Tana Ramsay has bravely told HELLO! about her own experience of premature birth and how 'useless' new mothers of premature babies can feel. Gordon Ramsay's wife admitted the subject is close to her heart, as the couple's twins Jack and Holly, now 20, were born seven weeks early.
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Recalling the 'torture' of being separated from her children while they were in the neonatal unit, Tana – who also raises Megan, 22, Matilda, 18, and Oscar, one, with the Kitchen Nightmares chef – discussed how helpless she felt when the twins were whisked away after the birth.
The chat coincided with World Prematurity Day, which raises awareness of premature babies and their families.
An estimated 35,000 babies have been born prematurely in England and Wales between March and October this year during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, due to new restrictions in hospitals, neonatal units have had to limit access to family, a few to as little as two hours per day, leading to parents missing out on much-needed contact with their babies.
Tana Ramsay has bravely discussed her experience of premature birth
HELLO! spoke to Tana about her own experience and how she is partnering with Pampers to help families of premature babies during the COVID-9 pandemic.
Hi Tana, tell us why Pampers World Prematurity Campaign is close to your heart...
"Having had two babies 20 years ago, born seven weeks early, it's a campaign close to my heart. I remember the actual shock, how useless you feel when you go into labour early and suddenly you've got these two tiny little babies, so helpless and vulnerable whisked away from you into intensive care.
I was lucky in the fact that I could be so much a part of those first few days and be made to feel so close to them, from even just putting my hand into the incubator to hold their little fingers, or trying to learn how to change nappies when they're so tiny. Just being with them, watching them.
Twins Holly and Jack Ramsay, now 20, arrived seven weeks early
The pandemic stops that ability to be so close to your tiny little babies. It stops parents from being to go in and feel useful, for want of a better word. They literally can't have that contact. Or if one parent is allowed in very briefly, the other isn't. It's really affecting mothers' mental health and mothers bonding with babies."
What were the toughest moments when your twins Jack and Holly were born prematurely?
"When you're pregnant you have this idyllic view: the baby will be born, placed in your arms and that's it, forevermore you're by their side. I think the reality – especially when it's unexpected – your baby is born and you know the right thing is to hand them over for the doctors and nurses to monitor them, to check that they're stable, to do whatever is necessary.
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I think the hardest thing would be to leave the baby with someone else and not to have them bedside. You're so emotionally all over the place when you first have a baby and your instinct that kicks in is just to hold them. So I think to have to hand them over and to leave the hospital without them and not even be there, that's hugely hard. That's what I would struggle with.
Gordon and Tana's son Jack is pictured in the ICU
With Jack and Holly, they were in intensive care for seven days then they were moved to special care for two weeks and I had a toddler at home, so you're being pulled in all directions.
The amazing thing with the technology and vCreate are coming up with is to have that contact, to just try and help that connection with your baby and I think mentally, that would be a massive difference. As I say, it's such a trying time.
The tiny premature nappies that Pampers now make and donate to units across the UK, they are incredible. When Jack and Holly were born there was no such thing; you had the smallest nappies and these tiny babies of sort of 4lbs laying in a nappy for a 6-8 pounder and you can't even do it up.
'My world is upside down', Tana remembers thinking
For me, being there all the time was amazing, but you're still thrown into a world that you don't even know exists unless you have a premature baby. I remember leaving the unit to go and get a coffee and walking out on the street and thinking, 'Everything is happening normally out here and yet my world is upside down'.
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The hard thing [now] is, whenever you're outside the unit and maybe they do allow you back in, you're terrified that you're carrying something [COVID-19] because so many people may be asymptomatic. It's this whole emotional rollercoaster."
As well as mums, dads also find the experience of having a premature child hard. What was it like for you and Gordon - did you take turns being with the twins in hospital?
"We did, but then because I was so keen to feed the twins - for me that was a thing I could do to help - it was easier for Gordon to also be at home with Meg. She was our first and had been used to having me around all the time, and suddenly I disappeared and was so completely immersed in that situation.
Tana has teamed up with Pampers to mark World Prematurity Day
Gordon used to bring Megan to see them but it was hard because it was torture having to take her away again. We almost got to a situation where it was easier if he focused on her and tried to keep her life stable and nice. It was so hard because she was only 18 months old, and how do you explain it? 'You can see mummy and the new babies but then you've got to go'... Again, it's those emotional strains.
We had to say, 'OK, the most sensible thing is, I'll be at the hospital with the babies and you look after the toddler'. You have to be practical as much as it pains you because you want to be everywhere. You have to focus."
Pampers has joined forces with premature baby charity Bliss and vCreate, an NHS trusted secure video messaging service used to minimise separation anxiety in parents of babies in neonatal wards.
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For every pack of Pampers nappies and nappy pants purchased in ASDA between 9thDecember 2020 and 5th January 2021, or on ASDA.com from now until 5th January 2021, Pampers will make a donation to Bliss. In addition, for every share on social media using #PampersforPreemies between 17th November 2020 and 31st December 2020, Pampers will fund the donation of a tablet or Wi-Fi dongle to neonatal units through vCreate.
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