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'My son had a 10% chance of survival and I only had 8 weeks paid leave when I got him home'

Calls for extended maternity leave and benefit for mothers of premature babies.

Image: Tara Murphy Delamere

MATERNITY LEAVE CAN be almost used up for some mothers by the time they get their baby home from hospital.

One in 16 women deliver a preterm baby but as it stands mothers in Ireland are entitled to 26 weeks maternity leave and 16 weeks unpaid leave from the date of the birth of their child.

For the 4,500 babies that are born prematurely every year – this can mean spending those first months in a hospital and paid leave being almost used up by the time the baby gets home.

Tara Delamare had her son Patrick at just 23 weeks and 1 day at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles St.

Delamare told TheJournal.ie that she and her husband weren’t prepared for his arrival.

The day he was born, I was told straight away that his chances of survival were less than 10%.

“My maternity leave started that day and he was in hospital for 18 weeks and throughout that he had everything a premature baby has to deal with such as chronic lung disease, heart problems, kidney problems and infections.”

Delamere had just eight weeks paid leave left when her son came home from hospital.

“Thankfully he came out of it after 18 weeks but premature babies are so vulnerable to infection and are still very ill so we still had a lot of visits to hospitals.”

Delamere took an additional 18 weeks unpaid leave on top of her initial 16 weeks unpaid leave and says she was lucky that she was able to start back on a part time basis when she returned to work.

“Premature babies are so precious, you’re so close to that line between life and death and everyday you think, ‘Is this the day I’m going to be told ‘everything is okay’ or am I going to be told the worst’.

When we were in there – there were so many babies through ICU and so many babies who didn’t come home with their parents. I never knew this world existed until I was in it.

“There are no real supports there for parents, my heart goes out to those who have to return to work after 26 weeks for financial reasons.”

Patrick is now three years old and doing great.

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Green Party's Catherine Martin with Tara Murphy Delamere and her son Patrick Source: Catherine Martin

The Green Party is calling for the government to allocate funding in the upcoming Budget to extend the maternity leave and maternity benefit of mothers of babies born prematurely.

The call comes following the unanimous passing of a Dáil motion supporting the proposal back in April.

Green Party Leader and TD Catherine Martin said, “At the time of the baby’s arrival, parents’ concerns, worries and anxieties are quite naturally focused on the baby’s safe well-being and progress.

Maternity leave and maternity benefit may be one of last things on a mother’s mind but it won’t take long until the mother faces the reality of being treated by the State in a markedly different and unfair way compared to mothers fortunate enough to give birth to full term babies.

“We’re now calling for the government to honour the Dáil motion passed back in April, and extend the maternity leave and benefit of the mothers of premature babies.”

Delamere added, “Every family has been touched by someone who had a premature baby and this is a huge opportunity for the government to start getting things right for women and children.”

Read: Dáil to debate extending maternity leave for the 4,500 Irish mothers who start it in hospital every year>

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