A premature baby is a baby born before 37 weeks of pregnancy and despite Oscar being 5 weeks early, I haven’t actually come into contact with him meeting any typical characteristics of a premature baby. He was born perfectly healthy and since having been discharged, albeit a few dips in his levels regarding vitamin/iron/phosphate, has been a happy, healthy, normal baby. To me, he was just born small, otherwise I have had no other reason to feel any different than if he were a full term baby! (Once we were discharged of course, nothing compares to the first 10 days in the NICU)
I will never forget others reactions when I would say how old he was, as he was so small. I would, for that reason, introduce him as ‘Oscar, he’s 2 months old but he was born 5 weeks early so he should only be three weeks!’. When he got to around 5 months old and I started going to more and more baby groups, I realised that Oscar had quickly caught up with those his age. Oscar is intact bigger than other babies older than him. He has absolutely thrived and I couldn’t be prouder (or more relieved!) When he got to 5 months I stopped explaining that he was early and just said how old he was!
You can’t help compete as a Mum, if your baby can do something before someone else’s you feel smug! Oscar has done so well in his development so I can’t honestly say how I would have coped if he had been behind. The “he was five weeks early” seems to be an excuse as much as it is a boast. If he fails his driving test when he's 17 will I say, “Oh, er, well he was 5 weeks early” but if he gets a First in his degree will I say, “Yep.. A first, AND he was 5 weeks early!!!” When will it end? Right now, it’s the biggest thing that has ever happened to me. Nothing has been more traumatic or out of my comfort zone so in 20 years will it still be something I talk about or will the newborn days be a blur?
Depending on which side of the bed I woke up on, people’s generic comments can make me feel one of two ways. When I explain he came early, or that he was due in January but came 5 weeks early, if I’m in a bad, defensive mood, comments like “he just couldn’t wait to meet you” or “he was too excited for Christmas” I think are a serious blow over of a really serious, scary situation. If an adult spent 10 days in hospital hooked up to wires, you wouldn’t laugh at “Oh well, at least you got some time off work” or “At least that coma meant you could get some rest!” because 10 days in hospital is usually something really serious you wouldn’t joke about, especially not to a stranger! If I’m in a forgiving mood, I brush it off as I just assume they don’t know what else to say and are trying to make me feel better about it.
Most people when they hear my story, react far worse than I ever did at the time. Just by describing my story I’ve had people nearly in tears, wondering how I ever went through it. It’s crazy that other people can feel more hurt by it that me. It makes me think, am I emotionless or did I just cope really well? I had no other choice but to be okay with it… who was I helping, what was I changing by being upset by everything that was happening? When people hear that he was early they all assume that I went into labour and gave birth early, but are shocked and horrified when I say that it was an emergency c-section as though this is worse. I would far rather have had a medical intervention, a c-section and have been in hospital from the second they knew things needed to press forward than have my waters break unexpectedly and be rushed into hospital!
Before having Oscar I knew nothing about premature babies. I didn’t know the mass number of reasons that a baby could be born premature and how that effects the Mum and/or the baby. I hope that by writing about my experience it can make it a little less scary if anyone finds themselves in my shoes as I think so rarely you hear about the positive side of it. The same goes with labour stories, we all know “that one woman” who had an awful labour but nobody tells the story of their friend who had an average labour, nobody wants to hear about average!
You wouldn't even know Oscar was premature, he has come so far and I am so proud! 8 months later and we are still breastfeeding... here are a few comparison photos from his first few days to now, 8 months old!