In February 2017, we welcomed our precious little daughter much earlier than we anticipated – at 27 weeks and 4 days gestation, and weighing only 704 grams. It had been a rough pregnancy and we never imaged she would be in such a rush to meet us, but meeting her so soon changed us forever.
I spent day after day sitting by her incubator, wishing I could hold and protect her, or somehow provide something more than just changing her nappy every 4-6 hours, taking her temperature, and holding her tiny little hands for a couple of minutes.
It wasn’t until 10 days into our NICU journey that I was finally allowed to hold her, and once I did, I never wanted to let her go. It started off with an hour a day, until she was older and stronger and then it was 2 hours and then twice a day. But it was never enough. Prying her tiny little fingers off my hand when it was time to close the incubator door was always the hardest thing to do.
I knew she knew I was still there, but if there was anything more I could have done, I would have done it in a heartbeat.
In between, I listened to her tiny cries during her heel pricks, and put my hands on her firmly each time her feeding tube or nasal prongs for her CPAP mask were changed. I sometimes sneakily put my hand through the side door of the incubator so she could hold my pinky – just so she knew I was there, and she seemed to like it. But I knew 5 minutes was the maximum amount of time I was allowed to keep the door open, so I would sadly have to release her grasp as the seconds ticked by. The only other time I would open the door was if I saw her hands reaching for her tubes or CPAP mask – and I would hastily try to guide them away and hope they didn’t return.
She would often find solace in holding onto her tubes and wires, but a slight tug in the wrong direction meant that they often came out. I remember a day where in a 24 hour period, I noticed her tube had been changed 4 times – because she kept pulling it out. I knew she wouldn’t remember it when she’s older, but watching the discomfort she endured time after time as the tube was reinserted never made it any easier to watch.
Days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months – my daughter got bigger and stronger and eventually graduated from NICU and went into the Special Care Nursery, and eventually came home with us.
Part-way through our journey, I became aware of media articles suggesting a little crcochet octopus was providing comfort to premature babies as the curled tentacles resembled an umbilical cord, and tried to find one for my little bub. The articles suggested that holding onto the crochet tentacles was helping some babies regulate their breathing and/or heart rate, while giving others something to occupy their hands which made them less likely to hold their tubes and potentially pull them out (which I watched my daughter do countless times).
After attempting to purchase one for my baby, I found that there was no such product available on the Australian market – other than individuals crocheting their own, home businesses selling them online, or some donation drives which provided them to participating hospitals only (and ours wasn’t one of them). And so we missed out, and I felt like we couldn’t provide perhaps the one thing that could have given our baby girl comfort when nothing else could.
I was eventually able to crochet an octopus once my daughter was already home and realised that she liked playing with the crocheted curls, even outside the hospital environment – they were soft to touch, easy for her delicate little hands to grasp and light enough for her to move around freely. Being a premature baby, she was much smaller than your average newborn and the usual baby toys were either too big or too heavy for her to enjoy.
Knowing that this toy may have helped her during her hospital stay, and may be able to help so many other babies feel a little bit of comfort, I started developing a version that would be suitable as a baby toy, whilst having with all the features that would make them beneficial for premature babies. It was also imperative that the toys meet and exceed Australian and worldwide product safety standards to ensure that they would be safe for ongoing use.
And so Octoprem was born, and with it a way for me to give something back to the premature community by donating a portion of each sale to a relevant charity.
We believe Octoprem provides family and friends of premature and newborn babies with a thoughtful gift option for the new baby in their life – while also contributing to a worthy cause.
Our heartfelt thanks for choosing Octoprem and supporting us on our journey – together we can make a difference!