Prematurely Down the Rabbit Hole

Preemie

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well.

November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Because premature birth is the leading cause of newborn death worldwide.

Uncool.

It doesn’t have as much hype as October. It’s not pink. It’s not cute. Sure, there are lady bits involved, but it isn’t sexy.

Prematurity is sterile – the bright white of sanitized hospital rooms.

Prematurity is lonely – isolating both physically and emotionally.

Prematurity is tiny – a world suddenly condensed into a 26×19 plastic Giraffe Omnibed.

Prematurity is ageless – touching them and us all at any and every stage of life.

Prematurity is timeless – sometimes a merely a distant memory, other times an everlasting imprint on our hearts.

Prematurity is heroic – whether they one day break the world record in the 200 meter freestyle or simply beat the odds by surviving, preemies embody hope.

Prematurity is a miracle – the power of a single breath, repeatedly.

Prematurity is wrinkled and unfinished baby business.

The rate of premature birth has risen by 30 percent since 1981. In the 80s, babies born at less than 28 weeks gestation were given a very poor prognosis for survival. Now, preemies as young as 22 weeks old are surviving.

It’s a start.

Fifty years ago the issue of prematurity rose to the forefront of the national conscious with the brief life of Patrick Bouvier Kennedy. Born at 35 weeks, a late-term preemie who’d likely have only the briefest of NICU stints today, the first child born to a sitting U.S. president since 1893 spurred the burgeoning field of neonatology after his death at less than two days old.

With a grade of “C,” the United States has a long way to go in reducing the preterm birth rate. In the U.S., 1 in 10 babies is born too soon, and the preterm birth rate is higher than that of most high-income countries. Compared with one baby, twins (or other higher order multiples) in California were about six times as likely to be preterm in 2007.

A traditional pregnancy lasts for 40 weeks; full term is considered at 37 weeks. But just for kicks, let’s aim for 39.

No parent should mourn the birth of their child. No parent should stand in the doorway to an unfinished nursery with the idea of “if” echoing through the empty room.

For the lucky ones, NICU days that drag in to weeks that turn to months will slowly fade into a distant memory as our once tiny children grow up. For some, prematurity will forever be a scar on our hearts as we remember the little ones who truly gave the fight everything they had.

Game on. Who’s with me?

*Credit Unknown

*Credit Unknown

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