Funny how "just in case" turned out to be a "thank goodness you were here". At about 12:30 AM on December 12, 4 weeks and 1 day before my estimated due date, I felt three painful kicks and something else. As a first timer, I was no expert on anything pregnancy related, but I had no doubt that my water had broken. Without a bag, a camera, or any clue what was happening, my mom and I set off for the hospital, where they confirmed my suspicions - I was having a baby. That morning.
And so, at 5:43 AM on December 12, 2007, my little boy was born. A breech baby, he was delivered by c-section and, after an all to brief first meeting with me, was whisked away to observation, which later turned to the NICU. After 16 days of antibiotics and oxygen for pneumonia and breathing issues, as well as feeding tubes for eating issues, we were finally able to bring our little bundle of joy home. Nearly three years later, my big boisterous boy shows no signs of his preemie beginnings.
Four days old
Heading home from the hospital at 16 days old
We were lucky. Very lucky. The little dude was born at a very healthy 6 lbs. 3.4 oz. That's quite a big preemie. His health issues were minor compared to most of the other little babies alongside him in the NICU. Each year 1 in 8 babies in the United States are born prematurely. Premature birth is the number 1 killer of newborn babies, and premature babies cost 10 times more than healthy babies. The rate of premature births in the United States has risen nearly 30 percent since 1980.
In 2003, the March of Dimes launched the Prematurity Campaign to raise public awareness of prematurity and to decrease the rate of preterm births in the United States. The campaign is already having an impact - the premature birth rate recently declined by 3 percent. But there is still work to be done on behalf of premature babies not just in this country, but all over the world. To create awareness for the campaign, the March of Dimes has designated November as Prematurity Awareness Month, and November 17 as Prematurity Awareness Day. Prematurity can affect anyone, and while there are steps every expectant mother can take to lower their risk for preterm birth, there is still much to be learned as to the causes of preterm birth.
We will be forever grateful to the amazing NICU doctors and nurses who helped us through one of the most challenging and difficult times we have ever faced. Go to www.marchofdimes.com to learn more about prematurity and what you can do to join the fight for premature babies.