World Prematurity Day 2020: Our family’s preemie story

Can you tell from this picture that my son was born at 33 weeks? Can you tell that he spent 21 days in the NICU? Can you tell from this picture that my daughter was born at 35 weeks, even after weekly hormone injections, dozens of ultrasounds and other interventions?

Today is World Prematurity Day, the one day a year where the March of Dimes shines a light on the global crisis of prematurity. So today, we wanted to share our family’s story. Each year in the US, 1 in 10 babies is born premature (before 37 weeks gestation). Prematurity can lead to life-long health and developmental problems, not to mention astronomical financial impacts.

I was one of the lucky ones. I received life-saving medical care for both of my preemies. But so many women in our country go without the essential care to keep their babies – and themselves – safe and healthy during pregnancy and delivery.

We were so fortunate to receive world-class care for both of our babies, and it breaks my heart that our country is falling behind for so many moms and babies in high-risk communities. Today, our family is honored to support #WorldPrematurityDay. We will continue to share our story and demand #BlanketChange for policies that put moms and babies FIRST.

For the mama who is navigating the NICU and the emotional and physical tolls of prematurity, I’m here for you. You are stronger than you know. Stay strong, positive, and don’t be afraid to seek help. One day soon, God willing, you’ll look at your child (or children, in my case) and you’ll see how far they’ve come!

What to say to a mama of a preemie:

- I’m here for you. Can I bring you (groceries/meals) to help at home?

- Baby (girl/boy) looks so big! Keep up the great work mama.

- I’m sure the NICU is such a scary place. If you ever want to share your story or talk, I’m here for you.

- Are you okay? Let’s grab lunch or coffee. My treat.

- Can I drop you off at the hospital so you can visit baby in the NICU?

- Can I watch (older sibling/dog/cat) so that you can spend more time at the NICU?

What NOT to say to a mama of a preemie – yes, these were things that were said to me. People are well-meaning, but sometimes, it’s better to just eat your words. Please.

- OMG! She is tiny. Is she really small for her age? I can’t tell you how many times a well-meaning mom has asked me this. If a baby looks small, just refrain from pointing out the obvious. Please.

- Will he be okay? Is he going to have developmental delays since he was born so early? No one will know the extent of their child’s delays, so don’t ask.

- Get your sleep now. When the baby comes back from the NICU, you won’t get any sleep! I can assure you, no mama with a baby in the NICU is getting ANY sleep. It’s beyond traumatic to know that you are home and your baby isn’t. And most mamas will spend as much time as they can in the NICU at their baby’s bedside…leaving little time for sleep.

- Congrats on your unmedicated VBAC. You probably would have needed an epidural if she was full term. Yep, someone had the cajones to say this to me.

- Maybe you worked out “too hard” when you were pregnant. Nope, my level of activity did not cause my kids to be born early. Like so many mamas, I will never know what caused my kids to be born early – and no, I didn’t drink or do drugs while pregnant.

- Are you going to have more kids?

- Don’t be sad about missing the final month of pregnancy. It’s awful!

- You got lucky! At least your baby was smaller and made for an easier delivery.

- Baby showers aren’t that big of a deal. At least you have a healthy baby. You can have a shower for the next baby.