It is often said that motherhood changes you, what is less said, however, is how much being a mother to a premature baby and watching your baby’s life hanging by a thread can change you. Katra’s experience as a mother to a premature baby made her quit her illustrious career as a Senior Director in the Office of the President in charge of governance and food security to start My Early Bird Africa which advocates for family-centred care of premature babies.
“My baby came prematurely at 29 weeks and it was a harrowing experience. By the end of my maternity leave, my child was nowhere near ready for me to leave her side as she spent two months in hospital. Given my painful experience, I thought to myself, here I am completely traumatised and off equilibrium, how about so many mothers and fathers to babies who come too soon or are born sick? What support structures exist for them? That is what inspired me to set up My Early Bird Africa.”
As much as there are stakeholders such as hospitals, non-profits and governments, working to save the lives of premature babies, parents’ input is often peripheral.
Katra considers parents a key component to saving the lives of premature babies.
"My baby came prematurely at 29 weeks and it was a harrowing experience. By the end of my maternity leave, my child was nowhere near ready for me to leave her side as she spent two months in hospital. "
“The whole experience of prematurity is a traumatising. It is a very lonely experience, so we work with hospitals to notify parents of our existence, then we arm them with information primarily around what is happening to them, what options exist and how they can become competent care providers during that journey. We also teach them about the dangers they should look out for such as retinography of prematurity which leads to blindness in premature babies.”
Katra’s work is particularly important and critical in situations where doctors and nurses are overstretched. A parent coming on board with information does the baby a lot of good as he or she not only contributes to the health of their child but also becomes their biggest champion.