Today is World Prematurity Day, a day that I would have never really given too much thought to a few years ago. Back then, I had no intention of having children, and my acquaintances with children were few and far between. It’s funny how that works though, because we’ve all been children at some point.
The first time premature birth affected me was with the birth of my two beautiful nieces. For months, my sister in law was told that her twin baby girls would be born early. It often seemed that the negative news came daily to our family, but we stayed strong with faith that they would make it. I remember the night they were born, I was out having drinks with a friend when I got a call from my mom around 11pm or so telling me they had just gotten to the hospital because my sis in law had gone in to labor. Hours of nail biting later, my brother came in to the waiting room with the biggest smile on his face. Sophie Faith and Chloe Grace had arrived, alive and well. Because the girls were so small though, we had to go in shifts to the NICU to visit them in their incubators. My heart melted when I saw their tiny hands and feet. I felt incredibly proud to be related to these two strong little girls. It was then that I understood why my old high school friend Jenny became a NICU nurse. I can’t imagine anyone with a bigger heart nor anyone better for the job.
My nieces are now 1 year and almost 7 months. They run around and play all the time, and they’ve recently begun to learn to say “I love you, tia!” which I never get tired of hearing.
My second story, and the one that affects me much more deeply, is that of my own daughter. Because it is too soon, I don’t feel that I can say everything there is to say about the situation. I became pregnant last April and had a few minor complications from time to time, but the end result was always they same: you’re fine and healthy and she is fine and healthy. Unfortunately, and quite possibly due to some mistakes by one hospital to really monitor me closely, I went in to early labor this past 30th of September. My heart rate was extremely high and I was running a fever by the time I got in to the hospital. But after a few hours there, I gave birth to our baby, Margaret Hope, at 1:52 a.m., at just 22 weeks. I will always remember the moment she finally made it out, the glorious moment of seeing her tiny limbs for the first time, and the look on my husbands face as we locked eyes in awe of her and of each other.
But our joy would be ripped away from us only hours later. The NICU doctors and nurses did what they could, but a little past 10 a.m., our darling angel was gone. Sometimes we question what could have gone differently, what could we have done differently? Did the doctors not take my concerns seriously enough? Should we have pushed harder for more attention? What was it?
Sadly, there will never be an answer for any of this. All we can do as humans is go on, and that is just what we have done in these last few weeks. But what we can do is work toward a future where this does not happen again. They say 15 million babies are born prematurely each year, and that much of this can be prevented. I give thanks that I was able to see my little girl live even for a short while, and my heart goes out to all the mothers in the world who have lost a child, whether it was at 5 weeks or 35 weeks. I would like to raise awareness this year, and I hope that my story reaches other mothers out there grieving for their own lost angels. I hope in the future to be stronger still, and to find more ways to raise awareness to this cause, to support organizations like March of Dimes, who have brought so many together on this very important day that celebrates both the survivors, the families, and the too soon departed. One day, I hope to have a child again and now that I am more aware of how common prematurity is, perhaps we will be better prepared to do everything we can to ensure their safety.
This post is dedicated to the memory of our little Maggie, to my beautiful nieces, to all my friends and relatives that have also lost a child (your strength gets me through the day because you are still fighting, still strong for your families!), and to everyone who has been affected by premature birth. And especially to any women who are still fresh with pain as I am, that these words might reach you in comfort – you are not alone. We will get through this.
PS. Kudos to the Empire State Building for turning the lights purple today in honor of all preemies everywhere and in solidarity with all those who have been or will be affected by this. It really does mean a lot that so many out there are showing their support.