Every woman dreams of a healthy pregnancy. Every woman also dreams of an easy one…one lacking swollen feet, excessive weight gain, countless stretch marks, and negligible energy. But if you were to ask any mother if she had to choose between healthy and easy, I guarantee you that she would choose HEALTHY any and every time.
Yes, we all have a tendency to complain when our waddles get a little to wide (a consequence of water buffalo breadth hips), our bellies block any reasonable effort at shaving, and our swollen feet refuse to fit into anything but granny shoes-all legitimate complaints in my book. But, what would we trade for a healthy baby? What would we give to deliver on-time without any complications? What would we vow if we could keep our infant out of the neonatal intensive care unit, tube and wire free?
Maybe you’ve never thought about it, but lately this has been weighing heavily on my mind. Every year about 450,000 babies are born too early. That’s 1 in 9 babies. Unfortunately, that was my baby! I admit, a premature delivery wasn’t on my “worry list,” and it’s not because my list was short! Santa Clause would have even had trouble keeping up. No, for some reason everything else landed on my irrational, OCD, hypochondriac list; then preeclampsia took me by surprise, and my body and my baby’s life by storm. If I could have done something differently I would have. 3 pounds and two ounces is too tiny for any little one to make a grand entrance into the world. Intubation tubes, heart rate monitor lines, feeding tubes, incubators…these life saving interventions brought both comfort and terror.
Could my emergent c-section at 32 weeks have been prevented? No one knows. Even in today’s medically advanced world, preeclampsia is still a mystery. My risk for developing sudden and severe onset preeclampsia in future pregnancies is literally the flip of a coin. 50:50. It’s a chance I’m willing to take, but not one that I take lightly. After 9 weeks spent in the NICU with my daughter, I know the fear, exhaustion, and grief that prematurity brings. When the tiny twin next door doesn’t make it, or the micro-preemie down the hall is whispered one last loving farewell from his devastated mommy…it’s all too much to bear.
If I don’t know what to do…what can I do? Of course, there are known contributors to premature deliveries such as tobacco use, alcohol and illicit drug consumption, and a lack of prenatal care; but, none of these apply to me. I don’t drink, smoke, pop pills, or shoot up with anything other than infertility medications. And, since In Vitro Fertilization is our ticket to parenthood, my prenatal care starts at day zero. I take prenatal vitamins, exercise, try to eat healthy, and limit my stress. Yet, none of these have been shown to reduce the risk of preeclampsia.
So, in an effort to protect my future pregnancies I’ve decided to look beyond myself. Now, I’m pushing researchers and the health care community for answers by partnering with The March of Dimes. I want to know what causes preeclampsia. I want to know if there is anything that I can do to prevent it; and if not, what can be done to treat it more effectively? If I am destined for another preterm delivery (one that could happen at an even earlier gestation) I want my preemie to have the best chance not just at survival, but at a healthy life free from neurological complications, breathing problems, visual and hearing disturbances, and developmental delays.
My desires may seem unrealistic, but I know them to be possible. Just 60 years ago my grandmother whispered goodbye to her preemie son only moments after he was born. 60 years ago she was told that there was nothing that they could do to save his life. 60 years later, my healthy 2-year-old daughter is living proof of the life saving advancements developed by the medical research community and largely funded by March of Dimes. All I’m asking for are more answers…quickly!
I can’t do it on my own. Please join me in making a difference for pregnant mothers, unborn babies (my own included), and preemies by walking with me this May 9th, 2015 in the March for Babies or by sponsoring me. Start your own team. Be a corporate sponsor, or sign up to raise awareness in your community. My dream is that 60 years down the road preeclampsia and preterm deliveries will simply be a thing of the past.
Click this link to donate/sponsor The Mom in Me, MD or to learn more about the March for Babies: