A young Newport family whose daughter was born prematurely have offered words of comfort and advice to fellow neonatal parents on World Prematurity Day.
Kathryn Porter and Francis Binnell, of Newport, welcomed their baby daughter, Emily, on 19th November 2019 when she arrived almost 2 months early at 32 weeks 6 days gestation.
While she initially gave a good cry, she soon needed some assistance breaths and help from the doctors and nurses to stabilise her. Within minutes, after a very quick cuddle with Mummy, she was whisked off to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Royal Gwent Hospital.
Covered in breathing tubes, Mum and Dad were unable to have a customary skin to skin moment with Emily and she spent the next few days on the High Dependency Unit, followed by almost a month on the Special Care Baby Unit receiving breathing and feeding support.
Reflecting on their time on the unit, Mum, Kath, and Dad, Fran, said:
“Nothing can prepare you for being a parent but then nor can you be mentally prepared for being in the 10% of parents who go through the NICU journey. The sounds of the beeping machines; the feeling of hopelessness as you watch your baby struggle for each breath is absolute torture. If we could have given her our breath, we would have.
“Leaving the hospital every night without her was the hardest thing we've ever done. We knew she was in safe hands and needed to be there, but that didn't stop the tears from coming each night. It would take over an hour from deciding it was time to go home for some rest to leaving her cot side, as everything in us was screaming at us to stay with her.”
After a month on the unit, Emily was feeding independently and had grown enough to be able to go home.
Fran said: “We finally got to take our baby girl home with us, and nothing felt better!”
Kath and Fran credit the NICU staff for their experience: “The amazing doctors and nurses in the NICU cared for our girl like they would their own, giving her life saving treatment and compassionate care.
“They were never too tired or busy to take a 4am call from us to reassure us that she was ok. Without them, there is a very real possibility that she wouldn't be here today.”
Now two days away from her third birthday, Emily is a healthy, happy, funny little girl, and a loving big sister to 11-month-old Lucy.
“The staff’s support, kindness, and compassion, along with the bond you make with other parents on the unit are what keep you going through this journey. It really is a rollercoaster of emotions, questions, exhaustion, and hope. We have made friends for life, and it really is true that premature babies can and often do grow up to be 'just like other babies', which is all you really want when you are on the unit."
“Emily's NICU journey, while tough for us, was relatively straightforward after the first few days. We were extremely lucky that she didn't suffer any serious complications and has no long-term conditions to contend with.
“Many premature babies go through more in their first few weeks and months of life than most people with go through in their lifetime.”
Addressing fellow NICU parents, Kath and Fran said:
“They are true little warriors and grow into some of the strongest, most resilient children around. Stay strong, your journey may be short or long but there often is a happy ending.”
Thursday 17th November 2022 is World Prematurity Day, which raises awareness of premature birth and the devastating impact it can have on families.
If you've been affected by a premature birth, find support from Bliss.