The first few days after giving birth to a premature baby can fly by in almost a dream-like daze, you’re surrounded by numerous doctors, visitors, and family but with your emotions running at an all-time high you can often feel alone, low and extremely worried.
As a society and as mothers, in general, we often struggle with admitting our lives aren’t 100% perfect, we’re constantly bombarded from social media with polished images of how motherhood should look, which can make it even harder to admit when our experiences aren't meeting these high expectations.
Here at Isaac Anthony, we believe it’s so important to talk openly about our imperfections and share our experiences as mothers. That’s why as the first part of our #RealTalk series we’re chatting to mother of one Ffion Thornton, who will be giving us an honest and frank account of her experience after giving birth to her adorable preemie Oscar.
Ffion, can you describe the moment you found out Oscar was officially classed as premature and what was going through your mind at that time?
My waters broke at home in the middle of the night and as I was early, they made me go to the hospital. They confirmed my waters had broken and explained that if my labour didn't progress naturally, they would induce me to avoid the risk of infection. The doctor said to me 'one way or another within the next 48 hours you'll have your baby'. I'd been relatively calm until then, but I just remember bursting into tears and saying 'it's too soon'. I think it was the realisation of 'things aren't going to be normal now'. I desperately wanted a water birth and I knew you couldn't have one if you went into premature labour, but I asked the nurse anyway just to be sure. She confirmed I couldn't have one and I think I cried a bit more then. I hadn't really 'worried' about labour, but now I was worried about the health of my baby AND the fact that I couldn't give birth the way I'd wanted - it was a gut-wrenching double whammy.
How long were you in hospital for after you gave birth to Oscar and how did you find this experience?
I was in the hospital for a week after Oscar was born. It felt like forever. When you're exhausted and uncomfortable you just want to be in your own home and your own bed. On the flip side of this, the staff were incredible. They were so supportive and over the course of the week it became a little 'home from home'. The best part of staying in the hospital after giving birth is not having to think about cooking! The morning tea and toast delivery are just the best.
How did your perception of the birth and the aftercare compare with the actual reality?
It was just completely different. I'd imagined a water birth and then home. I'd never considered that that wouldn't happen. You just focus on what you want, I think! I never thought I'd be wired up to machines and drips and have extra people there to monitor my baby, and I never thought I wouldn't be able to hold him for hours at a time for days afterwards. The aftercare team are fantastic, but when they want to take your baby away from you for tests and monitoring and X-rays you just hate them. I don't think you ever imagine that you will find yourself in a situation like that. You think it just happens to other people.
Did having limited access to Oscar affect how you bonded with him?
It was hard, but no. You're so desperate to hold your baby, but at the same time, you're aching and exhausted. To be fair, when your baby must go under the lights or in an incubator from day one, I suppose you don't know any different. As much as you want to cuddle them all day it's just the norm not to. You just bond in your own way by staring at them all day!! Then when you get to hold them it's even more special.
What were the main struggles you found when finding clothing for Oscar?
I was a big baby so I just assumed that I would have a big baby. I had one 'newborn' outfit that someone had bought for me, and everything else I had was 0-3 months. No-one tells you how massive that size is compared to a newborn - especially a premature one! I sent my family and friends to pick up as much 'tiny baby' stuff as they could find and just rolled up the sleeves.
What would you say the biggest misconception is around preemie babies?
That all premature babies are ridiculously small. My baby was 7lb 4oz - massive for a 'premature' baby. However, he still faced all the same problems and worries that premature babies do. I think because he was bigger some people thought he was fine, but it's not just about the size/weight of your baby.
What advice do you have for mothers who are currently going through this?
Just take every day as it comes and don't be embarrassed to shout/cry/scream into a pillow...you're allowed! The NHS is an incredible service, and babies are literally magical creatures - absolute fighters!! The things they can do - unreal!
How do you think this experience has shaped you as a person and as a mother?
I feel incredibly lucky every single day. I look at Oscar and I can't believe that such a cheeky, fearless little dude came into the world before he was ready. There was just no stopping him!! I think I'm just eternally grateful.
What are three words that describe your experiences of motherhood so far?
Amazing, eye-opening, exhausting!
This is the first part of the #RealTalk blog series from Isaac Anthony, creating beautiful premature babywear and organic baby clothing.
Isaac Anthony was founded by the extremely talented Natalie Shore, who named the company after her two sons; Isaac who suffers from eczema and Anthony who after he was born spent some time in NICU. It was these experiences that inspired Natalie to create her own brand and help other parents in similar situations.
Unlike high street stores, Isaac Anthony provides 3 premature babies sizes up to 3 years creating garments from the highest quality, breathable and delicate fabrics. Only using organic material sourced from ethical suppliers means everything produced has been certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard.
Isaac Anthony's mission is to provide nothing but the very best for your preemie baby.