HAVING A baby is one of the most exciting things that can happen in life, but if that baby is born prematurely, a whole vista of hospital stays, fraught with worry and uncertainty, can open up. Dundalk mum Ciara Mullen knows all about the challenges and difficulties parents with a premature baby can face.
Ahead of World Premature Baby Day on Saturday, Ciara, from Kingswood, has spoken about her experiences following the birth of daughter Mollie, who will turn one in January.
Ciara said: 'Everything was fine during the pregnancy until a routine check-up highlighted pre-eclampsia. I went into hospital and Mollie was born on January 11 2011, by emergency C-section, at the Rotunda Hospital. She wasn't due until April 19.
'It was a very, very scary experience. Mollie weighed just 770 grammes when she was born and was absolutely tiny. She was critical and doctors gave her a 50/50 chance of survival'.
Ciara and her husband, Kevin, travelled to hospitals in Dublin in the following weeks, elated when their tiny daughter showed signs of improvement, heart-broken when her health regressed again. Ciara said: 'It really was like a rollercoaster. Mollie had lots of operations and was in Crumlin and Temple Street hospitals.
' The staff were fantastic, but it was a very lonely time and scary. Doctors would tell us one day that she was improving really well but when we came back the next day, they would say she had got worse. Our family members couldn't come to see her, only parents were allowed in.
'It was a very long process and Mollie was in hospital for exactly 100 days. While I was there, two other women from Dundalk had premature babies'.
And the worry didn't stop when her daughter was discharged from hospital.
She said: ' We didn't have to go home with specialist equipment, but we were taught CPR, though you pray that you never have to use it. We, thankfully, had a wonderful community nurse who called around a lot and Mollie started to put on weight and thrive'.
Just weeks away from Mollie's first birthday, Ciara is expecting again and is due in December.
While she is looking forward to the new addition to her family, Ciara can still recall last year's experience with Mollie. But she has found support and understanding with the charity Irish Premature Babies.
Ciara said: ' The charity, which I found on the internet, are brilliant. They will help every step of the way. I would say to new mums with premature babies that this is a long process and you just have to take every day as it comes. You will get through it and you will think you won't, but you will. You are not on your own'.