17 November 2009

Prematurity Awareness Day

Did you know that November is Prematurity Awareness Month? And that today is devoted specifically to the fight for preemies?

Let me tell you why I have a vested interest here. Bear with me if you've heard most of these details before; I just feel the need to put it out there....

I'm lucky. More than I can tell you about here. It would certainly take up this post and others to tell my story.

Let me try and give you a super short version. (Mom, forgive me if the details aren't 100% accurate.....)

When I was born in *cough* nineteen *cough* seventy-four *cough*, medical science was not advanced enough to save most babies born too soon.

Born at 28 weeks, I was an odds-beater from the start for sure.

Mom says that the day before I was born, she didn't feel 100% like herself, but she didn't think anything was seriously wrong. She was super young at the time too; twenty years old- just for your understanding.

She says that she went to church to help my Aunt put together the bulletin for Sunday, not realizing that she was in labor.

If you fast-forward the story some, I was born the next morning, weighing in at a whopping 2 pounds 11 ounces with a staggering length of fourteen inches.  I don't even think she had a chance to see me; I was whisked off to the University of Michigan Medical Center and given a 20% chance of surviving that first night. TWENTY PERCENT. Takes my breath away to even type that.

Dad tells that my entire hand with fingers outstretched was not much bigger than the tip of his thumb.  That's some scary stuff.

And my stay at the UofM NICU isn't without complications either.  I had a stroke at two weeks of age which gave me mild paralysis on my right side (that translates these days to not having as much feeling on that side, nor reflexes that are as fast) and I have three scars from IV insertions- one on my right pinkie finger, one on my left foot and I guess one on my head, though I've never seen it. I endured a couple of heel-cord lengthening surgeries on my right side; one at age 3 and the other at age 7.  And I have a limp.*  Those things are nothing compared to some.

When I was finally released from the NICU in December of '74, just before Christmas, the NICU doctors told my parents that "she's a sweet baby, but don't expect too much."

They don't take his advice.

I had epilepsy as a child, and while I did have some seizures as a kid, I took medication to manage and by the grace of God had outgrown the epilepsy by age 12.  Some kids aren't so lucky.

I say all that to say this.  As lucky as I was, most weren't.  And as lucky as some babies still are, there are many that still aren't. And that shouldn't be so.  I have a neice that I will get to meet in heaven who was born too soon. What a devastating experience that was for my sister and for our family.  No one should have to carry a baby and then say goodbye.  It just isn't right.

And do you know what the kicker is?  Babies like MamaSpohr's Madeline are still at risk later in life.  And sometimes prematurity happens for a reason....but sometimes there isn't a reason.  Sometimes it JUST HAPPENS.  And that is just not acceptable.

Click the button on this post to find out how you can help in the fight to save premature babies.  So that someday, no more babies are born too soon.

* While noticable to me, most of the time, I don't even think about it.  And most people don't ask about it either, but when they do, and I explain that I limp due to premature birth and stroke, most say "Oh" but the look on faces tells another story.  Like they're glad it isn't them.  And I want to yell "Geez, it's not a detriment, people!  Trust me!"  But there is also the occasional person who apologizes for asking and I tell them that no apology is necessary; I'd rather have you ask and know than wonder.....


Helen said...

Beautifully written post Jennifer! Thank you for sharing your personal story.

Ethan, Zach, and Emma's Mom said...

Amazing story! God has blessed you!

Heather said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story!

Azzy said...


I love your story, it is very positive and inspiring, thanks so much for sharing it. At the March of Dimes we are working hard to help moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies. On behalf of our organization, we thank you for supporting this event and our mission.