Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November - Prematurity Awareness Month

November is a month that has always been close to home here, I adore Thanksgiving and fall weather. The deep auburn colors, the changing leaves that cover the grass (except here in Florida), the good for the soul food, the warm stews it’s no secret that fall is a favorite season. My birthday also falls in November, and well who doesn’t love a good reason to have cake and presents!! Last year added to the excitement November brings with it by adding Hayden and Liam’s birthday to the month. But it also made me very aware of what else November is – Prematurity Awareness month.

Every year thousands and thousands of babies are born way too soon, many pass away due to complications and premature birth. Many endure lifelong complications due to premature birth, some are lucky enough to have a short NICU stay and go on to lead normal lives. Some spend days upon days in the NICU and are discharged with quite a follow up schedule of specialists. Some are discharged and are quickly readmitted.

It never fails that I often hear other pregnant women complaining once they believe they are ‘term’ about being uncomfortable and home remedies not inducing labor. It takes a lot of me to reply with a simple, “I know your uncomfortable but you’re not really term until 39 weeks, your baby needs this time, try to enjoy it and take the last few days in before life is crazy.” So often our society gets so caught up in the excitement of birth, and the desire to meet their new baby, that they forget that it is so very, very important to let their child come, assuming there are no risks, when he or she is ready – but not before 39 weeks. Brain development is not complete until then. Every second that that baby can continue to grow in utero is imperative. Babies do not learn the suck, swallow, and breathe - steps of eating until 34 weeks gestation. The difference between a 24 week gestation, 32 week gestation and a full term babies lungs is quite literally breathtaking. A premature infants lungs will not catch up to a full term babies lungs until they reach the age of 3. So that means that there are 3 years of terrifying flu seasons to get through to where something like RSV isn’t considered life-threatening to them.

My babies were born 8 weeks early, looking back, I had a gut feeling the entire time – I never really knew what a NICU was or looked like. I never knew about the complications of early birth until the boys were born. I would of given my right arm, or anything really to allow them to continue to grow in utero until 39 weeks. However, it wasn’t healthy for them. I would of lost both babies had this been the case. They have over came so, so much in their short life. Resolving brain bleeds, dealing with hydrocephalis, battling NEC, learning how to breathe room air, learning how to eat, gaining weight. All things normal full term babies rarely have to deal with. My babies have grown from 3lbs 4oz 16 ¼” long and 3 lbs 5 oz 15” long to healthy 20lbs 5oz and 29 ½” long – all within 365 days. Now that is utterly amazing. It’s a miracle that we have been so, so lucky to not have lifelong complications (at least, that we are aware of yet) and we’re so lucky that we have both babies at home with us. Many parents are forced to carry their babies in their hearts because they were born too early.

I hope that in the coming years, I can find a way to be more proactive with prematurity awareness month. I hope that I can find a niche and do something, anything to educate other mothers who are expecting, not to try at home remedies to induce labor, to not try to have their babies at 37 weeks. Babies are our future, and while pregnancy can be uncomfortable, it isn’t the time to be selfish, it isn’t the time to rush things. Those babies, our future, needs every minute we can spare to allow them to grow and develop in utero before being born into this world.

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