Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November is Prematurity Awareness Month

Everyone knows someone who knows someone who's had a tiny baby too early.
Maybe I'm too sensitive. Maybe the thick skin I've developed to deal with doctors who speak in gloomish doomish needs to spread to cover those with a total lack of understanding about what it's like to have a premature baby. Or two.
Examples of things that drive me up a wall:
"They're not walking yet?"
"Just wait until they're walking. You'll want to tear your hair out."
"What a healthy little boy you have! He must be your eater."

What has really been getting to me lately is the comments about how easy it must have been to only be pregnant for seven months, and general complainings about the end of normal pregnancies. Believe me, I understand that being pregnant is miserable for a lot of people, including me, but it's so, so much better than the alternative.
"Oh, honey. You don't even know what the third trimester is like. This is brutal."
"S/he can come out now. I'm done. I'm sure s/he's done cooking by now."
"36/37/38 weeks is fine. I'll see if my doctor can induce me. If s/he won't, bring me the castor oil."

The alternative? Having an underweight baby, one who often can't latch, one who frequently develops asthma.   Worse? Watching your baby(s) hooked up to machines and being denied the ability to hold them, to nurse them, to dress them, commuting to see them, hooking your breasts up to a machine to extract that precious nectar instead of nuzzling their sweet noses to your chest.

Despite what lots of doctors allow, the March of Dimes wants all women to get to at least 39 weeks. Before then, babies' brains and lungs aren't fully developed. If you're reading this and getting mad at me for being preachy, please read this article:

Because my babies were born too soon, I couldn't:
-hold them until they were a day old. I was so lucky in this! Many NICU parents must wait a month or more.
-take them home until they were 9 weeks old.  Again, I was very lucky in this! One friend stayed for nearly 100 days.
-breast feed. I'd always pictured myself as an extended breast feeder. When my milk first came in, there was enough for a small village. However, because I was hooked to a piece of machinery instead of to two tiny, sweet mouths, my supply quickly plummeted to one suitable for almost one baby. I pumped for 9 months, and still feel guilty for stopping. I think I mourn this the most. Where I'd pictured as precious moments with my children, I instead mindlessly watched episodes of Jersey Shore, waiting for my 25 minutes to pass.

My skin needs to get thicker, sure. But for this month, let me mourn the trimester I'll likely never have.

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. On November 17, please wear purple. Better still, make a donation to the March of Dimes or to your local NICU. Even better? Keep your baby in place til it's time to come out.

(Incidentally, Microsoft squiggly lines "prematurity," but not "squiggly." There's clearly more awareness work to be done.)


  1. I didn't have a preemie, but know a lot of bloggers who do. I know, that's a weird sentence. I'm sorry that you missed out on the last trimester and you had to struggle to pump and provide enough milk. I wish people would think before they opened their mouths. Whatever stupid things they say are designed to make them feel better, not to support you.
    Take care:)

  2. Hi! I am a preemie mom as well, making it to around 7 months (33 weeks and 1 day) with my third child. I got to hold him when he was 16 hours old, for a couple of minutes, and I count myself very lucky as well because so many cannot even be touched for more than a second, let alone held! Mine was born without any breathing complications, but he still spent 15 days in NICU in his warmer, with an IV stuck in his head for several days and 3 wires hanging out of his blanket (monitor cables) when we got to hold him in the 'comfy room'. I count myself very lucky for all of that, but it is still nothing like having a baby full term. I have two older children and they were plonked straight onto my bare skin as soon as they were born, not whisked away by a team of four RNs racing to make sure he was okay.

    I remember my middle child getting to breast feed 2 hours after she was born. I had to wait 3 days to attempt it with my little guy - and with that I was very lucky too (can you believe he latched on! nurses were coming from all over the hospital to have a peek at this 33 weeker feeding lol). But due to not being able to handle him very much, I could only try an actual breast feed once or twice a day. The rest of the time was the fun pump-action that my body has never responded to ever. I've tried with all three kiddos and could never get more than 2 ounces (and most of the time it was only 1 ounce, but I kept at it because it's better than nothing). I was pumping every hour to try to get a store for my son of breast milk in the NICU fridge.

    I got heck from RNs for coming to see him too often (not like REAL heck, but tut-tuts because I was supposed to be recovering from the emergency csection, not wandering hospital hallways at 2am lol)... but I could not rest while my son was way down the hall and we still did not know if he would do okay. His weight dropped below 3lbs, we had trouble keeping his body temps up for awhile,,, it was scary!

    One thing I remember most is being completely paranoid that someone would forget to turn off the heater fan from 'constant' to 'intermitant' because when we visited him, we could open the side of his warmer IF we turned the fan onto 'constant' flow to keep him warm. But then it would never shut off on it's own and could overheat him fast if someone closed up the door and forgot to adjust the temperature guage. My goodness I would wake up in a panic in my own hospital room and have to get up and walk to NICU to check. It is something that most parents do not even have to think about, but became part of my daily routine.

    part two follows lol

  3. (Continued)
    We had to tape his little baby mittens on because if his hand got free, he would reach up to rip the IV tube out of his head. They cut a tiny medicine cup in half and taped that to his head to cover the IV but he would just grab the tube instead and yank on it. UGH. Then he ripped out his feeding tube (gavage) and had to have it taped and glued to his face... There are multitudes of 'little things' that happen with a preemie (or a sick full termer) that no one else could even fathom let alone understand, so I hope that your blog will help those who do not have this experience to be a little more cautious in their wording.

    Believe me, I would much rather make it to 37 weeks like I did with my first - and have feet and legs so swollen from pre-eclampsia I could hardly walk - than go through having the PE affect my baby directly instead and have him taken early. That was by far the scariest thing I have ever been through and while I am happy to announce that my son is now 3.5 years old and has done wonderfully with no complications as of yet, it was not an easy road. Well, he does have speech delays which is common in preemies, but I know more non-prem kiddos who had speech issues as well so it just happens sometimes. Other than that, he is just teeny. Skinny, scrawny lol - and people mostly comment on that. I feel like saying 'Well, what should a 3lb baby look like when he is 3 years old?' but I just smile and nod and say 'yup, he has his father's No-Butt' :D