Jenny was one of the earliest recipients of meals from Bellyful Karori 7 years ago – she shares her experience of how Bellyful helped her when her baby boy was born prematurely.
“My second born was 11 and 1/2 weeks premature and spent his first three months of life in Neo-Natal Intensive Care (NICU) at Wellington Hospital. It’s hard to remember much of that time, it was a whirlwind focussed on simply keeping my boy alive! But I do remember the help we received from Bellyful was truly incredible and helped us to keep going.
I’d had a text book pregnancy but at 27 weeks I went to bed and woke up to a lot of water! I drove myself to hospital to get checked out and by 2am I realised I wasn’t going home anytime soon. My waters had broken and there was a risk of my baby boy being born very prematurely.
I can remember lying in my hospital bed on that first day, feeling very overwhelmed with the enormity of what was happening. This wasn’t how I imagined my pregnancy would go at all! I was a stay-at-home mum. I had my routine and spent my busy days entertaining my daughter. Now here I was alone in hospital. How would we manage? It felt surreal and quite frightening.
Much to my surprise, four days later our beautiful boy, Daniel, was born, a wee 1.2kg (2.2pounds). We were so thankful he was alive but we had a challenging few months ahead while his body continued to get ready to meet the world. Over the next 12 weeks I spent my days travelling to hospital twice daily to check in on my darling Daniel, delivering fresh breastmilk to help him grow. I tried to keep our daily routine as normal as possible so my daughter wasn’t affected and when she was in bed at night I would go back to hospital for the evening for ‘kangaroo cuddles’.
And of course, being a NICU baby I was dealing with ongoing medical issues and surgeries. His journey with me certainly wasn’t an easy one and I had a lot to juggle. I was really grateful for the friends I made in NICU who also had babies on a similar journey; these emotional connections were really powerful.
Although life was a blur, looking back one thing that stands out to me are the home cooked meals delivered by Bellyful volunteers. So often I would get home exhausted but I had dinner and baking waiting for me which the Bellyful team had prepared. Honestly, it was a god-send. Not only was it practical as it kept us well-nourished without the stress of meal prep, the sense of community I felt from this support was immense.
It really was a huge relief to not have to worry about what we were going to eat each day. Some volunteers would simply drop off the meal with a brief chat and leave me to it, but others would come in for a cup of tea and conversation. With my husband at work during the day and myself at the hospital in the evenings, they gave me much needed emotional support. Often the Bellyful volunteers themselves had been on similar journeys or had supported others through it, so I felt understood and encouraged to keep going.
I think this is what makes Bellyful so unique and effective as an organisation. They provide a very practical and necessary service to new mothers; giving home cooked meals. But bigger than that and more important than that almost, they provide a community. Being in contact with someone, who cared enough about you to drop you off a meal, spoke volumes to me during a really vulnerable and needy time in my life.
I honestly can’t thank the Bellyful supporters and volunteers enough for the help they gave me practically and emotionally. They are utter saints in my eyes. When everything was dismal and so dark, Bellyful was there to prop me up. I can’t begin to describe how much it blessed my life. I want to give back as much as I can; now that my kids are a little older, I get involved in baking sales when I can, and I’ve referred many other Mums in need to Bellyful to, which is a good feeling.
And today, Daniel is a lively, healthy and energetic 7 year old and every single day I am grateful for him. When Daniel came home, 12 1/2 weeks after being born, I took a little print of his wee foot and it’s truly astonishing to remember just how tiny he was! I look at this regularly and am reminded of what we went through and how special that time was with the support we had from our wider community”.
Words and photos by Jenny