Recently, we covered how the Government is considering more parental leave for those with premature or multiple babies in Singapore.
Now, after reading this Singapore mum’s story, we think a lot of parents will be able to empathise better with the struggles and heartache of preemie mums and dads.
Premature baby in Singapore
Singapore mum Steph had a tough pregnancy period. Steph, who works as sales executive, tells us, “My water bag leaked when I was 12 weeks pregnant.”
“I was on Hospitalisation Leave (HL) till week 21, after which I had no more HL left. So I had to get back to work. As I was in sales, I had to move around quite a bit.”
“My water bag burst when I was in week 23. I rushed to KK Hospital (KKH) as advised by my gynaecologist. From then on, I was on complete bed rest.”
“In spite of the precautions, infection set in when I was 24 weeks +6 days pregnant. So I had to undergo emergency caesarean.”
At just 25 weeks, mummy Steph gave birth to her tiny little angel, who weighed only 810 g!
Premature baby in Singapore: Initial care
The little one had to be given extra care and protection, and Steph reveals, “She was warded 60 days in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and 43 days in Special Care Nursery (SCN). She needed a feeding tube as she was so young. And too weak to suck.”
“She couldn’t breastfeed for the first 70 days. But during her SCN time, we were being trained to breastfeed under the care of a speech and language therapist. I expressed breast milk and my baby was tube fed. I would wake up every 3 hours to pump, to get my milk supply coming in.”
“She also needed oxygen support as she had chronic lung disease.”
Steph informs us that, “Most preemies have chronic lung disease. It’s quite common as their lungs are not mature during the time of birth.”
Premature baby in Singapore: After discharge
It took more than 3 months for Steph’s baby to get discharged from hospital. She says, “My baby was discharged when she was 103 days old, that is, 3 days before her actual Estimated Date of Delivery (EDD).”
“She required oxygen support when she was discharged, as at times she would forget to breathe, and needed that support. She was taken off oxygen support 10 days after coming back home.”
There were breastfeeding issues too, “My baby couldn’t latch, so I had to pump…”
“Maintaining my pumping schedule was quite tough, to be honest, as I would wake up every 2.5 hours to pump, wash bottles and sterilise them. But I kept faith because I knew that my baby needed breast milk, and that was the least I could do for her.”
“My family gave me moral support and was supportive of my decision to breastfeed.”
Maternity leave woes
Their troubles were hardly over though, and Steph could only spend 3 weeks with her baby at home, before heading back to work. In Singapore, all mums are entitled to just 4 months of paid maternity leave.
She did get some help, “I hired a helper and I’m glad to say that she was a great help to the family.”
“I tried explaining my situation to my company, however my leave had already been used up, and during that time my company was undergoing some changes and restructuring. I didn’t want to further jeopardize my position by taking unpaid leave.”
It was a really trying time, and to make matters worse, Steph and her hubby found out that their baby had stage 2 Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP).
ROP is an eye disorder that primarily affects premature infants weighing about 1250 grams or less, who are born before 31 weeks of gestation. The smaller a baby is at birth, the more likely that the baby will develop ROP.
Steph’s baby had to have eye surgery, “It was a laser surgery. The blood vessels in her eye were not growing correctly, so she needed surgery to correct it. We are still following up with the eye specialist. Hopefully there won’t be any problems in future.”
Those were hard times, but what truly disheartened Steph was when she heard unkind words from her colleagues at work, “The management said that I applied for too much leave (which I was still entitled to, not unpaid), and that I was being unfair to my teammates as they had to cover up for me when I was on leave.”
Work pressure also affected her breastfeeding, “I stopped breastfeeding at 8 months. My work schedule is crazy. My boss kept asking me until when I was planning to pump. All the stress really affected my supply. It went from 180ml to 100ml, down to 80ml and lastly up to 30ml.”
Today, her little angel is “13 months actual age, and 9 months corrected age.”
After all that she went through, mummy Steph feels that, “Maybe maternity leave can be more for mummies of premature babies, based on the length of gestation.”
She continues to stay strong and believes, “All this will pass. I believe in staying strong and having faith. Babies are stronger than we imagine.”
“I was a free thinker prior to this issue. But when I was admitted to hospital, I realised that I needed someone to pray to.”
Thank you, Steph, for sharing your story with us. We do hope that more can be done for parents of premature babies in Singapore.
Here’s wishing this beautiful family love, peace and happiness.
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