No one has a good explanation for why premature births happen so frequently, or with such horrible consequences.
Claire came early. Only five weeks early, but early enough to buy a four week stay at the "hostable" as she still calls it. My pregnancy was complicated by low fluid once, which had bounced back, and some general ongoing extreme nausea, but no other signs of trouble. At a regular checkup I was pronounced good to go, but I asked for a non stress test (my first) because I thought I should be feeling more movement despite the anterior placenta which I had been told could be blocking some sensation. We did the non stress test, a quick ultrasound to check the amniotic fluid (really they were looking at size but didn't mention that) and I was asked to go in the other room to talk to the doctor who had reviewed the results, and diagnosed placental poop-out. He said he wanted to admit me immediately and take the baby and that the baby would be small. Basically I was floored, I had not seen this coming at all, and neither had they. I couldn't find Lord Honey initially since we had not yet started having him carry my cell phone in case of emergencies. Due to my control freak issues, I did insist on being allowed to leave and pack my own stuff and come back in an hour. When it was obvious the next day that my body did not feel ready to have a baby, and induction was not working out, we agreed to a c-section, and got our three pound two ounce girl, red hair already apparent.
My sister says she was worried about Claire until she saw her and looked her in the eyes, and she knew she'd be OK. I didn't know that yet myself.
I was terrified, I was exhausted, and I felt guilty for every unhealthy choice I'd ever made. I never expected a premature baby. I wondered if I might be unlucky enough to be on bed rest, because that was my idea of hell, and I worried about Downs because I was thirty eight but it never occurred to me my placenta would poop out and I would have a low birth weight baby. No one can say why this happened. Some placentas just don't work for the long haul. I had health care before and after the pregnancy. I took pre-natal vitamins. I don't work at heavy labor, on my feet, and didn't then. I wasn't exposed to toxic stuff. I wasn't the victim of violence. We just drew the short gestation straw and got intra uterine growth restriction for no known reason.
Everyday she got just a little bigger, and then came home, and she hit five pounds. Then six and seven and at some point we stopped counting obsessively, when it was clear we wouldn't move into the big girl car seat in her first year, or second, in fact we moved her at nearly age two, when she might have been nearly twenty pounds.
I don't have any new ideas about what you can do to fight prematurity. I do give money to the March of Dimes, who funds research in this area, and in others that affect my family, such as metabolic disorders and cerebral palsy. Be aware and be active about health care issues you think need support, and love those babies. Claire was about the same weight as the famous Maddie at birth, although she was weeks older. Even after a year Maddie was still at risk for complications that ultimately cost her her precious life. Many other stories abound on the internet, and you probably know some affected families yourselves. I have a colleague who right now is chasing back and forth between two hospitals for her twins who were born at twenty nine weeks. We appear to be one of the lucky families, who went through hell and maybe still have PTSD reactions but who brought home a baby who became a strong and healthy child. I wish Claire were the size of her peers, instead of just barely bigger than her baby sister, and just going into 2T clothes now at age three and a half. I wish she were not a head shorter than her classmates or that I felt confident she would never again battle reactive airway disease of any kind, but again, we are lucky, because when you meet her, you kind of get the impression she is capable of just about anything.
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