Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November is Prematurity Awareness Month

Every year, 20 million babies are born too soon, too small and very sick--half a million of them in the U.S. November 17th is when we fight!

As you may know, my 2nd daughter, Madelyn, was born at 33 weeks, 6 days due to my rapid progression of severe preeclampsia.  She weighed 3lbs, 12oz and was 16 3/4" long.  She was smaller than some of Sophia's baby dolls and weighed less than a bag of sugar.  Definitely not what I had in mind as the outcome of my 2nd pregnancy!  I blogged about our story last year during March of Dimes Bloggers Unite: Fight for Preemies!  So here I am, a year later and Maddy is another year older.  I am blessed to have had a healthy baby girl despite her being premature, but other parents are not always so lucky.

Just minutes old & so, so tiny.
Did you know that:

  • 1 in 8 babies are born premature in the US (that is approximately 543,000)

  • The rate of premature birth has risen 30% since 1981.

  • The effects of an early birth can last a lifetime.

  • More newborn babies die from premature birth than any other cause.

  • Almost 40% of premature births do not have a known cause.

  • The number one known cause is preeclampsia.

  •  Although preeclampsia is the #1 known cause, IT doesn't have a known cause.

  • 1 day old & in the NICU incubator w/tons of monitors & tubes.
    I remember reading the pregnancy books about how the baby was developing each week while pregnant with Maddy, and thinking "if she was born today, she would have X% chance of survival".  Not knowing that those statistics would soon become more real than I ever imagined.  No one ever thinks they're going to have a preemie, so we don't learn about it until we're smacked in the face with it.  This is the reason why it's so important to make others aware about premature babies whenever we get the chance!! 

    Maddy just a few days old--finally getting to hold her in my arms!
    I had a healthy (past due even!) pregnancy with Sophia, I had high-ish blood pressure with Maddy, but up until 32 weeks, I never had protein in my urine or any other symptoms.  I loved being pregnant & figured I would likely go overdue with this little girl too.  I had not started to prepare the nursery since I figured I had plenty of time & I didn't want to "curse" myself and baby comes early because I was prepared.  Yeah, that's total crap.  I wish I would've at least read up on premature babies and what to expect if I had one.  I would've felt more prepared and know what to expect.  That's why I'm so passionate about making others aware of prematurity & praying that less and less families have to experience life with a premature baby.

    Just over a week old---smaller than my hand; just like a babydoll!
    Maddy was so tiny, so helpless and so fragile when she was born.  I was afraid to hold her at first and afraid I would break her even just feeding her.  We had to make sure only very healthy, clean people would come in contact with her, so I tended to wear her all over the place.  Her skin was so sensitive that disposables gave her awful rashes and we switched to cloth diapers. I nursed her as long as I had milk & received donor milk from a dear friend, which I am certain kept her healthy for the first year of her life.

    Maddy & Sophie: Easter 2010.
    I feel blessed to have had a healthy, normal, term pregnancy since then with Noah, though I was on edge almost the entire time.  I was worried when I found out that I was pregnant & already had protein in my urine, that the sweet baby in my belly might not make it.  I began to pray every moment of every day to keep us healthy & I know a lot of others did as well.  When I made it to the 20 week appointment and we found out there was a baby boy growing inside of me, I started mentally counting down the weeks until he would be "viable if delivered".  I had all of his clothes washed and things prepared by 30 weeks.  As the weeks continued to pass without me developing preeclampsia again, I felt so blessed and grateful to still be pregnant.  I made it past 34 weeks--a personal goal I set in my mind, then 36, then 38...and delivered Noah at 39 weeks, 5 days--2 days before his "due date".  He was born healthy & strong & is a completely different baby than Maddy was.

    Maddy's a big sister!!
    Maddy is now almost 2.  While she's still petite, she is doing well & caught up almost everywhere to other children born in January '09.  Healthy, strong & a wild personality!  She's not saying too many words yet, but tends to mimic whatever we say/do, so I'm trying to not worry yet.  She's a fighter.  Has been since day 1 and I pray she will will keep using that strength in other areas of her life as she grows up.

    Maddy's 1st birthday in January 2010!!
    Today we are going back to visit the NICU where Maddy spent the first 18 days of her life.  I'm a bit anxious and a bit excited.  Anxious because we have not been back yet and I don't know how I'm going to feel--just smelling that same brand of antibacterial soap we have to wash our hands with to get into the NICU brought back tons of emotions.  I can only imagine how I will feel actually being there with her nurses & doctors.  But I'm also excited.  We're NICU graduates!  We're part of a small group of people who have been through this & I hope to share our gratitude for taking good care of my baby when I couldn't.  I hope to take pictures (even though my camera died & we're hoping to find a good deal on one on black Friday! Maybe I can borrow my father-in-laws?), but I will definitely update you all about how it goes!

    Maddy at 19 months!
    So wear purple today to show your support, take some time today to hug your little ones (if you have them) & be thankful for them.  Not everyone ends up with a happy ending & I know I am so blessed to have one of my own. Learn how you can help support your local NICU, walk as a family for the March for Babies event every spring & join the March of Dimes in the fight for premature babies like my Maddy.

    Maddy at 21 months!

    We need to fight ― because babies shouldn't have to.

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