According to the March of Dimes, "Nearly 13 million babies worldwide are born prematurely each year, and more [than] one million die."1 In the United States, one out of eight babies is born prematurely.2 Premature birth can cause serious complications like respiratory distress syndrome, bleeding in the brain, heart problems, intestinal problems and eye problems leading to vision loss.3 If a baby survives all these, he could still be left with cerebral palsy, mental retardation, chronic lung disease, blindness and/or hearing loss. Many times, the reason for premature birth is unknown. The March of Dimes is committed to finding out what causes it and how to pevent it.4
I imagine most people will be blogging about their own babies, nieces or nephews, maybe their friends' babies or babies that they have taken care of as doctors or nurses. I have experience with none of this. I've never had children, so although I can imagine, I don't really know what it's like to be scared for your child, to bring a life into the world and then not know if you're going to be able to hang onto it, to wonder what difficulties your child will face as she grows up, to lose a child because he was just too small to fight. My life has, however, been changed by a preemie, and that's why I'm blogging today.
The odds are stacked against premature babies today, even with all the advances that have been made in medicine and technology, so you can imagine what they were back in 1972 when my husband was born 3 months early, weighing just 2 lbs., 2 oz. The odds were so bad, that the doctor who delivered him was going to throw him away. Now, maybe this speaks to the character of the doctor more than it does the state of medicine at the time, but for whatever reason, the doctor who delivered my husband was going to THROW HIM AWAY. He had so little faith that a baby that tiny would be able to survive that it wasn't worth the effort to try to keep him alive. Maybe he was just trying to save my mother-in-law the inevitable pain of losing a child after watching him struggle for life, maybe he thought a baby that tiny would be plagued with medical issues that would cause him to suffer the rest of his life, or maybe he was just trying to save his hospital some money. I don't know. What I do know is that my mother-in-law was A) coherent and B) damned if she was going to let some doctor throw her baby boy away. Luckily, the nurse in attendance felt the same way and was strong enough to stand up to that doctor and intervene on their behalf.
Like all preemies, my husband spent a lot of time in the hospital before he was able to go home, and understandably, his mother has always been a little more protective of him, even though he's not the baby of the family. Ladies, you know how hard it can be to win over your mother-in-law when you're coming in and taking away her little boy; well, try coming in and taking away this little boy. We've brokered a peace, but it was definitely rocky for a while!
Thanks to his mother's strength and belief in him, my husband did, of course, survive. He's always been ambitious and able to find a way to achieve his goals, even when everyone standing between him and his goal was telling him, "Sorry, that can't be done," whether it's gaining entrance to the Air Force Academy or getting a notary to accept his autographed picture from Miss Hawaii as his official form of ID. Seriously. His coworkers always tease him about his Jedi abilities ("These aren't the droids you're looking for."). I've always just written this off to the fact that he is unfailingly charming, but now that I think about it, I guess he's been honing these skills since birth.
Since his birth waaaaaaaaay back in 1972 (I'm just giving you a hard time, Babe!) my husband has grown into one of the smartest, funniest, most generous and thoughtful people I know. He's also one of the most active people I know-he hikes, cycles, dives, climbs trees, surfs, kite surfs and kayaks-he is a preemie success story if ever there was one, and I can't imagine my life without him.
Luckily, my husband has been a fighter since the beginning, and he was able to overcome the great odds that faced him when he was born. Not all children are so fortunate; some struggle more than others, and some aren't able to overcome the difficulties of being born prematurely. The March of Dimes is committed to giving "all babies a fighting chance against the threats to their health: prematurity, birth defects, low birthweight".5 Of course, there are other ways to help besides a monetary donation, but if you would like to make a donation, now is a great time to do it. If you use your MasterCard to make a donation between now and the end of this year, MasterCard will match the donation (up to $225,000 in total). If you are going to donate, why not do it now while a matching gift program is in place?
I've never donated to the March of Dimes before because, honestly, I didn't really know what they did-it wasn't relevant to me. It still isn't relevant to me in the same way that it is for a lot of people, but there is a connection there. I will be donating a set amount to the March of Dimes this year, but additionally, I will donate $5 for each person who comments here. I'll bump it up to $10 if your comment includes a link to your story about the special preemie in your life.
Visit Bloggers Unite to read other stories by bloggers who are Fighting for Preemies or to add your story. Thanks to @GlendaWH, @Starbucker and @molokainews for tweeting about this.