You know this girl, right? The feisty one? The willful child? The sweet baby doll who likes to shout, “Hi, Mommy!” and “Thank you, Daddy!” The very kiddo who prays for Elmo and her friends and diapers and her grandparents before bed?
Well, even though she measured in the 75th percentile for height and weight at her last appointment with the pediatrician, she didn’t start out quite so hale and hearty.
She started out like this:
That’s right. If you’re new around here, you might have missed my long, drawn-out telling of the whole story last fall. Long story short: Annalyn was born seven weeks early because my health was, well, not so healthy.
But despite being born so early and weighing less than 4 lbs., my stubborn little girl never had a problem. She spent two and a half weeks in the NICU, but she never even had to be on oxygen. And when she’d had enough of her feeding tube, she pulled that sucker right out and decided to drink from a bottle from then on!
She was a fighter.
But she was still tiny. And early. And cold. And wrinkly. And cute. But tiny. And she’s okay today because of the grace of God – and the years of research that told a whole hospital full of doctors and nurses how to take care of my teeny tiny baby.
I was due to have Annalyn two years ago tomorrow (also known as Thanksgiving Day – what a lesson in giving up on perfect that would have been!). So when I found out that November is Prematurity Awareness Month, I was excited to learn more about other teeny tiny babies. Here’s what I found out:
- Nearly 13 million babies worldwide are born prematurely each year, and more than one million die.
- One in eight babies born in our country is premature. That’s more than 1,400 babies each day, more than 543,00 each year.
- The rate of premature birth in America is higher than that of most other developed nations.
- In fact, the rate of premature birth increased by 36 percent between the early 1980s and 2006.
- The cause of premature birth is unknown in 40 percent of cases, but studies suggest that there may be four main routes leading to spontaneous premature labor: infections/inflammation, maternal or fetal stress, bleeding and stretching.
- The March of Dimes funds promising, innovative research into the causes of prematurity. In 2004, the organization created the Prematurity Research Institute, which has already awarded nearly $11 million to 30 grantees.
- Research funded by the March of Dimes demonstrated a potential new approach for diagnosis and treatment of preeclampsia, which is a serious form of high blood pressure that can lead to preterm birth – and what caused my own early delivery.
- The March of Dimes’ NICU Family Support program provides information and comfort to families with newborns in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). In 2008, the program served 84 NICUs and more than 50,000 families.
- You can support the March of Dimes by joining their advocacy efforts and donating to the organization. And I actually learned last night that in November and December, MasterCard is doubling online donations, dollar-for-dollar, made with a MasterCard card!
- You can learn more about premature births and the March of Dimes on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Youtube.
Did you know all this?! I sure didn’t. All I knew is that we are so very blessed that Annalyn is healthy. And I knew that many other families have experienced much more difficult struggles with premature births.