World Prematurity Day 17th November - Always a NICU Mum - Theory Test 1 with founder Helen Davies
This Wednesday 17th November is World Prematurity Day, central in the month of November with it being Prematurity Awareness Month and this year, to mark the occasion, we thought we'd speak to some preemie Mums and test the theory:
'Once a NICU Mum, always a NICU Mum'.
First up this week, today's interview is with our very own Helen Davies, founder of the Lovely Gift Group and Lovely NICU Gifts and Mum of three.
Helen's 2lb, 29 weeks twins are now 8 years old and fighting fit. No health problems, no physical, mental or emotional scars - well apart from loads of tiny pin prick scars on the heals from all the daily blood tests - but all in all they are normal, boisterous, excitable children.
She has some exciting plans for 2022 for a group she often calls the army of NICU Alumni, and it this group of people that reinforces Helen's firm belief in the saying 'Once as NICU Mum, always a NICU Mum'.
We asked her what she meant by this:
"Women make all well intended plans for home births, water births, pain relief free births, but nobody really plans for premature births, it's not usually written on a birth plan with a midwife. Most aren't even expected until they happen! In my case I had 2 hours warning from my waters breaking to my babies arriving, one crying, one not, but both whisked off to NICU where they would spend the next 10 weeks.
Most people have often said that it must have been hard leaving the babies in the hospital during those 10 weeks, but for me in all honesty, I knew I was unable to give them the care they needed, so it wasn't hard to leave them in the care of the best babysitters in the world. That only changed in the final week when I knew they were ready for home.
12 May to 19th July seems such a short space of time now, but at the time, the days were long and passing milestones seemed so slow going. We had good days, we had bad days, we had days full of joy and we had days where the tears never stopped flowing and fear gripped our bellies like a vice. Throughout it all, it was an unknown world, with no textbook, no briefings and no preparation. When the consultant told us we would be under him until the twins turned two, it was all I could do but laugh. Two? I wasn't thinking about getting past twenty past two this afternoon and was simply hoping they'd get through the next ward round or set of on going tests, never mind their second birthday and turning two!
And yet, despite some dark days and scary moments, NICU wasn't just an oasis of care and calm for my babies, it was also a space of comfort for me. There were other Mums who had been in a few weeks longer than me and been there, felt that. There were some Mums whose baby had only just arrived and needed my support as I'd been in their slippers the week or two before. And of course, there were the nurses, male and female, who'd seen it all before, the good and the downright tragic, and who guided us all through the best days and worst.
Those ten weeks will always, ALWAYS remain with me. They changed my view on my career choices, made me appreciate all sorts of aspects of life differently, made me believe that without hope we have nothing, and made me hugely empathetic to every NICU journey.
Every sports day, football match, Wow certificate from school still makes me look upon my once-preemie kids in awe and wonder. Wow indeed! They astound me daily. Do I think like this about my eldest born naturally at 37 weeks? A bit for sure, but not as much or in the same context. That raw anxiety that I could have lost them or indeed how precious their lives are has never left me.
In the same way, my daughter tested positive for Covid yesterday, and whilst she's currently well without symptoms, today I've had a painful sharp ache in my stomach that I know is a deep anxiety in case her brother catches it. Why? In NICU and for the first couple of years, his breathing was always the worst, the one we worried about, the one for whom chest infections were common.
All parents are worried about Covid, and of course, I am beside myself with worry about any of us being poorly, but I know without doubt, that those early days have sharpened my anxiety for symptoms once worried about in NICU. Feelings lain hidden for so many years but immediately sharpened at the immediate threat of taking us back there.
Whenever I speak to anyone who happens to say their baby or someone they know was in NICU, I instantly feel connected. I get them, they get me. We've been through something, fortunately few families understand. We are part of a small gang. It will always be a part of my life and how I act or see things. Blimey, I run a business dedicated to it! And in hindsight, I think that chapter of my life was actually a positive influence on my life and wellbeing generally and really believe my character is all the richer for it."
We've loved talking to other Mums about their thoughts on how their journey affected them and continues to shape their lives... or does it? We'll see. We are interviewing one NICU Momma every day this week to mark World Prematurity Day to test the theory 'Once a NICU Mum, always a NICU Mum'