Before our competition ends I wanted to just take a moment to really focus on why we are fundraising for Born Too Soon. When I became a mum I had a really positive birth, I laboured and gave birth to my beautiful daughter and I held her in my arms and it was like time stood still. I remember waking the night she was born and looking over at her tiny sleeping face next to me. It was surreal and incredible and life changing. We had no complications and were able to take her home the next day and with that our new adventure began. For many of you, thankfully your babies were also able to come home with you soon after they were born. Now stop for a moment and just imagine what it would feel like to give birth and then watch your babies be whisked away and not even be able to hold them in your arms and then after that not see them for a few days. I can’t even begin to comprehend how that feels.
For Sarah, that’s exactly what happened with her twins. “I had an emergency C-Section at 28 weeks, I wasn’t ready, I had no pram, nothing. I knew nothing about NICU units, I saw my babies for 5 seconds and then they were gone” Callum and Jackson were born at Kingston Hospital and were immediately cared for by the wonderful NICU nurses and Born too Soon. “They were a great unspoken support system for my partner and I when our twin boys were born at 28 weeks”.
Born Too Soon was set up in 1985 by Pauline Woods after four of her own children had benefitted from services provided by the NICU unit at Kingston: “The Charity was started as we recognised a need for not only support for parents but also for a need to purchase specialist equipment for the Neonatal Unit. Having had four children who benefited from the services provided by the unit, I felt it was time to give something back. We are based at Kingston Hospital Neonatal Unit. I am on the unit on a daily basis to offer information and support”.
Sarah told me just how valuable Pauline’s support was. “Pauline gave constant updates on the boys when I was unable to see them in the unit due to my surgery. She printed pictures of the boys for me to look at whilst I was recovering from my C section” Sarah told me that the first images she saw of her babies were bought to her bedside by Pauline. “Pauline provided us with constant photo updates of things we may have missed when we weren’t at the hospital And we were given a memory card with all the digital images on for us to take home. Including print outs of those extra special photos with names, dates, times and children’s weights written on the back of each” Sarah told me it was the little things like seeing those precious images that helped her get through those first few days and the continued support that saw her through the long weeks after.
Sarah explained to me that the doctors, staff and support workers all become family when you are part of the unit. “You dive in to a very surreal situation and become almost in your own bubble. the staff take the time to explain what every piece of equipment does for them. You become obsessed with oxygen levels, blood pressure, feeding, breathing, infections, illnesses, scans, test results etc. The alarms, the bleeping, and every noise become second nature to you but also the scariest things you can hear, you sit watching a screen whilst numbers drop, lines go up and down and you have no idea what they mean! everywhere outside of the unit seems quiet because of the constant noise your surrounded by”.
Sarah tells me that the staff on the unit make sure that they are constantly available to help support parents and explain everything that is happening in understandable terms. “The staff are at constant hand to help the babies And also the parents, they take the time to explain what is happening. They make sure you are ok, make sure your eating, drinking, sleeping, expressing…. you can cry or get angry and you can also relax knowing they have the best care they can” Not only does the charity look after the babies, but it looks after the wellbeing of the parents too. The unit helps by providing clothes and blankets to keep babies warm at no cost to families on the ward, and as Sarah reminds me “finding premature baby clothes is like finding gold!”
The unit also has a dedicated room for expressing which is so important in helping babies on the unit to receive Colostrum and as Sarah was unable to continue expressing for her babies, they also supported her with formula which was provided at no cost. As many of the babies cared for on the unit are there for weeks and sometimes even months, parents are unable to stay on the unit every night. This is one of the things that I find most difficult to even imagine and I have so taken for granted what it’s like to have my baby at home with me every night, the thought of leaving her just breaks my heart. Sarah told me how daunting it was for her but again the unit were there to give her round the clock support. ” The unit provides 24 hour care for our little miracles and it’s great to know you can call and speak to someone 24 hours of the day just to hear that your child(ren) are ok”. This must be such a huge relief to know that at any time of the day or night you can have that reassurance.
Before the boys left the unit, the charity also organised a resuscitation course for each parent to provide vital lifesaving skills should anything happen at home. When the day finally came to take her beautiful boys home, Sarah was presented with a box from the Unit which contained hospital bands, umbilical cords, tubes, wires and 2 tiny knitted hats which they were first given when they were born as well as the memory card and photo print outs. There are also lots of events organised by Born Too Soon to enable parents and babies to meet up and to stay in contact with each other. Many families become close during their time on the ward and many of them become lifelong friends. I am happy to report that Callum and Jackson are cheeky as ever and are absolutely thriving as you can see from their recent shoot with us below!
So what more can I say? Please help us to raise as much as we can, as well as equipment on the ward, your money is going towards providing all of the things Sarah has talked about. Just imagine what a difference that would have made to you and your family. There is still plenty of time to book your competition slot with us as entries close on the 26th of August. We are asking for a £20 donation to Born Too Soon and everyone who books a session will receive a beautiful 8×6″ photograph too. The competition is open for ages 0-5 years and there is some stunning wall art up for grabs as prizes!
Thank you Sarah for taking the time to talk to me and for sharing your incredible journey with me. Thanks to everyone who has come in for the competition so far, for your support as always and thank you for helping to support a local charity who do wonderful amazing things for beautiful babies who are born too soon.