This campaign is one where I speak from personal experience, my daughter was born 2 months early weighing only 3lb 2oz. The care and support my daughter received was exemplary, but despite everyone's efforts it was simply not the same as if she had been born at term. While your pregnant you imagine that moment when you come home after having your baby, at no moment do you imagine you will be leaving hospital without her. Nothing will ever prepare you for that feeling where you have to leave your tiny baby, linked to so many machines and go home alone.
We were lucky our little one came home before her due date but for many that is not the case and I spent weeks on end going backwards and forwards 45mins twice a day to the hospital to see my little one. When you factor in fuel, parking, hospital food and time off work, a premature baby will cost far more in those first few months than other babies. My husband is self-employed so had no paternity leave and had to go back to work quickly, but I saw other partners struggle to go back to work after their two weeks paternity leave ended, their babies sometimes still in intensive care. This also means that when their baby comes home they have no leave left. This made me see how change was needed, and only if you have been in this situation can you truly understand the impact it has, so people like myself need to speak out about our experiences and help others to see why change is needed.
One could be led into thinking that once your baby is home then all is as normal, but this isn't so. My daughter came home at 4lb 7oz, and still needed support, weekly weigh ins and weight gain regimes are the easy part. A premature babies immune system is not as developed as others, meaning being out and about or looking to others for support is hard. In our case it meant that hospital was not a thing of the past but a common occurrence. By the time our daughter celebrated her first Christmas she had sepsis, meningitis, bronchiolitis and more.
Many parents, male and female suffer from post-natal depression and post traumatic stress disorder when spending time on high dependency units like NICU or SCBU. I will never forget watching my daughters SATS monitor dropping and alarms ringing to signal she was not breathing. I felt helpless and in a moment that felt like an eternity.
For the reasons I have listed above, and in so many other ways, I believe that your maternity leave should be extended to cover the time that your baby was early. That partners should be able to get paternity leave up to the due date at least. I also believe this should be paid leave, to give families some certainty at a time where you feel nothing but shifting sand beneath your feet.
There are many groups and individuals that are campaigning for change, below is to one of those groups which I have found particularly helpful.