Coping with a Premature Birth – Before and After Birth

No matter what the circumstances surrounding your baby’s early arrival – it is almost certainly a stressful experience. Learning in advance that your baby may be born early can leave you feeling anxious and worried for your baby. There are some things that you can do to help you prepare.

Learn As Much As You Can

Knowing as much as you can about your baby’s situation and the possible outcomes will help empower you. Speaking to other women who have had a premature birth may help, as they will also understand the emotional turmoil you may be experiencing. Asking questions of you midwife or doctor will help educate you around the medical aspects of your baby’s arrival.

No doctor knows exactly what will happen when a baby arrives early but speaking in depth to them about possible scenarios will see you a bit more prepared for when things unfold.

Remaining Calm in the Face of Worry

You may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of your baby’s premature birth. This is completely normal. Draw on your regular tools for staying calm in stressful situations. You could also consider other strategies such as breathing exercises, mindfulness, mediation – either guided meditation or music meditation.

Focusing on the now means you will preserve your energy for when you and your baby need it. Taking life one day at a time will help you manage your energy levels and your stress levels. Positive visualisations can be very powerful – imagine yourself gently cuddling your baby, imagine their lovely smell, and the gentle softness of their skin.

Preparing Siblings for an Early Arrival

If circumstances allow, try to speak to your older children before you go to hospital. If they are aware of what is happening they are less likely to become anxious or worried about Mummy and the new baby.

Explaining no one (including them) has done anything to cause the baby to come early will help, as will letting them know that the baby will stay in hospital and they will likely visit the baby in the hospital for a while before they come home. If you can show them a picture of a premature baby it will help them prepare for how the baby may look when they arrive.

Managing Your Feelings After the Birth

Having a baby early can leave parents feeling very insecure. There are a whole range of feelings that are all completely normal. Feeling overwhelmed, guilty, worried and fearful, angry or traumatised are all legitimate responses to a stressful situation.

Having a baby in NICU can be a very surreal experience and far from what many parents imagine early parenthood to be. Many parents feel scared to hold their baby, or worried they may do something wrong if they do.

Your baby may look different to how you imagined. Premature babies are much smaller than full term babies and their skin and bones are still developing. You may be shocked by their appearance, but be kind to yourself and understand that it is normal to feel this way. As they grow, they will become more like what you imagined they would look like.

Once you are discharged from the hospital, leaving your baby behind can be a very confronting and heart-wrenching experience. The feeling of separation from your baby may be overwhelming. If you try to view it as an opportunity for you to recover from the birth, to get some rest and regain your strength so you are strong and well for when your baby joins you at home; this may help take the rawness out of that initial separation.

Accepting Your Feelings

However you feel about your baby’s arrival is ok. Accepting that what you feel is normal, there is no right or wrong can help navigating this trauma a little easier. If you need some professional support it is worth accessing hospital counsellors and support organisations that can help you through. Understanding that your partner may respond or feel differently to you is also helpful. Each person has their own unique experience, and no one’s response is wrong.

When the time comes to take your baby home, this can open a new minefield of emotional responses. You can read more about this experience here.

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