Amber Sherlock was presenting the news on Weekend TODAY, when her waters broke. While that was enough of a shock, what was even more worrying was that she wasn’t due to give birth for another six weeks.
What happened next would leave her wracked with guilt, wondering if something she did caused her daughter to come early.
Amber recalls going to the birthing suite with her full face of television makeup, and her husband having to rush home from an interstate trip as their first child arrived much earlier than expected. She also remembers the guilt.
“You see, carrying your child is the first job you are given as a mum,” she writes on 9Honey. “And I felt like I failed. Miserably.”
“The humid-crib, the feeding tube, the flashing lights and beeps of a neonatal unit, the string of visitors who went home without seeing my baby, and the day I went home with my baby bassinet empty, leaving my daughter behind.”
The guilt still remains
Amber’s daughter Piper is now six, but that guilt continues to play out in her mind.
“The guilt is still with me every, single day. Why me? Was it something I did? Did I work too hard? Do too much exercise? Have too much stress? Not put on enough weight? The doctors couldn’t tell me why, it was just called a ‘spontaneous labour’. I felt like I failed her.”
Piper came home after five weeks in hospital, and Amber admits she was terrified at losing her safety net.
“There were no re-assuring beeps to tell me she was still breathing, or the up and down of the heart monitor line to tell me her heart was still pumping. It took a year to come up for air.”
Finding the right support
Initially Amber was placed in a mother’s group where all of the other women had given birth to full-term babies. She only lasted a couple of weeks before leaving, and finding a group better suited to her situation. She also found solace through charity group Miracle Babies, and it’s there she learnt that feeling guilty after having a premature baby is very common.
“These days, my daughter is a tall, robust and energetic child. No-one would ever guess the traumatic start she had to life. But I will never forget.”
Premature birth in Australia
About eight per cent of babies born in Australia each year arrive prematurely. Miracle Babies has created a book that aims at helping families deal with premature babies and the associated feelings, and it’s available free of charge through Australian NICU’s and SCN’s.