OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to describe the mothers' experience of having a prematurely born infant, with the focus on the birth itself and during the time immediately following the birth. STUDY DESIGN: A qualitative design was chosen to achieve the aim of this study. METHODS: Six mothers, whose infants were born prematurely and thereby needed care on a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), participated in the study. Narrative interviews were conducted and the mothers were encouraged to freely narrate their experiences of having an infant born preterm. A qualitative content analysis was used to analyse the interviews. RESULTS: The results show that mothers were not prepared for having prematurely born infants and that initially they had difficulties feeling like a mother. Having an infant born preterm was dominated by feelings of anxiety. Feeling closeness to the child was important, and separation from the child was a very stressful experience. Family life was affected, but mothers felt they were able to handle the situation if they received support from their partner and hospital staff, and if they were equipped with knowledge regarding the birth and care of a premature infant. Furthermore, it was important for the mothers to be involved in their infants' care. CONCLUSIONS: Support and knowledge made it possible for mothers to handle having a premature infant. Mothers' situations could be facilitated if nurses had increased knowledge and understanding about how mothers experience this situation.