My son was born early, but only by 11 days. I wasn’t totally prepared, but he was ready and came out a healthy 7 pounds, 7 ounces.
But for so many babies around the world, that’s not always the case. My good friend delivered her daughter a full three months early.
Let that sink in for a minute. Three months.
She didn’t have a third trimester. Her belly didn’t swell beyond recognition and she never got disgustingly uncomfortable. And more importantly, her daughter didn’t have those crucial last months – MONTHS – to finish cooking inside.
Her daughter was delivered at 26 weeks gestation. Again, think about that number for a minute. Due dates are set with the expectation that fetuses need about 40 weeks to grow. This tiny girl was born weighing 2 pounds, 5 ounces. She spent a shocking 86 days in the NICU. 86 days, people.
Today? She’s a healthy and rambunctious 2-year-old and a schoolmate of my son.
I started walking in the annual March of Dimes March for Babies a couple years ago to support my friend. I watched how incredibly difficult those months were for her and her family. And I’ve watched her daughter grow and thrive and surprise everyone.
Last year, walking for babies took on a new meaning as I hauled my own 1-year-old son in a stroller through the streets of Baltimore. He was born healthy, but thousands of babies aren’t. It hurt my heart to see the pictures at the march hung in tribute to babies born too early – some who made it, some who didn’t.
This year, the walk again will have new meaning. I’ll also be honoring my two tiny newborn nieces born about a month ago who are toughing it out in the NICU. They were just 26 or so weeks gestation when they were born and have a long, difficult path ahead of them. So do their parents.
I admit, I didn’t do a ton of research on the March of Dimes as a charity. I can’t tell you how much of the money raised goes to administration rather than actual cures and treatments. That’s something I always wonder about when I’m donating money. But I do trust my friend, and I saw how much this organization supported her and her daughter when they were struggling. And she tells me the organization does research that undoubtedly saved her daughter’s life.
The money raised from this walk helps support new treatments, therapies, research and screening efforts for premature babies. That’s important. Tiny, born-too-soon babies need that stuff.
Yes, this post is self-serving. I’m raising money for a cause that has become quite important to me. If you do feel like donating, click here for my donation page on the March of Dimes site. But I also wanted to call attention to these tiny babies and their families that need our help.
Sara Michael is a first-time mom with Type A tendencies. She likes rules, makes lists, and follows plans. That all seemed to work out fine until she had a baby. Now she balances her need for order and answers with the desire to enjoy the unpredictable journey she is on with her 2-year-old son (and a second on the way). Her day job? She is a writer and editorial director at a health care media company where she manages content for an online publication. Her journalism background started in daily newspapers, covering health, science and government. Follow her on Twitter @sara_the_writer.