Before premature birth: your emotions
If you know you might have a premature birth or a baby who’ll need to stay in hospital, you might feel a range of emotions. For example, you might feel joy, love, helplessness, sadness, guilt, fear, worry or grief that your baby’s birth won’t be what you expected.
If you have a partner, it’s common for you and your partner to have different feelings and concerns about premature birth.
Mental and emotional preparation can help you cope with these feelings before and at the time of your baby’s birth.
Getting mentally and emotionally ready for premature birth
No-one knows exactly what will happen until the time comes, but it’ll help if you’ve thought about the kind of birth you want and whether it’s still the best option for you and your baby.
Here are ideas to get you started:
- Read up on premature births and premature babies.
- Ask questions about premature labour and birth and discuss concerns with your doctor or midwife.
- Speak to other parents of premature babies. For example, you can connect with other parents through Miracle Babies Foundation or Life’s Little Treasures Foundation.
- Have a birth plan, but be flexible. For example, you might need to give birth in a hospital rather than a birthing centre.
Staying calm before premature birth
You might feel confused or overwhelmed in the lead-up to the birth. These strategies that can help you manage strong emotions and stay calm:
- Do breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises or mindfulness exercises.
- Do activities and hobbies that relax you. For example, listen to relaxing music, go for a walk, paint, read or take a warm bath.
- Take things one step at a time. For example, focus on what you need to do today, and try not to worry about what might happen tomorrow.
- Focus on positive thoughts. For example, try thinking about your baby in a calm, loving and positive way.
- Ask for help if you need it. You can talk to your partner, a family member or a trusted friend. You can also talk to your doctor or midwife or call Miracle Babies Foundation’s NurtureLine on 1300 522 243.
Getting familiar with the NICU or special care nursery
Your baby might be taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or special care nursery after the birth. Babies in NICUs and special care nurseries tend to have machines and technology all around them, which can be overwhelming and even scary at first.
If you and your partner visit the NICU or special care nursery before the birth, it will feel more familiar when you visit your baby there. Your doctor or midwife can arrange this for you.
Preparing siblings for a premature birth and baby
It’s a good idea to talk with your older children before you go to hospital.
Talking with your children about what’s happening can help them to feel less anxious and confused about the change in plans. They might worry that they caused the baby to come early or that they might get the baby’s condition. You can let them know that they didn’t do anything and seeing the baby won't make them sick.
Give your children a rough idea of how long you and the baby will be in hospital – for example, how many days, weeks or sleeps. You could make a calendar that your older children can draw on. It can show when they visited, and they can also use it to cross off the days until their new sibling comes home.
It’s a good idea to explain that you and your partner might be spending a lot of time visiting the hospital. It can also help children to know who’ll be looking after them while you’re in hospital or visiting your baby in the NICU or special care nursery.
You could talk to children about visiting the baby. If you show children pictures of premature babies, they’ll be better prepared for what the baby will look like when they visit. They could do a drawing to give to the baby, so they feel closer to their new sibling.
You could also read books to help your older children understand what a premature baby is like. For example, Rosie and Tortoise by Margaret Wild is about the birth of a premature baby in a rabbit family.
Preparing yourself mentally and emotionally for premature birth is important. There are also many practical things you can do before premature birth to make things easier for yourself and your family.