Letter of the day

To parents of premature babies: Things will be all right

I would like to reach out to parents of premature babies, including the parents of Chelsea Kiew (Born at 22 weeks: 'Her chance of survival was close to zero', Nov 24), to reassure them that they will be all right and that their baby will grow up just fine.

I, too, had not one but two premature babies (delivered at 31 weeks and 34 weeks), so I understand the grief, anxiety and struggles of mothers of preemies.

I'm also a general practitioner who had done an 18-month stint at KK Women's and Children's Hospital's (KKH) neonatal department. I don't think anyone could have been more prepared yet surprised to have preemies as I was.

Looking back, I'm thankful that my firstborn was so well looked after at KKH. Special thanks go to the doctors and nurses that I worked with and helped nurse my son.

Now, my children are eight and nine years old, and healthy with no hint that they were born early, with the exception of tiny scars on my son's feet and hands where small drips were placed. I showed him a photo of him when he was born and he couldn't believe he was so tiny.

Perhaps I can offer some tips that will make the parenting journey a little easier.

First, be steadfast - read all you can about bringing up preemies and form your own ideas of what is the best way to bring them up. Then stick to those ideas and don't waver. Others, even strangers, will offer advice, most of it well-meaning, but you are the parent and this is your child.

Second, forgive yourself - nothing you ate or did made you have your baby early. Sometimes it simply is as it is; we may not always have the answers, but we are certainly not to blame when things don't go the way we want them to.

Third, no special treatment - perhaps the most important advice is to raise your child as you would normally. There is no need to shelter them from the world or bacteria - they need to learn to find themselves and build natural immunity.

Last, the hardest part is already over. Preemies fight the hardest battle at birth when they fight to survive. When you realise that, everything else comes easy. As parents, we ask only that our child is born healthy and normal. Why then should our expectations be any different when they start schooling?

Chih Chien May

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2021, with the headline 'To parents of premature babies: Things will be all right'. Subscribe