For millions of parents across the globe, today is special. Because Friday 17th November 2017 is officially World Prematurity Day; a time for parents of preemie babies to reflect on the journey we’ve all been through (or are still going through) while raising awareness of the key issues and misconceptions around prematurity for any and every parent who will experience it in the future.
Approximately 60,000 babies are born prematurely in the UK every year – that’s roughly 1 in 11 of all births – so it really is much more common that you might think.
To mark the occasion, parents across the world who have had a preemie baby are sharing their stories online today on what prematurity is to them (a campaign set up by Bliss, the leading charity for babies born premature or unwell, and supported by Pampers, who are donating £1 for every post shared on Twitter today that includes the hashtag #PrematurityIs and tagging Pampers).
So to join the collective, encourage others to do the same and hopefully raise some money for this great cause, I wanted to share with you what prematurity means to me…
When telling our preemie story, I should start by saying that we were one of the really lucky ones. My wife, Rosie, went into labour at 36 weeks; a month before our due date, but luckily at the lower risk end of the prematurity scale, which officially ranges from 24-37 weeks in the UK.
Even so, we were scared and confused. “It’s too soon,” we thought. “It can’t be real,” we said. But it was. And just eight hours later we welcomed our son Teddy into the world…and thank God, he was healthy.
But it wasn’t how we had planned it. It rarely is…
Because knowing you’re going to have a premature baby massively changes your experience of the birth. It’s natural to feel nervous, scared, even excited, when you or your other half goes into labour. But when your baby comes early, nerves and fear completely take over…with little room left over for excitement.
Because prematurity is a sudden lightning bolt to your heart. A realisation that the perfect baby you have been dreaming of for all these months, might actually not be OK when it arrives. A helpless tiny thing that might be severely underdeveloped, underweight or in need of urgent medical care for the first few days, weeks or months of its life. You have no way of knowing. Never before have I felt so helpless as I did on the night Teddy was born.
But despite this helplessness, prematurity is never losing hope. Hope that despite your worst fears (which you lock away at the back of your mind and refuse to acknowledge), everything will come good in the end. If you’re lucky, like us, that reassuring milestone might arrive relatively quickly, once you’ve completed the long list of tests that all premature babies must go through after they’re born. For others, it might be much more drawn out, with multiple operations or long, painful stints in intensive care. But as parents of preemies, hope is something you cling onto at all times.
Finally, although as adults we’re used to being in control of our lives, prematurity is placing all your trust in the experts around you. Putting yourself in their hands and trusting that they will do everything in their power to ensure your preemie baby is born safely and makes it through. They’ve trained for this for years, know what they’re doing and have all the high tech medical equipment they could need to ensure your baby has the best chance in life.
And thanks to advances in medical science, more of these little fighters survive than ever before throughout history. Something all preemie families are immensely grateful for.
But as I’ve written about previously, with more preemie babies now surviving and thriving, there is one area of preemie care that hasn’t kept up with the times and, until recently, had been lacking. And that’s when it comes to hospitals’ supply of suitable nappies to fit the world’s smallest babies.
You see, in the past, preemie nappies weren’t designed to fit babies below 2lb in weight. And a big reason for that is, until recently, fewer such babies survived as they do today. As a result, nappies often had to be cut and folded to size for the tiniest babes, which unfortunately caused discomfort, impeding the healthy development of these little babies’ hips and legs.
But as I shared with you back in April, Pampers was alerted to this growing problem and launched its special Pampers Preemie Protection range – including its smallest nappy yet – for premature babies weighing less than 1.8lb (800g), to tackle this problem head on.
And so far, Pampers has donated over 100,000 of these special nappies for free to 59 of the 206 neonatal units across the UK and Ireland – which is amazing – but they’re ready and willing to do a lot more.
So, with this campaign on World Prematurity Day, as well as raising even more money for Bliss to help the charity continue its invaluable work, we’re also hoping to highlight this important issue once again to raise further awareness that these free preemie nappies are available.
And here’s where you come in…
If you or someone close to you has ever had a premature baby, we’d love for you to join today’s campaign on social media and share your story of what prematurity is for you. As mentioned, Pampers will donate £1 for every story shared on Twitter TODAY – 17th November – that includes #PrematurityIs and tagging @PampersUK, so get tweeting, and let’s raise some much needed funds for the amazing UK preemie charity Bliss.
What’s more, to further support preemie families on their journey through early parenthood, Pampers and Bliss have also released a series of limited edition milestone cards – with phrases such as ‘today I went up a nappy size’ or ‘today I had my first cuddle’ – which aim to celebrate and support some of the unique stepping stones premature babies achieve that we often take for granted. These will be distributed to neonatal units across the UK for free by Pampers and Bliss.
This sponsored article has been written in collaboration with Pampers especially for World Prematurity Day