'Prematurity won't define my daughter's future' - Bethany's story

Bethany's Story Hero

Bethany gave birth to her daughter at 25 weeks weighing 1lb 12oz now her daughter is in school, Bethany reflects on the experience.

I get frustrated when anyone brings up Rhiannon’s prematurity, really really annoyed as if it’s some sort of excuse when she’s lagging behind in reading or maths. The truth is, that is a possibility - there’s endless possibilities though and as a parent I get frustrated because Rhiannon is a well abled extremely smart child and as her mother I no longer think her prematurity defines her as a person.

For a while I didn’t really understand this emotion and why people talking about Rhiannon’s early arrival wound me up so much. Did this feeling mean I was or wasn’t over the experience of what we went through? But then I realised that Rhiannon is one of the lucky ones. To not have any obvious long lasting complications relating to her prematurity is amazing. No wonder people want to speak about my little miracle.

When people talk about Rhiannon’s prematurity I don’t think about it being a sad time, I see it as part of God’s a plan for us. She was a gift, a blessing, in my otherwise aimless journey through life. What comes to my mind instead when I think of prematurity is those parents who never get the chance to take their baby home or care for their children every day with long-lasting medical conditions. These parents are superheroes without the costumes whose stories truly inspire.

My story begins mid evening on 2 January 2010 with pains, bleeding and panic. I was in labour at 25 weeks gestation. Rhiannon was born in the early hours on 4 January fully submerged inside her own little sac and weighing 1lb 12oz.

I didn’t get to see her after she was born. I felt robbed of everything I had ever assumed was supposed to happen soon after birth; the cuddle, the skin to skin, the amazement, the feeding. It had all been taken away in a split second.

The first time I saw my baby she was inside her incubator - the home where she would live for months. The incubator seemed like a giant wall surrounding such a tiny little soul. She was very very still, her skin was transparent and her breathing was being done rhythmically by something called a ventilator.

Weeks passed but they felt like years as Rhiannon faced an uphill battle for life. This battle consisted of numerous life threatening infections, sight-saving laser eye surgery, a hole in her heart and dialysis just to name a handful of the things her tiny body got through.

We spent just over 20 weeks in NICU. I grew familiar with the nurses, three hour bus journeys, the horrible smell of hand sanitiser, and seeing my little girl on CPAP.

Only one thing got me through those months: the staff. People reading this who have experienced life on the NICU will totally get what I’m talking about. If it wasn’t for these remarkable people, my daughter would not be the person she is today. These people keep your baby alive by watching over them 24 hours a day, caring for them when you aren’t able to and supporting you when you are feeling totally helpless. They give you hope when hope seems impossible and are like a torch when it seems your life is in darkness. These nurses and doctors are very much diamonds in the rough. This isn’t just a job to them - they deliver a level of care to which nothing can compare, tirelessly around the clock.

I was 16 when I gave birth but the staff on the unit showed no judgement and they treated me the same way as the 36-year-old mother whose baby was next to mine. To them I was a mother. Because of them, today my daughter is still here and is a blessing in our lives. Because of them my daughter is defined by nothing bar her exceptional personality and quick wit. For this I will be eternally grateful.

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