Each year, 15 million babies worldwide are born premature. That includes any infant born before 37 weeks gestation. Moreover, 1 million of those babies succumb to preterm complications. Preterm complications. Those words hit me right in the gut and cause me to shake my head in disbelief. My son Sutton Matthew was born at 26 weeks and not a single day goes by that I don't acknowledge how blessed we are to have him. Babies born just a few weeks early are at risk of severe health problems and lifelong disabilities, let alone a tiny two pound baby born three months premature. Our son had two parents that loved him dearly and a wonderful team of doctors and nurses caring for him, yet at any moment, his condition could have gone from stable to life-threatening. That's the reality of birthing a premature baby and life in the NICU. That's what makes the research the March of Dimes conducts so relevant. Not only are they educating and encouraging women to have full term, healthy pregnancies, but they are advocating for those born too soon if that doesn't come to pass.
The March of Dimes has a long history of supporting research aimed at preventing premature birth, birth defects and infant mortality. Their Prematurity Research Initiative is focused primarily on genetics and gene-environment interactions relating to the causes of prematurity and their Prematurity Campaign funds research to find the causes of premature birth. But nothing is as big and surprising as what happened LAST NIGHT! The P.R.E.E.M.I.E. Reauthorization Act (Prematurity Research Expansion and Education for Mothers who deliver Infants Early Reauthorization Act - whew that's a mouthful!) was passed by the U.S. Senate, representing the final step in its consideration by Congress. This has huge legal significance because it advances federal research, clinical studies and promotes community initiatives to reduce preterm birth and infant mortality caused by prematurity. With education and knowledge comes answers! The bill will now go to the President for his signature and be passed into law. I could not be more excited ... Go preemies go!
This past Spring I was in the room when my baby sister's daughter was born. It was a surreal moment to see the gritty emotion of my sister and brother-in-law bringing their child into the world; that precious new life lifted to my sister's chest as she cried tears of happiness. It was a profound moment for me. I finally got something I always felt I needed: I got to witness a healthy pregnancy give way to healthy baby, and it wasn't anything short of a gift. I realized that's what every pregnancy should be. That is still my hope today.
This Sunday is World Prematurity Day, and I encourage you to celebrate the day however you choose. Simple ways you can champion a preemie in your life is as easy as wearing purple, the official color of World Prematurity Day. You can also light a candle of remembrance, journal your feelings, scrapbook or talk to family and friends. If you're louder and prouder, you can take to social media and share pictures of your personal experience with prematurity. You can also donate! Donate your money, your services at a local event or just simply listen to someone who needs a gentle ear. Sometimes listening is the best thing you can do to heal your own heart. It lends you the comfort of knowing you are not alone in this. That's how His Middle Name will be celebrating: by being that forum where you can share photos, stories, post updates or ask questions. I will also be posting photos throughout the day on the His Middle Name Facebook page of how places all over the world will be honoring World Prematurity Day. Seeing how global the problem of prematurity truly is can spark what is needed to forge change. It's time, and we can do it together.