Above: Laura with baby Orson
More than 4,500 babies are born prematurely in Ireland each year, equivalent to one in 10 babies born. World Prematurity Day took place on November 17 and offered families and health care professionals an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the challenges these special ‘early deliveries’ face.
Laura Woods, (32), a freelance photographer, and her husband Carl, live in Clonakilty with their son Orson. On the day of his birth, April 25, Orson, who was 14 weeks premature, weighed 910 grams.
Laura’s pregnancy was considered normal; there were no indications that she would not carry her child to full term.
Orson was born very quickly. Like many babies born premature he had PDA (Patent Ductus Arteriosus) a condition in which blood flows abnormally within the heart. He also experienced difficulty feeding resulting in a reduced weight of 730 grams and a 10-week hospital stay.
Laura recalls those weeks in the neonatal unit as “like being in a different world.”
“The nurses and everyone there were brilliant and we were able to stay in Bru Columbanus in Wilton for the 10 weeks, so that was a really big help. I don’t think we’d have coped without Bru,” she says. “The hardest part of those ten weeks was watching friends around us in the unit have setbacks with their babies.”
Now six-months-old, Orson is doing well but is still receiving treatment to improve his feeding. “He gags when we give him a bottle and gets very distressed at feeding time, crying every time we pick him up” explains Laura.
“We are very keen to get him taking bottles well again and also starting on solid food. It’ll be interesting to see what he likes and dislikes.
“He has mastered head control and sitting up supported now, so it’ll be lovely to see him sitting on his own, playing with toys like that. Also crawling.”
Laura’s advice to other parents is to “Try not to blame yourselves for any part of your journey, it’s so easy to find sticks to beat yourselves with. At the end of the day the most important thing is the relationship with your baby.
“And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Take each day as it comes, there will be bad and good days; don’t get hung up on the bad days too much to enjoy the good.”
The patient information guide, ‘Better Together: A Family-Centred Care Guide for Your Premature Baby’ has been created by The Irish Neonatal Health Alliance (INHA) to help parents of premature babies be able to take a more active role in the neonatal setting during their baby’s stay in hospital.
For more information on family centred-care, and to download the ‘Better Together Guide, please visit INHA.ie.