From the moment you take that test your story begins, hopes and dreams…. You picture in your minds eye your baby boy/girl and holding them for the very first time. Nine long months of pregnancy, gets a little bit tiring in the end, but you know every moment will be worth it when you finally get to hold your new baby. You see yourself walking into that hospital, full-term, bags in hand and labour is pending. Things change- right?

We all have our Fairy-tale birth plan, after all we’ve conjoured up the story in our heads over the last few months… but sometimes things can change. Suddenly your praying that your baby will make it full term, instead of holding your baby close and warm you are imagining looking at your wee baby through a glass, wires, tubes and machines you don’t quite understand- just yet.

Its Okay to be frightened.

In Ireland 1 baby is born Prematurely every 116 minutes, we have over () hospitals Nationwide that specialise in the care of Premature Babies.

Things may have changed for you and suddenly you have to adapt to the fact that your little one may arrive early but Premature birth isn’t always unexpected. You might be in hospital or on bed rest for pregnancy complications that make a premature birth likely. Or you might be having twins or higher multiples which may increase the likely hood of a Premature Birth. Although this will be hard to get your head around there a few things you can do to try and help prepare for the pending arrival, both practically and mentally.

Talk

One of the most important things is to talk. Express how your feeling, and try not to bottle things up. Talk to people in similar situations – If you’re hospitalised then there may be people around you who are in similar situations to yours, and who maybe even have been through this before. If you are at home or in hospital on bed rest then look into support groups or use online support forums where you can ask questions and get support from people who’ve had similar experiences.

Speak to your partner, family member or close friends, yes it is true that sometimes they won’t know what to say, or sometimes may say completely the wrong things! But be open, tell them how they can help you through this time. Whether it simple be to sit and listen, help organise things for you that you haven’t got around to doing or whatever the case may be.

Whether you have months or only hours, there are a several things you can do to prepare for a premature delivery and try to make it as personal as possible

Pack your bag.

If you haven’t done it already don’t panic. Ask your partner or friend to do it for you. Here is a link to my list of what to pack in your (hospital bag.) Don’t forget your supplies for the delivery room. Yes it is true that your baby won’t need dressing for a while, as the hospital will take care of all that depending on your babies needs. But there is no reason why you can’t pick up a special little baby grow for your baby for when the time comes. It will be quite nice to have it as a focus for when your baby is big and well enough to wear it. Also pack a camera. Just because your baby is arriving into the world earlier than anticipated there is no reason why you can’t make memories along the way.

This is still your journey to meeting your baby- its just a little different than your anticipated.

Tour the Neonatal Unit

Get familiar with the neonatal unit if possible. If your premature baby needs special care then it can lessen the shock if you’re already familiar with the neonatal unit. . In addition to seeing the set-up, staff and equipment in the unit, a visit should give you a chance to see other premature babies and gain some inspiration from the older babies nearly ready to leave the unit, as well as the parents who’ve been through it all ahead of you and hopefully aid in easing your worries. If you can’t visit the unit yourself then consider sending your partner or another family member to have a look and ask questions for you.

During you Hospital Stay

Using your time– If you are in hospital for any length of time before your babies arrival, and if you are well enough to do so, why not write a journal to your baby. Again you can still make things personal. Write down your worries and fears and also your hopes and dreams for you and your little one.

Help your partner/birthing partner understand what they can do to help. Whether it be keeping your family/friends up to date on things or simply having the camera ready when baby is born. These are all things you won’t be thinking about once baby arrives.

A great idea I saw one of my dear friends so recently when she had her two beautiful babies at 33 weeks gestation is set up a private Facebook group message. That way she could keep all family members and friends in the loop when she needed to by simply sending one message. This is something you can ask your partner to help you with.

Ask questions– Make sure and ask any questions you may have when your In hospital.  Apart from the health risks for your baby that are associated with premature labour, many mothers find one of the most distressing aspects of premature delivery the is feeling a lack of control over and lack of understanding during the course of labour. This feeling of lack of control is likely to be heightened if you’re not familiar with the terminology your medical team are using, or things are happening very quickly. Don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions about what’s happening, and why, and to ask your midwife or doctor to explain anything that you don’t understand: The better you understand why things are happening, the less worried you will be about them.

See our Glossary of Terms Here.

After the arrival of your baby.

See your baby as soon as you can – Once your baby is born he will need a health check before you can hold him. In some cases she’ll need to go straight to the neonatal intensive care unit, but you may be able to hold her for a short time very soon after birth, even if he’s very premature, this of course depends on your babies situation at the time.

If you happen find yourself faced with the possibility or reality of a premature delivery, then try not to worry about what may or may not happen after the birth. You need to look after yourself right now, both emotionally, physically and mentally.

Its is okay to be scared, but never feel alone.