Prematurity is not something anyone wants to think about. You want to celebrate your pregnancy, especially if it’s your first. Making plans, picking out names, decorating the nursery, having strangers come up to you and ask about your growing belly…all these things are what a pregnancy is supposed to be. But, each year 543,000 of these pregnancies are cut short, for whatever reason, with a premature birth. That is 1 in 8 each day.
Most of these babies will get to check in to hotel NICU where they will be aided by feeding tubes, breathing machines, and every monitor available. But, for some there is not enough to be done. Even with all of our technology, they were just born too soon.
Many of the NICU babies will grow up and lead normal, healthy, happy lives while others will struggle with developmental delays or disabilities. As a mother of a preemie, I watch every movement my son makes and doesn’t make wondering if he will need special therapy in the future. Wondering, if he will fit in with the rest of his age group, if he will have the ability to play an instrument like his father.
The life of a preemie from the beginning is different from the life of a full-term baby. The average length of hospital stay for a full-term baby is 2.3 days while a preemie is 14.2 with many of these stays lasting for weeks and stretching into months. Christopher stayed in the NICU for 47 days.
Instead of leaving the hospital with balloons, flowers, and a new baby; preemie moms go home empty-handed to a quiet house with an empty nursery. These new moms make the return trip to the NICU day after day to encourage their little fighter to grow so they can some home. Some hospitals are not equipped to handle the demands of some preemies and they are sent to bigger hospitals further away from the parents, making it harder for them to get there every day.
With Christopher, we were lucky. Our hospital was 20 minutes away. I was able to go every day and sit with him for 47 days. There was another family in our unit that was from West Texas. They were renting a hotel room down the street from the hospital because their home was five hours away.
Not only does prematurity take an emotional toll on a family it also takes a financial toll. The cost difference between a full-term baby and a preemie can be outstanding. A preemie can cost anywhere from three to ten times as much as a full-term baby. Preemies require more outpatient visits as well as prescriptions than full-term babies. Christopher’s hospital bill alone cost more than our first house.
Anyone can be affected by prematurity. 40% of premature births have no known cause. FORTY PERCENT! There are certain risk factors that studies have shown connections to such as; carrying multiples, previous pre-term births, and women with certain uterine or cervical abnormalities. But, we just don’t know why premature births happen.
This is why I support the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign. Since 2003, the MOD has been trying to increase awareness of prematurity and trying to decrease the rate of premature births. They have been raising funds to support research initiatives, providing information and support to pregnant women as well as families that have been affected by prematurity.
November is Prematurity Awareness month but, we need to be aware of prematurity year-round. Prematurity affects too many people to ignore it. Please join me in fighting for preemies by making a donation to the March of Dimes, writing a letter to your congressman, or even just posting on your blog. Every little bit counts. Christopher thanks you!