Sherry’s story: from premature birth to bonding

‘It was a Friday morning.

‘It was no ordinary day. It was David’s birthday, and we had plans to celebrate that evening with the usual gang. I was just under 33 weeks pregnant and hadn’t been able to button my overalls completely that morning. I had mild stomach cramps before I got out of bed but they passed and I thought nothing of it. The baby was active on my way to work as I drove planning my busy day.

‘By 2 pm I could barely walk. I felt like I was carrying around a boulder – my abdomen had hardened throughout the day. I rang my doctor who asked me to come in for a check-up, but said that I would probably be sent home for bed rest.

‘By the time Peter arrived just after 5 pm, I was barely able to move. The trip into hospital was dreadful as my cramps got worse.

‘Everything hurt when the nurses at the hospital attached two monitors that showed I was in labour. My contractions were two minutes apart. The doctor arrived and was great – informing us of each step, every consequence, the possible outcomes.

‘No time. A general anaesthetic. I was scared – not for me but our baby.

‘I awoke and was wheeled into the nursery. A tiny naked babe lay in her incubator. I could barely raise my head to see her. I was drowsy. I couldn’t focus. I just knew that there was a small baby in there with dark hair.

‘So it started, all those who love us, who were worried about us. The stream of visitors, flowers and gifts for us, for her.

‘But I missed her – she should still be in me. Sometimes it felt like she was still in there, but then I’d remember, she was elsewhere, in another room, away from me and I wanted her back. My intimacy with her was gone. When I went to see her, she still felt alien to me.

‘Later I held her, our tiny girl. I began to walk to her on my own. At will. She was there. My girl, waiting for me at the end of the corridor. And so began the many trips to her. Expressing milk and delivering it for her.

‘The nursery and its staff became painfully familiar, and at times we became tired and impatient. But they looked after us well.’

* Not her real name.