Today is Prematurity Awareness Day. After working as a Senior Community Director for the March of Dimes for six years, I learned a lot about preemie babies and had the opportunity to witness what these little angels went through. Before I began working for March of Dimes, I thought a preemie baby, was just a small baby. What I didn’t know was exactly how
small tiny these babies really are.
During the course of my career at March of Dimes I had many opportunities to visit a few Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) in Miami, these are the special areas in the hospital where the preemie babies are taken to receive optimal care. The little angels that were in these NICUs were so tiny that many could fit in the palm of your hand. Their mommy and daddy’s wedding rings could fit through their miniscule legs. These little babies were many times connected to so many machines, it would be overwhelming for any adult. Yet, they kept fighting for their lives. The doctors and nurses I met along my journey at March of Dimes, were truly inspirational people. They were like angels on earth. The love, dedication and care they had for their
work calling was incredible.
As I would walk through these NICUs I would see the parents with despair and hope written across their faces. Praying they could do more and fight for their little angels. The birth of a newborn is an extremely happy occasion for a family from the parents to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins – everyone is overwhelmed with joy and love. Yet, sometimes things don’t go to plan, no matter how many rules you follow during your pregnancy and the inevitable happens. I saw babies that were just a pound in weight, some who were born with their stomachs on the outside and had undergone MAJOR surgery while being just a few days old.
There is no known cause for prematurity. It doesn’t have to do with if you’re poor or rich, what race or nationality you are, or even your diet, some babies just want to join us in the world a little earlier than they’re supposed to. That is why supporting the March of Dimes and their research is important. They look for groundbreaking new research to help solve the growing numbers of prematurity. They research better ways to take care of these little angels in the NICU, they help train the doctors and nurses who are taking care of your helpless little one, they invest in better NICU units, they find more ways to help keep the moms healthy and educate those who are expecting.
Working there did have a downfall. Every time I hear someone is expecting, though I’m excited for them, I’m also terrified! I hope I never have to see anyone I care about go through that. I know the day it becomes my turn, and I’m the one expecting, I will be a rigid follower of any rule or guideline given to me. Anything I’ll be able to do to prevent such a heartbreaking experience I will do. I think that people who have never witnessed what this looks like and feels like are a little clueless and carefree. It’s that inevitable thinking we are all programmed to have, “Something that horrible can never happen to me. It happens to other people.” Or they think how I did, that a preemie baby, is just a baby a few pounds underweight or a few weeks early and they’ll go home shortly. But that’s not always true. I’ve met many gorgeous kids while I worked at March of Dimes who went home and grew up to be cheerleaders and successful in school. Yet, I met others who just developed a little slower than the other children. And then there were those who I still keep in touch with, even after leaving the March of Dimes over a year ago. Those who though they’re well into their toddler years still can’t sit up, walk, talk or do anything for themselves. So yes, though there are many successful stories of families who had premature babies, there are also those families who every single day are still praying and fighting for their little angel to have a “normal” life. Prematurity isn’t over when the child goes home. A preemie baby can develop many other complications and serious illnesses due to it’s early birth.
If you are unaware of the work the March of Dimes does, or the seriousness of a Premature birth, I’d like to invite you to visit the March of Dimes website. Reasearch a little on prematurity. Spread the word of its importance, talk to a family who experienced this, visit your local NICU (many of them are very open to giving a tour and the March of Dimes facilitates many of these throughout the year). If you or a friend is expecting, be excited, supportive, revel in all the love and happiness a pregnancy brings but also educate yourself on what can go wrong and what you can do to prevent it.
One out of every seven births is a premature birth. Ask around, I’m sure you know someone who was premature, or who had a preemie baby. I know I have quite a few in my circle of friends and family.
Have you experienced prematurtity? Share your thoughts or experience below if you’d like. How do you help spread the word? What are you doing to help keep Prematurity Awareness Day recognized?