Well, friends, we’ve nearly reached the end of NaBloPoMo, but we’re also nearing the end of another “National Month of” — Prematurity Awareness Month.
It seems like a funny thing to promote awareness of—if you have a preemie or know one, you’re aware of it. And if not, what do you need to be aware of?
We can all be aware of that one in eight children are born prematurely, even to those women with low-risk pregnancies and excellent prenatal care.
We can be aware that premature labor can happen to any pregnant woman at any time.
We can be aware that the economic costs—costs we all share through our insurance premiums—are staggering, with pre-term births costing more than $26 billion a year, or approximately $51,000 per baby. (My million-dollar baby hit $51,000 in expenses just within the first few days of his hospital stay—at one hospital.)
And we can be aware that researchers working to solve so many of the mysteries of pre-term labor are supported in large part by private donations.
Today I look at my healthy 17-month-old boy born at 36 weeks, barely an official “preemie” at all and now hitting so many of his developmental milestones on time or ahead of schedule, and I hardly feel like I have a place in the preemie parenting world. It is a world in which some truly amazing former preemies are thriving despite the feeding challenges, developmental delays, vision problems, mobility impairments or other lingering side effects of prematurity.
But then I look back on the extraordinary life-saving therapies Henry received, some that even a baby born half his size might never need, and I know that I have earned my preemie parent stripes in the trenches like any other NICU parent, even if our time there was far shorter than for some.
I know that I don’t wish it on any other parent and would do anything I could to help another family avoid this. And I’m so grateful for the combination of expert neonatal clinicians and the generations of medical research that, together, allowed us to bring our baby home.
Click here to learn more about the March of Dimes and their Take Action campaign.
And then go find a NICU nurse or doctor and give them a hug for me.