Some people spend the month of November writing down things they are grateful for in preparation for Thanksgiving, others by growing out a mustache, and others by remembering their preemies’ journeys. November is Prematurity Awareness Month (and November 17 is World Prematurity Day). Chances are that if you are reading this, you are already too aware of prematurity and its effects.
Every day, another 1,400 premature babies are born and a whole lot more parents get on the emotionally exhausting roller coaster that is the NICU journey. I remember my introduction to the NICU: I was the wide-eyed new mother on a stretcher getting pushed past tiny babies, beeping alarms, busy nurses, and tired parents. It was a lot to take in and I’m not sure any of it made any sense until I saw my baby tethered by wires and nestled into blankets in his incubator.
Nine years later, I enjoy sharing my experiences with my three preemies and their NICU stays and I am still fascinated by other preemie parents’ stories. Some stories are hard to read or listen to; not all endings are happy, and almost all are bittersweet. I am still glad to be aware – of preemies, their parents, and the struggles they encounter.
In conjunction with Prematurity Awareness Month, the March of Dimes organization evaluated each state’s rate of preterm births and the women who gave birth early – their race and ethnicity, their insurance status, whether they smoke, etc. Of the 50 states (plus Puerto Rico and District of Columbia), only five states achieved the coveted “A” grade for reducing premature births in high-risk populations. You can see how your state did at the March of Dimes web site: http://www.marchofdimes.org/mission/prematurity-reportcard.aspx.