I know it feels like every time you log onto your social media account you are greeted by another “national day of something or other.”
However, for me, the month of November is important.
Aside from the turkey and the premier shopping opportunity, November is Prematurity Awareness Month.
Getting pregnant was one thing, but staying pregnant would be something else all together.
As soon as we found out we were expecting twins, the doctors were quick to tell me to expect them to arrive before 40 weeks, and that I should have everything in line by 36 weeks.
For whatever reason, it never dawned on me that I would have premature twins or that they would have to stay in a neonatal intensive care unit. Like most expectant mothers, I was going to deliver these twins the old fashion way and on time.
Long story short, I developed pre-eclampsia at 34 weeks, fought the doctors to allow to me stay pregnant, and sat in the hospital until I was induced at 36 weeks.
I was lucky. Very lucky.
Although they were early by most standards, 36 weeks is “term” for twins and is what most people shoot for because, developmentally, the babies are good to go. I count my blessings everyday because they are healthy and developmentally on target.
Let me tell you, pregnancy is an amazing experience but it was also the scariest time in my life.
Premature birth is defined as a birth that happens too soon, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Babies born this early may have more health problems or may need to stay in the hospital longer than babies born later. Each year in the U.S., about one in 10 babies is born prematurely.
Thankfully, after decades of increases, the rate of premature birth in the U.S. has now been on a steady decline for the last several years to 9.6 percent today, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite this progress, about 380,000 babies are born prematurely each year.
The meaning of “term” pregnancy has changed. “Term” has been replaced by more specific definitions that communicate the importance of the last few weeks of pregnancy for infant development.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine announced more specific definitions to describe babies born between 37 weeks and 42 weeks of pregnancy.
In the past, a baby born anytime between 37 weeks and 42 weeks was considered “term.” A pregnancy is now considered “full term” at 39 weeks.
Experts don’t know all the reasons that some babies are born too soon. Even if a woman does everything “right” during pregnancy, she still can have a preterm birth. Most people associate premature birth with the mother having a hand it by smoking, drinking alcohol, or using illegal drugs before and during pregnancy. While this is a huge contributor, I have a handful of friends who were at the peak of health and wellness who all of sudden went into preterm labor and their children arrived way earlier than they ever imagined, as in 28 and 29 weeks.
Talk about tiny and terrifying.
My son was 5.6 pounds and my daughter was a mere 3.8 pounds.
When I think of how small they were, I think of my friend’s son who was born at 1.2 pounds. He beat the odds and he just turned 8.
Pregnancy is no picnic and the third trimester feels like an eternity, but the end is near. I overheard a very pregnant mom-to-be beg her doctor to induce her early. She wanted to be induced at 34 weeks. She felt the baby was “big enough.” Good thing I couldn’t get to her because I would have for sure smacked her.
For the moms-to-be out there, stay healthy! For those moms living in the NICU because their child came too early, I’ve been there. Stay strong.
Vanessa Lynch is an Army spouse, mother and former metro editor for the Killeen Daily Herald.