Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prematurity Awareness Month

November is Prematurity Awareness Month®, and November 17th has been designated as Fight For Preemies day over at Bloggers Unite. Hundreds of bloggers have signed up to blog "for a baby [they] love and to help others".

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.



Kori said...

okay, I was born waaaaaay back in 1972 too, so enough of that. :)

My Sam was a preemeie, too; only 7 weeks early, but still, I have been so, so lucky in that all he has is asthma. This is a great post.

Florinda said...

Thanks for sharing your husband's story, and for helping raise awareness about preemies and the March of Dimes.

This link isn't mine, but if you're concerned about this issue, you should know Heather Spohr. Her daughter Maddie died last spring at 17 months old, partly due to complications related to prematurity. Heather talked about fighting for preemies today.

Melissa said...

Thank you so much for your generosity on behalf of preemies. We had a beautiful girl born at 26 weeks, so the March of Dimes is near and dear to our hearts.

Our story can be found at Adeline's Story

Sue said...

My son, Logan, was born 6 weeks too soon, and is a happy, healthy 8 month old. This is a fight that we can win! The NICU experience was so hard for me. March of Dimes offers great support for NICU families!

Dreamybee said...

Kori-LOL-You know I'm just teasing! I'm glad Sam isn't troubled with anything worse than asthma as well.

Florinda-Thanks for the link. I will go check out Heather's story.

Melissa-Wow, Adeline sounds like a real fighter! Thanks for sharing your story. The article that you link to in your post about PTSD makes a lot of sense-there aren't a lot of things more traumatic than waking up every day for months, not knowing whether or not your baby is going to make it through another day. I'm sure a lot of parents will find that article helpful.

Dreamybee said...

Sue-I'm so glad that Logan is doing well! I can only imagine how hard the NICU experience must be. Thanks for stopping by!

The Eclectic Dabbler said...

Thank you for visiting my blog, and sharing in our story!
I loved reading your husband's story and I think your donation plan is great!
Awareness truly is the key! So many of us preemie moms never ever dreamed we would have anything other than a normal, full-term infant.
So thankful for your MIL's determination and your husband's strength as an unbelievably tiny preemie!

Wendy said...

unbelievable. What an attitude - both of the pessimistic doctor and your optimistic husband/mil.

Kristie said...

What a story. Thanks for sharing and for raising awareness.

My own daughter was born 9 weeks early. You can read her story here:


Dreamybee said...

Ecclectic Dabbler-Yes, I think awareness is very important. Without a definite cause, it's important for all expectant mothers to be aware that this is something that could happen to them, not so that they can run around scared throughout their pregnancy, but so that they can work together with their healthcare providers to be proactive about any early-warning signs that might present themselves.

Wendy-I know. Can you imagine?

Kristie-Wow, your daughter went through a lot! What a fighter! I'm glad to hear she is doing well now.

Heather J. said...

What an amazing post. I don't have a preemie story to share, but I did want to say that I admire you for supporting a cause that has affected you in such an unusual way.

GMR said...

Although I do not have a preemeie story to share, I really enjoyed reading your post. Mo mother and I always walked in the local March of Dimes with her company and it was the greatest feeling to see all the shared concerned and commitment to a good cause. I will be happily retweeting the link that lead me to your post and help share this story as far as my "net" will cast.

Aarti said...

What a great thing to do! I went to a presentation a while ago that said people are more immune to the sadness of preemies dying as they expect it, and that it's wrong to think that way- that preemies often can live very full and great lives (as evidenced by your husband). Hopefully the tide will turn soon!

Dreamybee said...

Heather J-Thanks for helping me by commenting!

GMR-Thank you for retweeting! It really is inspirational when you see people gathered together to support a good cause-good for you and your mom!

Aarti-Wow, that's so sad, but I understand why that would be the case. I bet if you talked to the mothers of those preemies that didn't make it, they wouldn't feel that way. :(

MoDBev said...

Thank so much for not only blogging about the Jedi preemie you love :0) but for donating to MOD. Through the blogging event hundreds of people have created a tiny ripple that can hoepfully grow to a wave.

Adriane said...

I enjoyed reading your post. I have two preemies at home and both are a blessing. My daughter Serenity was born at 25 weeks at 1 lb 9 oz. She went through a lot and they at first told me she would be on oxygen for the rest of her life, she proved them wrong, she will now be a year old in december. My son Aiden was our huge surprise he was born in July at 23 weeks at 1 lb 15 ozs. He didnt have half the problems that his sister did, he came home early than her even though he was on the vent for 2 months. Hes no wimpie white boy like all the nurses said. The only thing medically wrong the 2 have in common is the ROP of the eyes, my daughter had surgery which she is doing awesome and my son is being monitored weekly.

Dreamybee said...

MoDBev-LOL @ Jedi preemie!

Adriane-Wow, so early and so tiny! I'm glad to hear that both are doing well. I didn't realize that the eye problems were as common as they were until I met a blind woman who was seated next to me on an airplane. She was born premature-2 lb., 2 oz., same as my husband-but she was older, and she said that it was common practice at the time to keep preemies on pure oxygen, which often caused the blindness.