"Nov. 17 marks the 7th Annual Prematurity Awareness Day, a time when March of Dimes volunteers and parents draw attention to the crisis of premature birth (birth before 37 weeks gestation) and its toll on babies and families. Preterm birth is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually. It is the leading cause of newborn death and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, mental retardation and others. Even babies born just a few weeks too soon (34-36 weeks gestation, also known as late preterm) have higher rates of death and disability than full-term babies." (http://www.marchofdimes.com/)
Below are some excerpts from a journal I was keeping for my son, Eli, when he was born premature at only 30 weeks gestation.
March 11, 2005 . . . Last night I went into preterm labor . . . It was totally unexpected, and there was really no warning whatsoever. Your dad and I had been watching TV around 9:45 p.m., and as soon as I stood up I knew something was seriously wrong. My water broke, and I was bleeding heavily. We called 911 right away . . . I was so scared, little one. I thought for sure we were going to lose you. I even thought that my life might be in danger. Once the paramedics arrived, it seemed like it took forever to get me on the stretcher and into the ambulance. They didn't want me to get up at all so they had to lift me. By the time we got to the hospital, I was starting to have mild contractions. The doctor came in to check me and did an ultrasound. When I heard your heartbeat pop up on those monitors, I was so relieved. We knew they'd have to do a c-section eventually because you were breech, but they gave me some medicine to try and slow down the labor. They also gave me a shot to help develop your lungs. As the hours went by, my contractions kept getting worse, and I knew you would be born soon. They started prepping me for the c-section around 4:00 a.m., and at 4:46 a.m. you were born. But I didn't get to see you for a long time. After I came out of the recovery room, they wheeled my bed into the NICU and let me look at you. You weighed 3 lbs and 1/2 oz, and you were 15 3/4 inches long. I couldn't hold you, but I could touch you. And I talked to you. When I said, "I love you," you opened your eyes for the very first time. It was amazing! The next time I got to see you was nearly 10 hours later when they had decided to move you to another hospital. Before they loaded your incubator up into the ambulance, they let me hold you. You were attached to all kinds of wires and machines . . . I cried when you left. When you got to the other hospital, they had to put you on a ventilator because the trip exhausted you.
Two days later . . . They have been giving you IV fluids and medicine to regulate your blood pressure. They took you off the ventilator today, and you're getting supplemental oxygen from a CPAP machine now. They have also been monitoring your heart, because there is a valve that needs to close. The nurses also give you a daily dose of caffeine to help remind your body to breathe and everything. Now that you're off the ventilator, we can finally hold you.
March 15, 2005 . . . They have put you under the photo-therapy lights for jaundice. I got to help feed you through your feeding tube today. Every day you are getting stronger. But it's hard not to watch your monitors all the time to make see if you're okay. All the numbers and beeps can be nerve-wracking.
The next week . . . I just love it when you open your eyes and look at me. We hold you constantly when we come to visit you every day in the hospital. I hate leaving you. I can't wait to bring you home.
Eli finally did get to come on April 17, 2005, after spending 5 weeks in the hospital. He remained on oxygen for 5 more weeks after that. But he overcame every problem, and today is a very healthy, strong, and extremely active 5 year old boy!
But some babies are not that fortunate. Let's remember them today, and do what we can to help all babies have the chance to be born healthy and full-term. Go to http://www.marchofdimes.com/ to see how you can help.
Eli on the ventilator
Eli in the incubator
On oxygen, waiting to go home