I remember sitting in my OB’s office during my third trimester, hearing the confirmation of news I already knew: Cordy was breech. The stubborn child’s head had been in my ribs for weeks, and at my urging the doctor performed an ultrasound to confirm that what was directly on the other side of my cervix wasn’t a skull with a large brain, but instead little girl parts with the occasional foot kicking me in the cervix.
Disappointment washed over me. My choices were slim: attempt a breech birth, although at that time her positioning made it extremely unlikely, try an external version (where they try to turn the baby) and risk a cord accident, or have a c-section, which carries risks we all know. I asked my doctor which option was the least risky for Cordy, and c-section seemed the best option at the time. The risks of major surgery were obviously higher for me, but it was an easy decision to make.
In the end, I got what I wanted: a healthy, full-term (nearly 39 week) baby. And I know that my struggles with facing a c-section were minor compared to some of the harder choices other parents have faced. Or those who had any possibility of choice taken away from them. I never had to face a pre-term delivery, wondering if my child would survive outside of my uterus, praying I could keep her in for just a few days longer to improve her chances. It makes fretting about a c-section minor in comparison.
My mother still keeps an image etched in her soul of a 32-week infant daughter, head full of dark hair, half of her face bruised from the traumatic delivery, too little to breathe on her own. There were no photos taken of her, but my mom can still remember her features clearly. She had only enough time to give her a quick kiss before the baby girl was transported to the NICU, where she died just days later.
My mom is an incredibly strong woman, but I know she still mourns the daughter she lost. The details she can recall of those heartbreaking moments are vivid, moments that happened 34 years ago. I’ve asked her before if she’s angry with what happened, upset that she was forced to go through so much pain only to bury a child she barely had the chance to meet. She responded with a reminder that if Krista didn’t die, I wouldn’t have been born, and in the end she’s glad she has me. (Krista was born at the end of July. I was born in mid-June the next year. Roughly 11 months.) I don’t know if that answer fully explains her feelings, but then again I think a lot of her feelings about those days are buried deep.
Today is Prematurity Awareness Day, sponsored by the March of Dimes. The March of Dimes recently released their report card for the nation, and I’m sad to say that the United States received a D. What’s worse, Ohio (along with several other states) received an F, with a preterm birth rate of 13.2%.
While there will always be some elements out of our control, it is possible to bring down this number: better health care (and insurance) so all women have equal access to prenatal care, education about risk factors for premature birth, and a push for doctors to deny elective inductions before 39 weeks would be a great start.
In an ideal world, NICUs would be smaller and needed far less often, and nearly every child would be born without any need for life support. Until then, we can only raise awareness of our country’s high rate of prematurity and support research efforts to improve prematurity outcomes and reduce the number of babies born too early.
Today I honor the memory of a baby born too soon, and I celebrate the lives of two healthy little girls who have made me the mother I am. Hundreds of bloggers are writing about a baby dear to them today, too. Will you?