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Premature labour & motherhood in NICU | Oti Mabuse on Happy Mum Happy Baby: The Podcast

Things don’t always go to plan when you have a baby. We don’t go into pregnancy planning to end up in NICU, the neonatal intensive care unit. When Oti Mabuse unexpectedly went into labour very early and gave birth to her daughter, this new world of NICU became her reality.

In our latest episode of Happy Mum Happy Baby: The Podcast, Giovanna Fletcher sits down with TV Presenter and Professional Dancer Oti Mabuse, known from shows like Strictly Come Dancing, The Masked Singer, and Dancing on Ice. For the first time, Oti shares her story of premature birth and early motherhood in NICU.

Oti’s journey of motherhood began with a moment that many parents in the NICU know all too well: “You give birth, you hug, and then the baby gets taken away. And then the next time you see them, they’re in a box and they’re wired up and they’re not well or they’re under blue light.”

At a time where you’re already processing the experience of giving birth, physically and mentally, you’re also coming to terms with not being able to leave the hospital with your baby. This idea of how you enter into motherhood is not going to plan, and this can be incredibly traumatic for mothers and fathers.  

The festive season, usually a time of joy and celebration, brought a sharp contrast to Oti’s experiences in the NICU as she and her husband Marius navigated the complex emotions of being new parents in hospital. The inability to hold her newborn immediately brought a sense of helplessness and heightened emotional distress, a feeling shared by many mothers in similar situations.

Oti shares with the listeners, “I’m a big advocate for women not having to be strong. It’s okay to be weak. It’s okay to cry. It is okay to show that you are human.” But in the NICU, she found she had to be incredibly strong for her daughter in order to be there for her. This was overwhelming emotionally, and Oti had to consciously remind herself to unwind, to allow the tears to flow when needed, to rest, and to keep stress at bay – so she could show up for her daughter in the best way that she could. 

The journey in the NICU lasted six weeks for Oti and her baby, until the moment nurses informed her she could take her home in time for Christmas. During their NICU stay, at nightime their baby was under the watchful care of dedicated NHS nurses. In the lead up to taking their daughter home, Oti describes the transitional process of her and Marius having ‘sleepovers’ at the hospital, where they took on the regular night-time routine of care and feeding for their daughter, preparing themselves for the new chapter ahead at home.

Oti describes that joyous moment of bringing her home, marking the true beginning of parenthood. “It felt right. It felt like a celebration that really felt like the birth, that felt like what it should have felt six weeks before.” Eager to fully savour these precious moments, Oti, along with her family and close friends, created a little cocoon at home, choosing not to share the news of her daughter’s arrival with the public until Christmas.

Oti reflects on how her experience of NICU and having a premature baby has shaped her as a person: “It shocked me. And then it made me even stronger. It changed how I see myself. It changed how I speak about myself. Because now everything I do is not just about me. Everything I do is about my family.” 

You can listen to Oti Mabuse on Happy Mum Happy Baby: The Podcast now. In the full episode, Oti delves deeper into her life as a professional dancer, the journey of starting a family, her experiences in the NICU, and much more. 

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