year. Of these, 25,000 are premature babies and up to 1000 babies lose their fight for life.
Since 2005, the Miracle Babies Foundation has been developing and providing vital programs and resources to support and enhance families' experiences in the 22 state of the art intensive care units designed to meet the critical needs of Australia’s sickest babies.
Volunteering opportunities include organising Nurture Groups for mothers and their babies, fundraising drives, and joining the Stitched With Love Club, providing newborns with the tiny gowns, beanies and blankets they need.
For busy mother Rebecca, there is always time to help. She is keen to be involved in more Nurture Groups to provide a safe environment for mums and bubs, where any feelings of isolation and emotion can still be treated with the care and consideration needed within the safe space of those who understand.
Today, as she feeds her chatty toddlers and keeps pace with their needs, she is also planning her next sewing project to help other little miracles.