Reading Paloma Faith’s interview on prematurity and parental leave triggered me in a way I hadn’t expected.
I was 32 weeks pregnant with her when I had decided it was time to begin my holidays to eventually stretch into maternity leave. I had left pretty much all the important stuff till now. The buying of the buggy, the cot, clothes and nappies. All that my first time mother self could find on google under “what do babies need?!”.
“I have plenty of time” I reiterated to myself and my partner. We would get so much done. All that batch cooking and the nesting would kick in. I’d promised him I’d turn into a Nigella-cleaning-goddess as soon as that last shift at work was over. It’s just what happens, right?
Wrong. What I hadn’t planned for was a premature birth. (And lets face it, I’m no Nigella)
The wonderful and supportive midwives and doctors confirmed I had severe preeclampsia and I wasn’t leaving the hospital that day to start or finish my shift.
40 hours or so in and I had a baby girl. A baby girl I was too poorly to go see and who was too poorly to come see me. My partner, flustered amongst trying to find sense of what had just occurred, also had the duty of informing work he would need some time off. They granted him the leave he ‘needed’ for a few days but then informed him he would have to use his annual leave or paternity up to stay off any longer.
My partner kept up the triathlon of his runs between work, hospital wards and home whilst attempting to buy the things we needed for our baby. I saw him crumble through the haziness of my painkillers. Trying to fit everything in to the 2 weeks granted of paternity that came far too prematurely. It wasn’t blissful, or a time to dote on a new baby. It wasn’t anything we had imagined or planned for our first child.
The nights and days rolled into one. The sounds of the beeping machines became our memorable song.
The time you should be using making memories, figuring out how to parent and recording the newborn firsts were replaced by concerns over costs of travelling to and from the hospital, the meals you would try to prepare in the small kitchen provided because “you needed to keep your strength up”.
A month passed and we were given the green light to take her home. Freedom!
Our security net of the doting nurses was stripped of us and we were let out into the world with this tiny 3lb 8 baby.
We had lost a month of this leave to our never ending nights in the NICU. We would lose even more days for trips back for checkups. The leave we had imagined together, hadn’t started the way we planned and would finish before anything resembling normal had even began.
Parental leave is vital for all parents who choose to use it. To enjoy those moments with your newborns and bond with them however you so please. For those with sick and premature babies, (many who I met on my journey were there for far longer than a few months) extended parental leave could be even more precious.
The stress of work to be put on pause whilst you try to hold your family together in the most difficult and unplanned situations, should be considered for all, right?