Three times a mummy

The guilt of having a premature baby

on March 20, 2013

Throughout this pregnancy I have had a fear of delivering my baby early.

My first baby arrived bang on 37 weeks (so just classed as full term). He was perfectly ready to enter the world. He was smaller than your average baby at 6lb 1oz, but not scary small.

Baby 2 arrived at 32 weeks. The doctors decided to deliver him early due to health problems I was having and him getting distressed. I didn’t go into labour, they just decided that it was safest for the both of us to give me an emergency Caesarian and get him out! I knew since being about 26 weeks that this could be a possibility, but I convinced myself I could cope with pain and get to at least 35, and hopefully even 37 weeks.

Since his early arrival I have kept telling myself it will be ok next time because I didn’t actually go into labour early and my health problems have been dealt with. But the stories of premature labour I heard on the neonatal unit stayed with me, and made me realise that it could happen to me, that everyone thinks they will carry their baby full term, but something happens and babies sometimes make an early arrival for whatever reason. Usually a reason completely out of our control.

Baby 2 weighed 4lb 4oz. Not a scary size to those used to working with premature babies, but a scary size for me. He needed help with breathing in his early days and spent a lot of his time struggling to maintain his own body temperature. I can remember the first time they turned the cot warmer off, he had on a long sleeve vest, sleep suit, a cardigan, 2 hats and a jacket with a hood (up!), and 3 blankets, one of which was doubled over, and he still couldn’t maintain his own temperature. He had no major health issues. He just had the learn the things he would have learnt if he had spent more time inside mummy’s tummy. These things just seem far more scary when you have to watch your baby learning them in the flesh.

But I have spent a lot of time feeling guilty that I had caused my baby to come into the world when he wasn’t quite ready. In the first couple of days I didn’t want to get attached to him incase something happened. I was scared to get attached. That made me feel guilty because I didn’t love him like he deserved. The bond I expected to have wasn’t there because I was holding back.

I also felt guilty because I had a toddler at home. It was his second birthday 2 days after Charlie was born. I was still in hospital so we decided to postpone his birthday. I was hit with guilt again! I felt like a useless mummy to both boys whilst Charlie was in hospital. Jack was passed around family whilst I spent my time with Charlie, I felt like I was neglecting him. If I spent time with Jack I felt bad because I wasn’t with Charlie. I was a rubbish mummy to Charlie because I wasn’t doing anything for him. I couldn’t even produce milk for him in the early days. I felt like the doctors and nurses could give him everything he needed. I didn’t feel like a complete mother to either of my boys. The nurses kept asking me if I wanted to go on to the Transitional Care Unit with Charlie until he was ready to come home, but I would have been stuck on a ward 24/7 with him until he could regulate his own body temperature and no one knew how long that would be. Although I knew it would be good for Charlie, I couldn’t bring myself not be at home with Jack on a night, even if I was only putting him to bed and getting him dressed on morning.

Whilst I was visiting Charlie, looking at how fragile he was, I would question how bad the pain I had experienced
actually was. Why couldn’t I have coped a few more days, or even a couple of weeks? Even though I knew I was in a lot of pain because morphine wasn’t helping and that the baby was really distressed because the monitor was showing so. And that the Dr wouldn’t have delivered him early unless he saw it vital. I still feel guilty. 19 months after. Not as much as I did, but the guilt is there. I wonder if he isn’t developing as fast as he should be. I wonder how long it will take him to “catch up”. I wonder if he got pneumonia in the summer because he was born early. I wonder how he what he would have been like if I had carried him full term.

I rationally know that having a baby prematurely wasn’t my fault, but emotionally it’s something I can’t quite let go of. I feel responsible because I am his mum. The one person he should always rely on to look after him and I feel like I let him down right at the start. When he needed it the most.


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