Every year 1 in 10 babies is born preterm.
November is National Prematurity Awareness Month, an opportunity to reflect on the nearly 400,000 babies born preterm each year in the United States and what we can do to prevent it.
The March of Dimes write “Premature birth (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and its complications are the #1 cause of death of babies in the United States. Babies who survive premature birth often have long-term health problems, including cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, chronic lung disease, blindness and hearing loss. In the United States, about 380,000 babies are born prematurely each year. The preterm birth rate (the percent of babies born before 37 weeks each year) is 9.8 percent in the United States. This means 1 in 10 babies is born too soon. The U.S. preterm birth rate is among the worst of high-resource nations.” https://www.marchofdimes.org/mission/prematurity-campaign.aspx
The Mayo Clinic offers tips to understand your preemie's special needs:
Taking care of your preemie
- Find out about your preemie's condition
- Share your observations and concerns
- Establish your milk supply
- Spend time with your baby
Taking care of yourself
- Allow time to heal
- Acknowledge your emotions
- Take a break
- Be honest with your baby's siblings about condition
- Accept help
- Seek support
Bringing baby home
- Understand your baby's needs
- Ask about your baby's car seat
- Find out about available resources
Since November is Preemie Awareness Month, I have been thinking about the experience I had 13 years ago giving birth to my identical twin sons. It was my second pregnancy--my first pregnancy having resulted in a daughter born exactly on her due date. Everything with my first pregnancy was textbook so I expected my second pregnancy to go smoothly as well. However, my second pregnancy was one surprise after another. I found out at my 20 week ultrasound that I was pregnant with twins! Things went well with the pregnancy until I fell down the stairs and went into early labor. I delivered my sons at 35 weeks.
I never thought that I would be a preemie mom. I wasn’t prepared for the emotional difficulty of being unable to bring my babies home with me from the hospital or hold them whenever I wanted. It was difficult having my babies in the NICU on oxygen because their lungs weren’t strong and they had developed a lung infection. After my babies were born my aunt called me to offer advice. She had been a preemie mom 4 times--each of her kids were over a month early. Her best advice to me was to use the resources available to me and my babies and to try hard to not feel guilty about it. I realized that the nurses in the NICU gave my babies amazing love and care and I should take advantage of their help to allow myself to rest and heal from the birth. I realized that my family and friends made offers to watch my daughter, bring meals, and even clean my house. Allowing them to serve me was humbling but it helped so much. I am a very self-reliant person but taking care of preemies requires a network of helpers. I am grateful for the help I received.
My sons are 13 now and very active and healthy, but it has been a long journey with a lot of ups and downs. The trick is to celebrate all the little victories along the way and accept all the help you can get.
As a first-time parent you never truly feel prepared for the birth of your child. I was slightly informed about the possibility that my baby could be a preemie and what could happen. Well, in my case it did happen. I wish I had known that I needed to give myself grace. No one handles stress in the same way, no one is perfect, I'm going to mess up so don't beat myself up for it, never feel selfish for taking "me" time and ask for help.
I learned to trust my intuition. As intimidating as a medical environment can be, there's definitely an unexplainable connection between a mother and her child.
My experience was nothing like what I envisioned. There was no baby shower, a few solo doctor visits due to hospital restrictions, months without visitors due to COVID but the most important thing was my baby was healthy and loved.
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