There’s a saying that good things come in small packages. Hanna Mapley who works for the Department of Human Services couldn’t agree more when it comes to her children, after giving birth to not one but two premmie babies.
Hanna distinctly remembers the end of 2006 for a number of reasons. Australian icons Steve Irwin and Peter Brock both died unexpectedly and she gave birth to her first child, Darcy.
Darcy was born at 33 weeks and spent the first five weeks of his life in hospital.
“My pregnancy was all going smoothly until 32 weeks I experienced some bleeding so I did what any expectant parent would do and went to the hospital,” Hanna said.
The hospital told her everything looked fine and sent her home. However, a week later, her waters broke and she delivered Darcy weighing only 4.9 pounds.
While the nurses spent the first few hours caring for Darcy, Hanna said her emotions swayed between the elation of having a newborn and the stress of having a premature baby.
“The first 24 hours were the hardest because I felt like I missed some of that initial bonding experience because I couldn’t hold or fed him,” she said.
“My mind raced with the fear of the unknown. Are his organs fully developed? Will he have heart problems?
“He was hooked up and fed through a tube for three weeks. He was also part of what we affectionately called ‘club med’, where he was placed under a UV light in his first week to treat his jaundice.
“Darcy had a few small issues, like two of his toes were joined. We opted to wait a while and separate them when he was older.”
Hanna said the hardest moment was realising she had to return home each day without Darcy.
“Leaving the hospital without my beautiful little bundle of joy for the first time was the hardest part of the entire experience,” she said.
“I remember being nervous about not knowing what would happen while I was away. Once the nurses put my mind at rest and told me that while Darcy was small, he was strong and healthy, I felt much more comfortable.
“Once we went home, we were having long days at the hospital, often 13 or 14 hour days.
“If I could give one piece of advice to other mums who have premmie babies, it would be to be kind to yourself. Having a premmie baby isn’t something you can control and there are many factors outside of your control that you can’t blame yourself for.
“Allow yourself time to cry and be angry because you need to let it out or it’ll sneak up on you down the track.”
Four years later, Hanna would find herself in a very similar rollercoaster ride with her daughter Remi, who entered the world at 34 weeks and weighing 5.5 pounds.
“What’s amazing with Remi was I had a work farewell that afternoon and headed home with a sore back around 4 pm,” Hanna said.
“Within hours, I’d given birth to Remi.
“When I think about it now, I was probably in labour all day and just brushed it off as a sore back.
“I was surprised how much of a difference there was between Darcy being born at 33 weeks and Remi being born 34 weeks. Darcy gained weight in very small amounts while Remi was having big weight gains at every weigh in.”
Hanna said some of her fondest memories are of the nurses in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
“I’ll never forget the amazing nurses I had for my babies,” she said.
“They always made us feel welcomed and involved. While they were in the NICU, the nurses let us help check their temperature and monitor their levels the entire stay.
“The hospital staff in general were also fantastic. They were the perfect balance or caring and tough love when we needed it. Both babies paediatrician were also incredibly kind, which we are thankful for every day.”
Between Darcy and Remi, they spent a combined total of 60 days in hospital. Darcy was there for five weeks and Remi was lucky enough to only require three and a half weeks care.
These days Darcy and Remi are like every other child in the school yard. While they were both a little late to take their first steps—18 months – they haven’t stopped. Now they’re running around on the soccer field and getting right into their swimming.
“Darcy and Remi both have their own beautifully unique personalities but they’ve given me more smiles and laughter over the years than I ever thought possible,” Hanna said.
Hanna is just one of many of the families around the world feeling their way through the unknown. World Prematurity Day is a day to celebrate those tiny babies who made it and to remember all the precious babies who didn’t make it home and continue to live with them in our hearts.
The Miracle Babies Foundation provides support to parents and families of premature babies once the baby is well enough to go home. You can also call their 24 hour support line on 1300 622 243 for information and advice.