Every year, 13 million babies are born prematurely worldwide. Approximately one million of these babies will not celebrate a first birthday. Many of those that survive will face health challenges throughout their lives. Raising awareness of this serious problem is the first step in the battle to defeat it. On the front lines of this battle is an organization whose mission is to help moms have full-term pregnancies while researching the problems that threaten the health of babies. The March of Dimes works globally and in our local communities to support moms and babies through reasearch, education, advocacy, and support. In 2003, they launched the Prematurity Campaign to address the growing problem of premature birth. They are funding life-saving research and advocating legislation to improve health care for babies and mothers.
The month of November was Prematurity Awareness Month. The month was dedicated to drawing attention to the problem and sharing the stories of the millions of babies and families who are affected. We had the opportunity to spend time with the March of Dimes on November 17, World Prematurity Day. A day dedicated to spreading the word about this growing concern while celebrating the lives of premature babies. It was a day that gave me the opportunity to reflect on the birth of my own children. We were blessed to have two full-term pregnancies resulting in healthy babies. When our oldest daughter was born, she had a hard time breathing on her own. Immediately after birth, they rushed our beautiful baby girl out of the room before we had a chance to hold her. It was an emotional and difficult experience. Thankfully, she quickly recovered and there were no long-term concerns. I remember that day like it was yesterday and she is now thirteen years old. I cannot imagine the emotions that are felt by the families of premature babies. We were excited to show them our support.
We spent the afternoon delivering goodie bags to the babies in the NICU of our local hospitals. Each bag contained items donated or made by the hands of volunteers. They consisted of hats, booties, and blankets, just to name a few. Each hospital has different rules and policies about visitors inside the hospital rooms. Many of the babies are battling serious health conditions and cannot be exposed to germs. We had the opportunity to meet some of the mothers and babies during our visits. Sara, mother of a NICU baby, shared the story of her pregnancy, the complications, and the birth of her 27 week old baby girl. She was very appreciative of the gift giving us a big smile as we handed it to her. She is facing an uphill battle with her daughter and there has not been much to smile about. We were glad that the goodie bag created a smile, even if only for a few minutes. We met a baby boy named Conner who is showing progress every day. His mother was optimistic that he would be going home in a few weeks. He was a precious angel who stole your heart in an instance. Delivering the bags was a fulfilling yet emotional experience. Walking through the halls of the NICU is not an easy thing. Tiny babies are attached to many large machines that are ultimately keeping them alive. The images and sounds of the NICU cannot and will not be forgotten.
Our volunteer experience was enhanced by the presence of Dr. James Cameron. He walked us through the NICU of Lutheran Hospital introducing us to the babies. He shared with us the struggles that the babies are facing and how they are being treated. His commitment and passion for the lives of the babies is heart-felt and inspiring. We learned that his son was born premature. He shared with us the pain and suffering that he and his wife went through when their son passed away after just 10 days. He doesn’t want other parents to have to feel what he felt. He wants to do anything and everything he can to better treat and care for his patients. He is truly paying it forward. He is a huge supporter of the March of Dimes and he credited them for the large amount of research they are doing for the babies. Without the March of Dimes, he said, we could not save so many babies’ lives. At that moment, we realized just how important their work is and how honored we were to be helping them.
Premature birth affects every community. Although we were lucky enough to have full-term babies, we have been personally affected through friends and family members. The statistics show that too many babies are being born premature. Too many babies are dying before the age of one. This is a problem that we cannot continue to witness. There are many ways for all of us to get involved and support the mission of the March of Dimes. Go to http://www.marchofdimes.com to learn more about the serious problem of premature birth and how you can help. Don’t do it because we want you to. Do it for the babies!