Olympian athlete Jana Pittman is used to handling stress on the track.
But giving birth to twins six weeks early was a different type of pressure altogether.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Jana Pittman on having premature twins.
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Speaking to Kylie Gillies and Matt Doran on The Morning Show for World Prematurity Day, Pittman, 40, opened up about the challenges faced by parents of premmie babies.
In April this year, the dual Olympian athlete-turned-medical doctor welcomed her twins, son Quinlan and daughter Willow, six weeks early.
As her tiny little babies faced two weeks in a special care unit in hospital, Pittman began to experience the same wave of complex emotions that millions of other parents know all too well.
Now, partnering with WaterWipes, she is sharing her story to bring awareness to the challenges faced by parents of premature babies.
Pittman has six children – a teenaged boy, a seven-year-old girl, a five-year-old girl, a two-year-old boy and now her twins – so she knows about handling a busy household.
“The twins have been a beautiful addition, but there’s no doubt it was tough when they first arrived,” she said.
“They were going into special care, and you don’t know what’s going to happen when these babies come early.
“At 34 weeks you think they’re going to be fine to come home with you, so it was heartbreaking to watch them in those cribs and not be able to touch them as much as you want.
“Then there are the feeding tubes, and the stress and anxiety of not being the mother you think you want to be.”
Pittman said the twins’ early arrival was best described as “a shock”.
“I thought it was all going to be to plan, they’d go straight onto my chest and come home the next day,” she said.
“I cried so much and was just completely at a loss as to how to be the mum I wanted to be – even just from a breastfeeding perspective, it was tough.”
She said she knew there were mothers that had it much tougher than she did.
“My babies were only (in hospital) for two weeks; some mums have them in there for months and months,” she said.
Now, she said was passionate about getting some important messages across for parents of premmie babies.
“You will get through it, but it is tough, so reach out, get support,” she said.
“There are things that you may struggle with, such as eating, breastfeeding, sensitive skin; there are lots of resources out there to help.
“The most important thing to know is that you’re not alone.
“You will feel incredibly vulnerable, but the more people you have around you, and the more you talk about the situation, the better you’ll deal with it.”
Pittman said that even eight months after her twins were born, she still had flashbacks to how hard it was at the beginning.
“That’s another really important thing – get support,” Pittman said.
“I have a wonderful nanny, which I know is taboo to talk about, but I need the support, because I am a doctor and I have big ambitions when it comes to my career and spreading messages like the one I am talking about now.
“Don’t be embarrassed about needing and asking for help, because we aren’t an island, and it really does take a village to raise a child.”
Pittman’s ultimate ambition is to become a qualified OB-GYN, or obstetrician-gynecologist.
She says she wants to help women with cervical cancer, with fertility and with delivering children into the world.
“To have had the life I’ve had in sport, and then to come into medicine, I feel very privileged,” she said.
“A lot of athletes really struggle in that post-retirement space, so to feel that I have a new career, that is even more wonderful.”
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