September. You know it’s the end of summer. Especially if you have kids. September is the end of vacations. September is the back to school shopping for clothes your kids won’t need to actually wear until closer to October, and the filling up of a shopping cart with brand new supplies despite the fact that you most likely have most of the same, perfectly good supplies left over from the previous grade. It’s getting back into routine. It’s the whole “crap!-the-kids-need-food-for-their-lunch-so-now-I-HAVE-to-grocery-shop-even-MORE” month. It is the month when parents run outside in their robes and Ugg boots like lunatics to force the kids into posing for obligatory First Day of School shots like this:
But I freaking love every minute of it. Because I know how lucky I am to have my child here. I also know other mommies and daddies that weren’t as lucky. I know far too many mommies and daddies that left the hospital without a baby in their arms, much like I did. Some got to go back and get them. It might have taken two days or two weeks or two months. Maybe longer. But for some it was never. They had a baby (or babies) that were just born too soon, and didn’t have the chance to finish growing.
Did you know that NEARLY 500,000 BABIES ARE BORN TOO SOON EACH YEAR?!?!?!?!?
In the United States alone, this occurs for every 1 in 9 babies. One like mine.
Leksi was born preterm, which means she was born before reaching 37 weeks gestation in utero. Prior to her arrival, I had been hospitalized three times to stop early labor. After the third time, they put me on strict bed rest where I was only allowed to get up to use the bathroom, shower twice a week (gross!), and attend doctor appointments. I did a LOT of coloring. I read a LOT of books. I watched enough television channels to make me more accurate than a TV Guide. I even canceled both of my baby showers. I did everything I was supposed to do for 32 days straight, and then one morning while my mom was visiting she was watching me clench my stomach and said “You do know you’re having contractions every 4-5 minutes, don’t you? I think we should probably start heading to the hospital again…”
I told her to leave me alone. It would pass. I was sick of going to the hospital just to get sent home. I was going to take a shower and lay down. Oh, and I was hungry so could she please make me a grilled cheese and some tomato soup??
She gave me the Mom Look.
You know the one. The one where she doesn’t say a word, but her jaw his clenched, her mouth is set in a thin line, she has a blank stare and you know you’d better get your ass where she wants it or you may not make it to the end of the day alive?!?! Yeah, that look. It didn’t matter that I was 21 years old, living on my own, and about to be a mother myself. I got my ass in the car. And by the time I got registered, gowned, monitored, and epiduraled (<–is that even a word? Spell Check says it’s not. But I’m making it one for this blog) I was already dilated to 6 centimeters. You only get to go up to a 10. Gulp. So, good call mom. Thanks for standing your ground or I probably would’ve had a baby born in a car!!
The most beautiful person I’ve ever seen in my life was born at 6:34 PM via C-section on a cold day in February, 40 days before she was actually due. The wonderful team of doctors and nurses had warned me in advance that there was going to be a rush of activity immediately after the birth. They held my daughter up long enough for me to see her face and give her a quick kiss before they whisked her away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I didn’t see her until the next day. This is our first official family photo:
I was elated here, but devastated 3 days later when I checked out of that hospital with only my backpack and an empty car seat. Greg thought I was crying because he had gotten a really expensive parking ticket while waiting for me to be released. That makes me laugh now. But I will never forget how deeply, deeply sad I felt to walk into an empty nursery in my home. Or how anxious I felt listening to every ding and ping and beep of the machines that were working 24 hours a day to help my baby keep growing. Was that a good alarm? Was that a bad buzz?! I didn’t know. They hadn’t covered that chapter in my What To Expect When You’re Expecting
bible book. I hardly ate. I barely talked to anyone. I spent every waking moment next to her incubator, rocking her skin to skin and kissing her little nose, while daddy went to work at two different jobs. I saw babies getting blood drawn out of their heads. I saw tubes up babies noses and down their throats in order to eat. I got to see this teeny tiny set of sextuplets, no bigger than a pound or two each, fighting for their lives. I even saw a husband and some wonderful nurses pull a woman off of an incubator while she was screaming “No! No! Nooooooo!” over and over again. Her baby was not going home.
My life all day, every day for twelve and a half days straight was like this, and I remember looking out the hospital window and down to the town below, filled with business suits and college backpacks and utility trucks and thinking “Parents are up here every day waiting to see if their child lives or dies, and life is just going on without them below.” It was surreal. It was sad. No one even knows for certain why premature labor happens. Researchers have educated guesses. Sometimes it is an unhealthy lifestyle choice or an infection or physical trauma. Sometimes it’s hypertension or diabetes. Sometimes it’s from multiple births or from issues with the development of a placenta or a uterus or a cervix. Often times it’s a combination of these things together. And that’s what March of Dimes is working to find out. So we can put an end to mommies and daddies going home empty handed. So that babies can stay snuggled in long enough to grow as strong as possible. So that another mom doesn’t have to leave with an empty car seat.
Here is my “preemie” running her own lemonade stand to raise money for the March of Dimes in honor of my best friend’s daughter, who was born and then passed away at 31 weeks. Leksi raised over $200.00 for my friends Erica and Brad, and for their beautiful daughter Grace.
If you have an extra ten dollars in your account this minute, this week or this month, P*L*E*A*S*E consider visiting www.marchofdimes.com and clicking the purple DONATE tab. March of Dimes helps moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies. If something goes wrong, they offer information and comfort to families. They research the problems that threaten babies and work on preventing them. And because of things going on at home and at school this month with my little girl, I only have SEVEN DAYS to raise $90.00!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s nine people donating $10 each. It’s been done before, and I have to do it again. This is for my daughter. This could be for your daughter (or son or niece or nephew or grandchild) one day too. xoxo ~Liz