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Mom of Preemies Shares Her Amazing Insights

Mom of Preemies Shares Her Amazing Insights

Continuing our series looking into some of the special challenges that affect parents, we felt it important to find out more about the experience of giving birth to premature babies.

As well as covering the hows and whys, it's invaluable to get a first-hand account. And who better, than someone whose family have often entered the world early? Yvonne Kinahan is the daughter & sister of premature babies; and her own beautiful babies were all born before 28 weeks.

I asked Yvonne to tell me a bit about her experience:

My mum was born some weeks early; my older brother was born at 28 weeks; and I myself was born at 37 weeks which by some is considered premature, although being born at 37 weeks never had any health effects on me.

I'm [also] the mum of 3 premature babies: Born at 24, 26 and 28 weeks respectively. My first is my angel in Heaven. I had cervical cancer when I was 21, and extensive surgery meant I had a much-shortened cervix, which couldn’t hold the weight of my pregnancies, even after surgeries to secure.

How much has having a premature baby changed between generations, in terms of medical advance and support available?

I'm sure if you asked my mother, she'd tell you there was no support for her … 60 years ago when she was born, she was kept in a chest of drawers, in blankets. So to say things have changed, is an understatement!

I even found the level of service changed over the 8 years between my first and my last. However, I will say this: When my first child was born at 24 weeks, and she lost her fight after 5 hours; the hospital was absolutely amazing. They gave me as much time with her [as needed] before they organised her burial for me; and the nun from the hospital was so caring and really had my needs to the fore.

One of the toughest things about premature birth is having to leave without your baby. Understandably, after her first child was born at 24 weeks, Yvonne says she: “can’t remember much … but sure of the support I got.”  But what was her experience of hospital with her other children?

Niamh was there for a total of 13 weeks. Everyone is so friendly and understanding. If you are willing to ask the hard questions about your child they won’t sugar coat the information, and I for one, am someone who appreciates this. I spent all day every day at the hospital but had to spend lots of time in the waiting room due to the smaller size of the room in the special care unit.

On my son Reilly, I was in for 3 days before and 3 days after and Reilly spent a total of 7 weeks in there; during which time I spent all day every day there sitting beside his incubator, expressing milk and even forming friendships. Due to the layout of the special care unit in this hospital it was easier to spend time there.

In such a tense situation, how was the experience of meeting your babies for the first time?

My second arrived at 26 weeks … I only got to see her briefly after the C-section due to her being so small; so the first actual meeting was a day later. She was so small, and such were the rules at the time that I only got to see her through the incubator glass for the first week; and have a hold after day 10. It's amazing seeing such a small baby, knowing that they’re not supposed to be here. It’s also very scary, as they are not strong enough to be here, so need a lot of help."

Sadly, it's not just the baby’s health that a mom has to contend with; as Yvonne discovered when Reilly was born at 28 weeks:

Feelings of guilt and depression were rife this time, I felt it was my fault he was born early, I knew it would happen again and I was selfish … It took me a few days to see the beauty and miracle in him.

Read next: The Causes & Symptoms of Postnatal Depression

It’s a cruel irony how much this contrasted with the bittersweet and all too short time she got to spend with her first baby:

On my first born, due to the fact that she was arriving at 24 weeks and I had such badly infected waters; I was delighted that she was alive so I could meet her; and heartbroken at the same time. A lot of people don't get the chance to meet their children, so I felt blessed … although it took me a long time to see that.

 "Only the strongest are chosen for the special journey."

Any birth is a glimpse into the unknown, with its own share of unique experiences. But I asked Yvonne whether her family’s experience of premature birth, and arriving early herself, helped her to cope becoming a mom of premature babies:

I think knowing that my mum was fine, and my brother was ok, after they were both premature; and it being a different time now: Hospitals and medicine being just so much better, meant I was able to just get on with what needed to be done.

And what was the experience of taking them home for the first time?

By the time I got to take Niamh home from hospital, she was already 13 weeks old; and I’d spent every day with her so I felt no fear or apprehension at all. She was born in the boom, so they were throwing appointments and after care at me so it was easier cope with what could develop.

On my son, I struggled a lot more as I had to fight for appointments etc (after boom) so it has been a lot more frustrating; but I was already used to small babies, so it was fine.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly: What advice would Yvonne give to parents going through the same thing?

  • Don’t blame yourself, and make sure you talk to each other.

  • It’s so easy for the mother to take on all the mental hardship and retreat into themselves, but please make sure you talk.

  • Trust the doctors, and spend as much time as you can with your baby; as you never know what tomorrow will bring.

  • Finally, it’s an experience that will change you and shape your thoughts and when you think you have worked through things, it could rear its ugly head in another way like depression. So be open to asking for help, and talking to a professional. It’s a huge thing to go through, but only the strongest are chosen for the special journey.

Thank you so much to Yvonne and her family for sharing their story with us; and thank you to Irish Premature Babies for putting us in touch.

If you'd like to know more about premature birth, check out How Much Do We Know About Premature Births?

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