ACT Co-ordinator of the Miracle Babies Foundation, Jen Hummelshoj, with her 10 month old daughter, Nina at their home in Giralang. Photo: Graham Tidy
There's no good time to get cancer but when you're 28 weeks pregnant it can't be much worse. This was the news Jen Hummelshoj received at the end of 2012. Two weeks later, Mrs Hummelshoj delivered a tiny baby girl so that she could undergo cancer therapy.
Baby Nina weighed just 1.5 kilograms, required assistance to breathe, her heart vessels had not yet closed and she needed to be tube fed. It was a fragile start to life.
According to the Miracle Babies Foundation, an organisation set up to support premature and sick newborns and their families, the experience of having a baby come into the world not as expected is overwhelming and traumatic and brings many unforeseen problems.
Nina Hummelshoj - Miracle Baby. Photo: Supplied
Mrs Hummelshoj and her husband had not yet attended antenatal classes or set up a nursery. ''I told them I wasn't ready to have a baby," Mrs Hummelshoj said. Emotions compounded when Mrs Hummelshoj returned home from hospital without Nina.
"We spent all day with her and then came home to life without a baby. Sometimes it was like we had not had her at all," she said.
Nina stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit in The Canberra Hospital for eight weeks. She is now a chubby 10-month-old and Mrs Hummelshoj's cancer is in remission. Amid the shock and worry, she found some benefits to delivering her baby so early. "Having a baby prematurely gave us some perspective; healthy and happy, the rest doesn't matter. It has probably made us more relaxed parents,'' she said.
Once Nina was home, Mrs Hummelshoj joined the Miracle Babies playgroup in Canberra.
''Meeting other parents who had gone through the same experience really helped me,'' she said.
Each year, about 44,000 Australian babies require the help of a neonatal intensive care unit or special care nursery. Mrs Hummelshoj has now joined the Miracle Babies Foundation to help with in-hospital support sessions for other mothers.
''I feel so lucky and I want to give back to others who get the shocking news and let them know that it can turn out just fine,'' she said. Families of premature and sick newborns will celebrate their miracle babies at the inaugural ACT Miracle Babies Foundation Picnic on Sunday. The annual picnic will give families a chance to reflect on the difficult and emotional journey of their baby's start to life, to connect together and reunite with staff.
The picnic is on from 11am to 2pm at Weston Park, Pescott Lane, Yarralumla.