Three lessons I learnt going through tricky times – Hannah’s Story

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Hannah shares some important lessons she learned after giving birth to her baby born at 27 weeks and three days, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our baby boy decided to make a surprise early appearance in late 2020 - 12 and a half weeks ahead of his due date. He had many health challenges and was on breathing support for most of his almost four months stay in hospital. The NHS staff that looked after him at Homerton Hospital were amazing, and he’s been happy, healthy and keeping us very busy at home since he left hospital last year.

It’s been a challenging couple of years for many people, and I thought I would share the three lessons I learned navigating having a premature baby during a pandemic.

Lesson 1) Take everything one day at a time

There has been so much uncertainty for many of us the last couple of years – we haven’t known how Covid will impact our friends, family or ourselves. Not knowing how long this uncertainty is going to last has also been hard, with many of us staying glued to the news trying to fortune tell how things will pan out.

When our baby was in the hospital, we had no idea how long he was going to be there. Doctors (understandably) didn’t want to raise hopes unfairly, so we had no clue how long his recovery might take, or how the recovery would go.

It became so important for me and my husband to take things step by step and focus on one day at a time. It may sound obvious, but trying to stay present, and focusing on what was happening that day really helped when the uncertainty stretching ahead of us seemed unbearable.

Lesson 2) Support networks are invaluable

I have always known that family and friends are important to me, however, it has never been so obvious and tangible as it was when going through the process of having a premature baby. Having people to talk to, cry to, moan to, and (occasionally) laugh with was so important, and really showed me how important connecting with others is to me – no matter what else is going on in my life.

It wasn’t just my existing personal relationships that developed; new friendships with other mums in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) also became a source of reassurance and inspiration. I was also lucky enough to receive counselling from the hospital to support and guide me through some of the challenges I was going through.

My husband and I watched a lot of Bliss’ YouTube videos together at the start of our NICU journey. I found them very useful and reassuring, in particular the guidance about how to express milk in the early days.

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Lesson 3) Focus on what you can control

Whether you’re anxious about Covid, your career, or having a poorly family member, it’s natural to worry and think about all the things you wish were different. There are so many things out of your control, and it’s easy to spend time and energy focusing on what you can’t control.

It’s much easier said than done, but for those months when our baby was in the hospital, focusing on the things I could control really helped me. Ensuring I was eating decent meals (most of the time), was getting some kind of exercise (mainly walking) and doing other things that help me manage my wellbeing (writing in my diary, talking to others etc) – gave me a focus and helped me feel I was doing something useful.

As it slowly looked more hopeful that he would be leaving the hospital soon I focused on getting things ready, cleaning out the flat and getting the huge amounts of baby paraphernalia ready.

Looking back now, the months he was in hospital feel a bit like a blur – at the time I didn’t feel I was coping particularly well and didn’t consciously implement the above as strategies. Going through challenges can often feel that way – we muddle through, somehow, and don’t realise how far we’ve come until we’re out of it.

I hope these reflections are useful and provide some insights for anyone else experiencing their own challenges.

Content originally published on Hannah’s personal blog.