I remember laying on my couch, fifteen weeks pregnant with twins watching a medical show following pregnant women who had experienced a high risk pregnancy and/or premature birth. I remember thinking I can't imagine how scary that must be for those mothers. I was considered high risk at that time because I had been bleeding for the last five weeks and the life of one or both of my babies was in jeopardy. I remember thinking those types of things happen to other people. Not me. I was seeing my doctor every week. Staying on bed rest as they had directed. Not lifting my then 20 month old son. Eating right and drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Everything would be okay. Because I was doing everything right. Two weeks later my complications subsided and the worst seemed to be behind us. Again, I fell into that false sense of... "I was doing everything right therefore everything would be okay." Until it wasn't.
At twenty-five weeks pregnant premature birth became my reality. On February 24, 2001 Hanna and Rachel were born weighing little more than one and a half pounds and measuring no more than twelve inches long. Our world suddenly became about survival rates, ventilator settings, brain bleeds and cardiac complications. We were unable to hold our babies for weeks and we waited months to bring them home. While in the NICU the girls fought off infections, endured daily heal pricks, blood transfusions, and multiple surgeries. Kirk and I endured months of sleepless nights and time split between our 2 year old at home and our critically ill babies at the hospital. We were in a constant state of fear and heightened anxiety. We worried about our phone ringing in the middle of the night, a call from the NICU with bad news. We worried about our girls' future. We worried about how Ian was coping with the separation from us and the turmoil that is the result of having two sick babies in our family. Kirk worried about being at work and being with me, Ian and the girls.
After twelve weeks Hanna and Rachel came home from the hospital and we naively believed the entire experience was behind us. What we ultimately realized is that premature birth will always be a part of our family story. Hanna had chronic lung and vision complications and Rachel had, and continues to have ongoing developmental delays and is diagnosed on the Autism spectrum, along with several other mental health disorders. Each diagnosis for the girls is a direct result of being born too soon and very sick.
In 2004, after hearing a PSA our family began volunteering for the March of Dimes. We learned that the March of Dimes mission was saving babies and reducing premature birth. We realized that without the March of Dimes, and an amazing medical team Hanna and Rachel would not have survived. It was through March for Babies and the creation of our family team, Team Tiny Feet that we also realized just how little those around us knew about premature birth. It was at that time that we made it our mission to help fund the March of Dimes mission and raise awareness on the seriousness of premature birth.
When Hanna and Rachel were born 1 in 8 babies was born prematurely. In the thirteen years of our volunteering we've watched that improve, slightly to 1 in 10 babies. In the latest reports, just released that number is on the rise once again reaffirming that we still have work to do.
November is Prematurity Awareness Month. This month our family is dedicated to raising that awareness. Prematurity doesn't end at discharge from the NICU. We live with this reality every day. Prematurity causes significant, lasting complications for many babies, while many more babies don't survive. Those families live the rest of their lives missing a piece of their heart. We will continue to do our part so that no family has to endure a lifetime of complications and/or the loss of their child as a result of prematurity.
Thank you. Thank you for sharing your story, for lending your voice and reminding all of us that prematurity is still an issue, that it doesn't end when the babies go home. Thank you for sharing your girls and their struggles and their triumphs, for letting them shine and reminding all of us why we're here.
So much love,
While my story is different from yours, I find a common theme of "that doesn't happen to people who take care of themselves" seemed to have resonated in our heads. We thought it happened "other women" not us. Thank you Karri for all that you do for this mission and for your girls.
Love and Hugs
Karri, thank you for sharing your family and your journey. You and they are amazing, and have done so much to increase awareness of prematurity and all that goes with it. I am honored to know you.
We help moms have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies. And if something goes wrong, we offer information and comfort to families. We research the problems that threaten our babies and work on preventing them.
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