Five reasons why all preemies are completely inspiring

Babies born prematurely are completely remarkable and inspiring. Besides my beautiful Hugo, born at just 24 weeks, I have heard many other stories of preemies’ huge character that belies their tiny size.

These preemies demonstrate a strength and bravery to put grown-ups to shame. They scrap and fight with every scrap of their being to stay alive.

Hugo

Hugo

Thanks to medical advances, many premature babies do grow to be bigger and stronger and eventually go home with their proud and grateful parents. These babies are inspiring, as many stories on the internet such as this one from the Huffington Post outline. The thing that really irks me about these sorts of articles is that implies that all preemie babies get to go home and live happily ever after. That only these babies are inspirational.

Hugo fought so hard for 35 days. He died in my arms, as a result of extreme prematurity and chronic lung disease. It is why point three in that particular article       (‘…and their lungs totally transform’) made me particularly cross, because Hugo’s did not despite every treatment being tried. He inspired his parents, as well as so many people across the world, people who never had the opportunity to meet him.

Watching over Hugo

Watching over Hugo

Hugo is an inspirational baby. He continues to inspire others.

I am sure such articles do not intend to offend or irk bereaved parents of premature babies. These articles give hope, and celebrate the happy outcomes that all NICU parents dream of. It’s all part of Prematurity Awareness Month, and anything that raises awareness of the battles premature babies and their parents face is a good thing.

But we need to reflect that not all stories end happily ever after. Bereaved parents suffer enough without also feeling that their baby was not inspiring because they did not have the opportunity to develop their brain, their lungs, to gain weight – to go home.

So, here are my five reasons why ALL premature babies are completely inspiring – with focus towards those who do not make it home:

1. They can show a sense of character that can show adults what determination means

Many of these preemies are tiny – Hugo weighed only 420 grams at birth. These babies are  strong, they cling on, they fight. They find ways of telling you what they want and what they do not want. They are determined.

Hugo was mischievous - he'd wriggled out of his arm guard and chucked it off.

Hugo was mischievous – he’d wriggled out of his arm guard and chucked it off.

Yes, it is a Mummy’s pride, but I was in constant awe of Hugo’s (‘the Boss’, as he was nicknamed by his nurses) physical strength, such as shaking off his arm splints, and by his determination to be in the position where he was most comfy – his tummy.

Hugo on his tummy, receiving a comfort hold

Hugo on his tummy, receiving a comfort hold

2. They recognise their parents’ voices

Ok, this is one point in the article I did agree with. Research has shown that preemies do better when their parents read and sing to them. Babies recognise their parents’ voices, and it is their parents’ voices that help calm them and aid their brain development.

Hugo Boss

Hugo Boss

We sang and read to Hugo every day, and it was amazing to see how he responded to our voices. Our voices – mine in particular, being his Mummy, really helped calm him when he was distressed. I particularly enjoyed watching him boogy to my singing – it offered beautiful moments for us to bond. This is especially important when you are separated from your baby because of the incubator and all the equipment.

3. They show us the value of the simplest things

Hugo showed us that the simplest things were the best: him gripping our fingers, feeling his skin against our skin during a kangaroo cuddle; changing his nappy, giving him his milk, helping wash him, seeing him open his eyes to peek out at the world, watching him boogy to my singing.

Even just watching Hugo in his incubator was a great pleasure, marvelling at the miracle of the perfect little being I had helped make. Even at that early gestation besides his lung development Hugo was a flawless, immaculate baby – complete with a full head of dark hair. So handsome.

Such a handsome boy!

Such a handsome boy!

4. They know when enough is enough

Towards the end, and knowing difficult decisions would soon have to be made, one of Hugo’s nurses told us that Hugo himself would tell us when he had had enough.

Sure enough, he did. His morphine dosage had increased, and his oxygen was maxed out. Hugo was clearly in discomfort, and for the first time he was pulling at his ventilator tube.

The end was indescribably heartbreaking – I did not want to admit to myself that Hugo’s fight was over, but I had to do my best to be a good parent and attend to my son’s needs.

Like many preemies, Hugo hated being handled. Hugo showing us that enough was enough meant he could spend his last moments with the people who loved him most – his Mummy and Daddy. Hugo breathed his last snuggled between my breasts listening not only to me telling him how much I love him, but to my heartbeat too. The first sound he would have heard in my womb was also the last.

A precious cuddle with Hugo, on the day he died.

A precious cuddle with Hugo, on the day he died.

5. They continue to inspire others after they have gone

So many premature babies like Hugo who did not make it home continue to inspire long after their journey has ended. Not only do they show their parents what true love really means, they inspire friends, family and strangers with their strength.

We want to make sure that our babies have an impact on the world. That their lives mattered.

The many parents who fundraise in their babies’ names, and set up organisations in their memory ensure that their legacy lives on.

A close-up of the star.

A close-up of the star.

Mums' Days

13 thoughts on “Five reasons why all preemies are completely inspiring

  1. You Baby Me Mummy says:

    Such a fabulous post, you write so beautifully about your gorgeous boy. I have no personal experience of preemies but I know for a fact that you are helping so many other people. Thanks for linking up to #TheList xx

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  2. babylossmama says:

    Yes! Thank you! It always made me so upset when people talk about how their miracle preemies survived because they were so indomitably strong. My son was a miracle too, and he was so, so brave and strong. And just because he did not win his fight doesn’t mean he was any “less” than the preemies who lived. Thank you for reminding us all.

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      There’s a lot of preemie talk at the moment because of the awareness month, and that’s fantastic. However, so much of the talk is about ‘miracle’ babies and the ones who made it home. That’s the outcome we all want, but we cannot forget the babies like yours and mine for whom that was not possible. It does not make them any less, or secondary to any other baby. It makes me a bit cross! Our babies were awesome, miraculous, brave little fighters who gave it everything they had. Thanks for your comment xxx

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  3. Astrid says:

    Your post made me feel so appreciated. I know you don’t know me personally, but your message conveys that all preemies are exceptionally worthwhile, even those who like me end up coming home only to get significant disabilities or those, like yours, who have to be let go. I totally understand you feel irked by that HoffPo article, but you handle your emotions with such grace. Thanks!

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    • Leigh Kendall says:

      Oh, every baby is worthwhile, and preemies are particularly special because of all they endure. I’m pleased my post touched you so, and thank you so much for taking the time to write such a kind comment xxx

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  4. meghanoc says:

    Amen! They are the reason their parents go on! The parents of living preemies struggle as they go through the ups and downs of the NICU and life after and their babies inspire them. The parents of those that never left go through the ups and downs of living without their children and their babies inspire them!

    They know more than just their parents voices. Mabel did better on my chest than anywhere else. I’m sure Hugo loved it too 🙂

    This is a lovely post. Thank you!

    Like

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