Friday, 1 March 2013

Socially stunted

This post isn't about feeling sorry for myself, or for anyone else. This is just something that I wanted to put out there for all to know and maybe understand a little better. And I'm sorry, it's not my readers choice post. Yet.

Having a premature baby is one of the most socially isolating things to ever happen to me. I wasn't a popular person in school, I was a nerd, but this far surpasses even the pain of being an outcast in high school.

When someone has a baby, there's always the thought of, "Oh, I have a cold, I might not go visit just yet."

And if that baby is a premmie, that is more important than ever.

You see, amongst all the other complications stemming from premature birth, there is also the added risk of an immature immune system.

For this reason, we were advised by our health care professionals that for at least the first six weeks, to avoid crowded places, places with large airconditioning systems and people who had been sick in the last week or fortnight.

This meant being stuck at home, going nowhere as a family. DH (Darling Husband) would go to work and come home. If a colleague was sick, he'd avoid them and have a shower as soon as he came in.

After her six week needles, it changed to mainly avoiding sick people and places where sick people might converge. 

Other parents didn't seem to understand when I would ask if they or their child (or children) had been sick. If their child had a runny nose, they never understood why I'd make an excuse and not meet up with them.

When DD (Darling Daughter) got sick at 4 months of age, it was terrifying. It was the first time she had ever been sick. As the parent of a premmie, my biggest fear was RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). It's common in children and can often lead to hospitalisation, but it is especially dangerous to premmies. For more information about it, please see the Lil Aussie Prems page on Respiratory Syncytial Virus.

We spent 4 days and nights sitting up with DD constantly as she would choke and be unable to breathe. Thankfully though, it was just a bad cold that turned instantly into a chest infection and it wasn't RSV.

Even now, at 14 months old, I still won't willingly subject her to kids I KNOW are sick. Seriously, I don't go up to someone when they have a cold or vomiting to try and catch it, so why should I subject my child to it?

Yes, I know getting sick helps to build their immune system in the long run. If she catches it, she catches it, but I'm not going to play Russian roulette with my daughters health. You never know, it just might be more serious for her than your child. 

14 months on and it's still hard. I feel like a social outcast, never to be allowed out again. It might have something to do with the rainy weather, or it might be the fact that DD has a chest infection again, and to allow her to get better we haven't gone anywhere until yesterday and even that was a bad idea. I still have days where I feel so alone because we barely ever hear from anyone anymore, and I feel like I am being cut off from society one tiny strand at a time.

So, the next time a friend of yours has a baby, who is premature (less than 37 weeks gestation), please show a little consideration. Please don't ignore them, exclude them or make them feel guilty if they cancel on an event because they've just found out that someone coming has had vomiting and diarrhoea in the last week. Simply let them know that it's ok. You understand. Reschedule. And if they are still nervous, please please don't hate them. Don't make a joke of it. It's hard enough being a parent let alone a parent of a premature or chronically ill child. 

If you do have a premmie, please check out Lil Aussie Prems for information and their forum for support and understanding from other premmie parents.  


  1. Very Well said! Whilst I don't have children, I do understand about social isolation and the loneliness that comes with it. If I were ever to become a mother, I think I would feel the same way, not wanting to subject my child to other sick children.

    I am sure your true friends do understand about the need to want to protect your child and don't hate you for it. I think, to be honest, they would be very proud of your strength in having to confront these situations, and rise to the occasion!

  2. Its hard to make people understand to stay home when their kids at sick when I'm teaching because I really don't want to share their germs. I hope it gets better for you. I have found blogging a great way to build an online community at least someone to talk to even if you cant see them in person. Goodluck, always around if you want someone to chat to :)