I was being wheeled along the corridor to meet my baby properly for the first time. It was 21:50 and my son was stable enough for my first visit. The staff had a quiet half an hour on the ward so that they could take me to see Neil who was born earlier that day at 15.32. I remember being pushed along in my bed and seeing all the bunting on the walls and thinking it was nice to have something to look at on the plain hospital walls. The bunting was showing 9 pairs of white baby socks with 1 tiny purple pair in the middle on a washing line, it was to highlight that 1 in 10 babies are born prematurely. I later found out the day before Neil’s birth had been World Prematurity Day.

My premature baby in his incubator
My premature baby in his incubator

1 in 10 babies are born prematurely

The next day I was able to walk to go to the neonatal unit on my own. After having a c-section I was very slow at walking so I got to see the bunting in much more detail. This was when it really hit home how tiny he was. None of the tiny baby clothes ranges were going to fit him, it would all be far too big!

I didn’t realise in that moment I didn’t need to worry for quite a while about clothes. For the first 4 and a half week’s my little boy was in an incubator and clothes were not required!

My Grandmother tried knitting some mittens. She couldn’t grasp that Neil’s whole hand was no bigger than a 50pence piece, she had followed the pattern for a child’s doll but it was still too big.

Balls of wool with knitting needles. Photography credit: Kelly Sikkema
Balls of wool with knitting needles. Photography credit: Kelly Sikkema

My mum then decided to dust off her knitting needles and give it a go and successfully made a couple of pairs of mittens which we used once Neil was out of his incubator and all his lines had been taken out. It was a shame he couldn’t have worn them sooner as he was constantly pulling out his feeding and breathing tubes, the little monkey!

17th November – World Prematurity Day

On the 17th November charities will encourage people to share their stories to educate people who know nothing about the effects of premature births, to share both sad and happy stories and to show solidarity and support for those going through this life changing event.

There is nothing worse than feeling alone, helpless and hopeless. This day is to raise awareness and highlight support available to parents going through this emotional roller coaster.

Premature baby in an incubator. Photography credit: Hush Naidoo
Premature baby in an incubator. Photography credit: Hush Naidoo

15 million babies worldwide are born prematurely and the World Prematurity Network (WPN) which is made up of lots of different charities all working hard to raise awareness of premature births and its effects on all that are involved, offer support, fight for legislation changes, work with employers on how best to help their staff and work with government on their guidelines.

Raising awareness is so important

World Prematurity Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of premature birth and for charities and organisations to work with partners around the world to prevent it.

It’s a date I am not likely to forget being so close to my son’s birthday! I will be looking for ways to get involved and help these amazing charities continue to do their great work. It actually means a lot to me to have a day to specifically recognise what we went through and to celebrate all that my son has achieved. The last 2 years it didn’t mean as much to me because my Neil was in and out of hospital. This year the hospital admissions have greatly decreased.

It is still not a day that gets as much publicity as it should. A lot of the calendars that publicise the different awareness days still miss this one off. It won’t surprise you that it is firmly in my calendar! I hope that it will be in yours too even if it doesn’t quite mean the same to you.