Saturday, November 13, 2010

Prematurity Awareness

"The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself." - Henry Miller

Like Mr. Miller, I find myself savoring simple joys. In my case, it's not a blade of grass, but rather early weekend mornings spent exploring the world with Bryce. I typically wake hours before the rest of the household, but once in a while Bryce will get up early too. As soon as I hear him call out, I bound up the stairs two at a time, partly so that my wife and older son can sleep in, but largely to bask in the huge smile that lights up his face every morning.

There is some indescribable feeling, almost mystical, that washes over me when I have time to sit with Bryce and discover the world through his eyes. All parents take pride in their children's achievements, and certainly I have enjoyed watching Logan grow up. However, when Logan was an infant, I expected that he would walk, that he would talk, and that he would, in fact, grow up! Our experience with prematurity forced me to re-evaluate my expectations, and has kindled an appreciation for the beauty of things I overlooked in the past. With Bryce, every new skill, every new sound, every blink of the eye is sublime. If I could bottle that feeling and sell it, I'd never have to work again.

I recently received an e-mail from the March of Dimes encouraging preemie parents to share their stories in support of prematurity awareness month. Happily, we are rarely aware of Bryce's prematurity ourselves these days. We occasionally receive an unwelcome reminder of his early arrival, like the scare of two weeks ago, but we are fortunate that Bryce's prematurity has touched him lightly. However, for many preemies, this is not the case. For all too many, post-NICU life is fraught with challenges.

For Bryce, prematurity means a couple winters of trying to avoid respiratory infections and once-a-day inhaled steroids. For too many, prematurity means frequent hospitalization, oxygen therapy, a slew of medications and years spent living in fear.

For Bryce, prematurity means a waist that's a little too slim (20 lb., 9 oz. @ 15 mos. adjusted). For too many, prematurity means extreme growth issues, food aversions, severe reflux, special diets, and gastric feeding tubes.

For Bryce, prematurity means that he has to wear glasses. For too many, prematurity means severe or total vision and/or hearing loss.

For Bryce, prematurity means that he's a few months behind on his speech development. For too many, prematurity means cerebral palsy, attention deficit disorder, and countless other physical and mental challenges.

Prematurity is not an easy foe to defeat, but there are many ways you can help. You can support medical research through donations to the March of Dimes, the Minnesota Medical Foundation, St. Jude's or other organizations dedicated to childrens' health. You can also donate time or money to a local NICU to help support families in crisis. When we were in the NICU, some good souls donated handmade knitted hats, clothing and blankets for the preemies. Another couple would take a pair of preemie parents out for a steak dinner once each month. Little kindnesses like this go a long way for those who've had their lives turned upside down. Finally, you can help spread the word so others know that iPhones and Facebook aren't the only ways to invest their resources.

It's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life; I'm plenty guilty myself of losing sight of the important in favor of the urgent. However, if a few words or a few dollars from me means even one more parent will get to enjoy Saturday mornings with their son or daughter, then my time and treasure have been well spent.

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  1. Thank you so much for joining the Fight for Preemies and this terrific post. Bryce is one handsome little man. (Love the bee costume but the first picture wins hands down.) Stories like yours help to raise awareness for babies born too soon. It can be very scary and seeing life after the NICU helps.

  2. This is such a wonderful way to bring awareness to the difficult issues that parents of preemies face. Our twins were born at 24 weeks. We were lucky, because both of them lived, but it was a long hard struggle. Today they are happy, healthy 19 year olds. I am sharing the journal I kept during their long five-month NICU stay at Mike&Ollie: 24-weekers Who Beat the Odds. Thank you for sharing your story and best wishes to your family.

  3. Simply said:

    This is why we celebrate Thanksgiving!