What happens when you give birth before your maternity leave begins?

One mum shares her story of having a baby 8 weeks before her due date

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Harjeet Dial, 29, from London, tried to carry on working even after herwaters had broken and her contractions had started…

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“My husband Sunil had been away working for three months and I was desperate to see him. He’d missed so much of my pregnancy that I couldn’t wait for him to get involved in the antenatal classes, feel our baby’s movements and help get the nursery ready for our son’s arrival.

“He flew back to the UK when I was 32 weeks and I was over the moon, but instantly he started to fuss over me. He knew I hadn’t done a lot to prepare myself for our baby’s arrival as I’d wanted to wait for him, and I’d also been busy with work in my marketing job. In fact, the only thing I’d really planned was that my maternity leave would start in just over a month’s time.

Preparing for the birth

“I’d saved holiday so I could rest up before my baby arrived and I was looking forward to spending some time at home with Sunil. But the next morning, I had a shower and was getting dressed in the bedroom when water gushed everywhere. Worried, but trying to stay calm, I called my friend, then the hospital. ‘Your waters have broken,’ the hospital confirmed.

“I could still rest at home rather than going in, but it was difficult as all I could think about was my baby and whether he’d be OK being born 8 weeks early.

Waiting for more dilation

“I tried to keep myself busy by finalising a few bits for work and managed to tell my boss what was happening. ‘I can come in,’ I told her, but she insisted on me staying in bed as the hospital had advised me to. Instead, I got out my laptop and kept myself busy finalising as much as I could via email. ‘There goes my leaving dinner,’ I thought as I sat in bed trying to stay calm.

Contractions start

“Four days of emailing and planning later, my contractions started thick and fast so we made our way to hospital. I’d always imagined that the birth of my baby was going to be a magical experience with music playing softly in the corner of the room while I laboured quietly. So much for that! When I arrived at the hospital I was taken to the delivery ward but there were no rooms available. I had to stay in the waiting room until I got a bed at 10.15pm.

The baby arrives

“By now there wasn’t time for gas and air, as with five swift pushes, baby Milan arrived, weighing just 3lb 11oz. The midwife cut the cord, and as he was premature the paediatrician was there to check him. Milan was breathing by himself so I got a quick cuddle before he was whisked to the special care unit. After three weeks I finally took him home and was able to start my maternity leave properly.”

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