LOOKING into the cherubic face of nine-month-old Sophie Altmann, it’s hard to believe she was born eight weeks’ premature.
Now a healthy 10kg, there was a time when mum Michelle Altmann could hold her daughter in the palm of her hand.
Mrs Altmann was relaxing at home last April when she went into an unexpected labour and was flown by air ambulance to John Hunter Hospital.
After a harrowing flight, she gave birth to her first child just 15 minutes after touching down.
“I just remember how scary it was and how quickly it happened,” Mrs Altmann said.
“I didn’t know whether she was going to be okay – it was quite overwhelming.”
Sophie spent two weeks in John Hunter’s neonatal intensive care unit before spending another fortnight at Tamworth hospital.
While her daughter’s story ended well, Mrs Altmann feels indebted to hospital staff and the Miracle Babies Foundation, a national organisation that supports premature and sick newborns and their families.
“I didn’t know what was going on at the time and Miracle Babies provided an information pack which was so helpful,” Mrs Altmann said.
Mrs Altmann has volunteered to be the co-ordinator of a new NurtureGroup in Tamworth – a free fortnightly play and support group for children under six.
The group has invited mothers who have had babies admitted to neonatal intensive care units or special care nurseries, either through prematurity or complications as a result of their birth or congenital abnormalities.
Mrs Altmann said the group offered unique support to families and provided a forum to share similar experiences, exchange ideas on parenting and build support networks.
Tamworth NurtureGroup will hold its inaugural session on Thursday, February 6 from 10am to 12pm at Tamworth Southside Uniting Church on Goonoo Goonoo Road.
The group will meet fortnightly from that date during school term.