Monday, November 17, 2014

World Prematurity Day -- Help Me Spread the Word!

15 million babies are born too soon every year.

Premature birth kills 1 baby every 30 seconds.

I can not even see to type right now. I am typing through tears streaming down my face.

17 years have passed since I became Mommy to three teeny tiny very premature babies. 17 years. And still typing the facts about prematurity feels like someone is punching me in the stomach. I can smell the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit as I type. I can feel the fear of that hospital stay as real as the bile trying to choke me right now. I can hardly breathe.

My premature babies are in the process of applying to college, interviewing for scholarships and planning their futures. This is no small miracle. This is no small blessing. Benjamin, Mason and Claire were born at the University of Chicago -- one of the best NICUs in the world! Oh how grateful to God I am that He alone placed Wade and I in the right place for that time.

Ninety percent of premature babies born in high-income countries will survive birth. But dear ones, 90 percent born in low-income countries will die.

We need to raise awareness for how to care for these the smallest of the small. Early and exclusive breastfeeding can save lives. Skin-to-skin holding and swaddling can help babies stay warm. Both are available even without intensive care and both are proven to SAVE LIVES!

I felt completely helpless when I was rolled into the NICU to meet my trio. And then this beautiful thing happened, Mason's NICU nurse told me to take this baby wearing only a diaper and button him up in my shirt right against my skin. His oxygen levels stabilized. His body temperature remained constant. My baby that weighed barely two pounds, was perfectly content. It wasn't just a GOOD place for him to sleep. It was the perfect place for him to do what his body needed to do at that stage.

I spent the next weeks going from Mason to Benjamin to Claire -- taking turns buttoning them up in my shirt as I rocked and softly sang about Jesus love over and over and over, begging God to grow them in accordance to His perfect will.

We called it Kangaroo Care. Even today, I have the sweetest stuffed kangaroo sitting on my bedside table. A thank you gift from three teenagers who may have heard the story once or twice.

The NICU held parent meetings. The first meeting the pediatrician asked if we were kissing our babies. I was terrified he was going to tell me to stop. I could not have stopped kissing those precious angels if my life depended on it. I was petrified of what he was going to say.

"Kiss them. Kiss them. And kiss them some more," He sternly told us before smiling. "Your body, Mothers, will take any infection on their skin and make the antibodies for them. Your milk will be the best medicine they can receive."

Oh, my dear ones, I sat a lot taller after that meeting. I walked with my head held high. Yes, I had delivered prematurely and I would wrestle with that guilt for years. But as the Mommy I was able to provide exactly what they needed to grow, to thrive, to be able to apply to colleges 17 years later.

We must spread the word. We must educate girls and women and even health-care workers about the importance of skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding. For the sake of our tiniest babies, for the sake of the blessing these lives will undoubtedly bring, will you help me spread the word??

Carol - The Blessings Counter