Given the current theme that’s been driving this column, a theme of awareness and helping, last week’s was supposed to be an attempt to raise awareness about premature birth. The technological Gods frowned upon that, however, as it was prevented from both being written and being posted. With a myriad of options to choose from, what pushed that topic to the head of the line last week? November 17th did. November 17th is World Prematurity Day. According to National Awareness Days.com, November also houses Dress Spotty Day, National Men’s Day, National Maintenance Week, and National Blog Posting Month. With all those seemingly silly recognized days, it’s not so difficult to determine why preemie awareness popped to the top last week. There’s more to it than that, though. The two newest members of my personal preemie family: LJ and Emerson (in addition to their moms, Barb and Kristin, and their dads, Jimmie and Tom).
Barb and I became friends somewhat accidentally. Having had a friend from high school as a mutual friend on facebook, we decided to get together and surprise her at her weekly coffee night. Barb even drove over to pick me up. This continued into being facebook friends, participating in a small local Bunco group, and wine nights. When Barb and her husband Jimmie announced their pregnancy, I don’t think anyone (aside from mom- and dad-to-be, that is) was as excited as our Bunco ladies. They began calling Barb’s baby our Bunco Baby.
I met Kristin at work. My company rents a small office space from another company, at which Kristin began working a few months after I started at my company. Being two of the youngest people in either office and seeing each other daily, we became quick friends. We socialized outside of work often and she also became close with my best friend. When Kristin met Tom, we knew things would be different than they had been with anyone else she’d dated since we’d known her. When they announced their pregnancy, once we realized they were happy with it, we were all excited for them.
When news came from Barb that her pregnancy was becoming complicated, everyone worried. Brows furrowed, we did what we could to make sure she knew we were there to help with anything if she needed it. When she was put on bed rest and shortly thereafter said she was going to the hospital for high blood pressure, we really began to worry. She had a checkup and the doctor sent her to the hospital because it was so high. Then she updated us letting us know that she was being admitted for the same reason. I believe it was within 24 hours, LJ (or Little James) was welcomed into the world. Early, but healthy considering all that they’d been through.
Kristin was having stomach cramps one night in May. The phone chain began and we all rallied prayers, love, and thoughts around her. She went into the hospital and almost never came out. Both she and her baby had an incredibly rough delivery and both almost didn’t come out alive. The miracle that is life prevailed again, however, and they both pulled through. Baby Emerson came to us 3 full months early, but like LJ, she too was alive and well.
According to the March of Dimes, LJ and Emerson join the 15 million babies who are born prematurely each year. THAT is what pushed this topic to the top of the list last week. That is what inspired this column. In an attempt to tie the premature awareness to books in Chicago, I conducted multiple internet searches for premature awareness books. Using various search engines, including google, lycos, and bing, I was greeted with a small handful of individual books regarding premature birth. Most of the available books were about parenting a premature baby and there were plenty of support groups available, which is great for those struggling with having a premature baby. But what information is available about statistics of premature birth? What is out there for those who aren’t parents, but are effected by premature birth? Not much, that’s what. It appears that the March of Dimes is the most readily-available information source on premature birth and all conditions associated with it.
So, rather than actually writing about books in Chicago, this week I challenge Chicagoans to spread the word. Raise awareness about the specifics involving premature birth. Most everyone knows it exists, but how many people know about RSV and the complications it brings? How many people know that premature babies are at an increased risk for bleeding in the brain or NEC, a potentially dangerous intestinal problem? My challenge, fellow Chicagoans, is for you to rise up and make people KNOW….to spread the knowledge of what exactly these families have dealt with. Create fact sheets and hand them out, support the March of Dimes in its research, display a preemie ribbon on your car, clothes, or facebook profile, or March for Babies this coming Spring. Get out there and DO something to re-sensitize Chicago to this growing issue!
For Barb, Jimmie, LJ, Kristin, Tom, Emerson, and all the other wonderful preemies who have been blessed enough to join us here on earth….and to all the wonderful preemies who didn’t make it that far. You’ll be reunited with your families one day.