Sunday, November 17, 2013

Some Thoughts on World Prematurity Day

November 17 marks World Prematurity Day. One might wonder why awareness needs to be raised about premature births. Well, I can tell you you firsthand that it is a really good thing when more people are aware of the risks and complications, not to mention the emotional toll, of having a baby born too early.

Faith and Daddy
Having a baby born prematurely is not something most expectant parents think about until it happens to them. Most moms-to-be who first learn they are pregnant automatically think they have seven or eight months to prepare for one of the biggest days of their life.

Expectant parents usually have one response when asked if they are hoping for a boy or a girl - "As long as the baby's healthy." But sadly, sometimes that's not always the case - especially if the baby is born too early.

I will never forget the book I was reading shortly after finding out I was pregnant with Faith - "What to Expect When You're Expecting." It was a great resource that outlined what was happening inside an expectant mother's womb week by week for the entire 40 weeks of pregnancy. Some moms, like me, however never made it to the end of that book.

When having a baby born too early, I think it's natural that mom's first emotion is guilt and asks herself over and over again, "What did I do wrong?"

While there are things that mom may or may not have done during the pregnancy, the answer is usually nothing. A mom can do everything right during pregnancy and still somehow end up having her baby too early.  There are also moms-to-be, like me, who know going into pregnancy it is going to be high risk. They are still hopeful and do whatever is necessary for the baby to be born full term.
me and Faith after her her very first "real" bath
We know that full term babies have the best chance at starting life because they have had time to develop completely inside their mother's womb. Babies born prematurely (before 37 weeks gestation) often suffer several consequences including:
  • Underdeveloped lungs which can induce respiratory distress
  • Heart problems like a slow heart rate or even heart failure
  • An eye condition called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)
  • Bleeding in the brain 
  • Apnea - short or long pauses between breaths 
  • Intestinal disorders such as necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Loss of oxygen shortly before, during or after birth 
  • Longer hospital stays 
  • Severely underweight and failure to thrive
  • Premature birth is the most common cause of death in newborns
It is easy to see why a mom and dad who have just had a preemie feel completely overwhelmed and anxious. But it is also wonderful to look back on your premature baby's first days of life and know how much has been overcome. During Faith's 74-day stay in the NICU, we battled many of the above complications but she came out an overcomer in many areas!
Faith with her doll, Baby Allie, who wears her preemie clothes
There is also another thought I would like to share today on World Prematurity Day. One of the most common arguments for abortion is that if a human being is not viable outside of the womb, all the more reason it should be legal to deny the baby a chance at life. In fact, when the Supreme Court ruled in favor 7 to 2 to overturn a Texas court's ruling on a case called Roe v. Wade, it was stated that "a woman has the right to terminate a pregnancy for any reason before the fetus becomes viable" At this time in 1973, that age of viability outside of the womb was 28 weeks.

But look at what is happening - because of research and awareness even the tiniest of tiny premature babies are able to survive and even thrive! The youngest of pre-term babies are born at 22 weeks and don't even weigh a pound when they are born. Thanks to medical research, we have found a way to keep these micro-preemies alive outside of the womb! This to me is just one more reason to stand for life during all stages of life - from conception to birth!

One of my friends has a cousin in Fargo whose baby was born at 25 weeks and weighed just 10.9 ounces. He was even smaller than most micro-preemies and is known as the world's smallest baby boy. At four years old, he is doing great! I thought today would be a great day to share their story: CLICK HERE

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