A little over a year ago my first child was born premature. It was a total shock. The pregnancy had been going fantastically and there were no signs that anything was amiss until it was 5:30 am and I was on the phone crying with my OB because my water broke more than 6 weeks too soon.
Liam, third day of life, in the NICU and on oxygen
Today Liam is a warm, affable, generous toddler who charms just about everyone he comes into contact with. Most people are shocked he was born early because he's so grown. He is still a little delayed in his communication skills, but we have every confidence that he won't have any long term problems from his prematurity. But not everyone is so lucky. Six year old Alex is this year's MOD Ambassador. He was born at just 1 lb 11 ounces and suffers persistent visual problems from his early birth.
Liam today, goofing off on the back porch
The March of Dimes estimates that ONE IN EIGHT babies born in the US is born too soon, and only about half the women who have early births have any known risk factors. Early birth and underweight birth are associated with a host of health and developmental problems, some of which children deal with for the rest of their lives. (see other information on what we know about premature birth from the March of Dimes organization)
Liam rocking his bilirubin blue light (for jaundice) and swanky "sunglasses"
When we were in the NICU the March of Dimes was a lifeline. 24 hours before my baby was born prematurely I had no clue about what was to come. I wasn't able to read or prepare for what it would mean to have a baby born early. I held him for 2 minutes before they took him away to the NICU. I couldn't see him for 2 hours while they kept me for observation in the Labor and Delivery room, even though I was bouncing around the room with boundless energy and eagerness. When we finally did get to see him again, he was hooked up to all manner of machines booping and beeping, with alarms that went off if his heart rate dipped too low. He had a big tube hooked up to his mouth to help him breathe. We couldn't hold him that first day.
We had no idea how to navigate the many challenges of being a NICU parent, and the first and best source was the information that the March of Dimes gave me before I even knew what to ask for. Parenting in the NICU helped me think through how to build a sense of myself as a parent when it seemed that all the hard work of keeping my baby alive was being done by medical professionals. Small books to help demystify all the terminology. Tips on how to interact with staff. How to be a good advocate for your child. Their resources taught me the best way to handle and interact with my preemie so that my touch would comfort him rather than over-stimulate and agitate him. Their online community put me in touch with other parents who had preterm births and NICU experiences so I didn't feel so isolated. On the day my son was released from the NICU, the March of Dimes gave us a little valentine with his tiny tiny footprint on it.
The March of Dimes was there for me in the hardest time of my life, and I will be grateful for that for as long as I live. And that is why I am trying to raise money to help them continue to do their important work, to help make sure that my next child, or your next child, will have a healthy birth.
HOW YOU CAN HELP...
1. Raise awareness about preterm birth. Learn the medical and lifestyle risk factors for preterm birth. Preterm labor can sometimes be postponed through the use of drugs, and babies who receive corticosteroids before preterm birth have much better lung and brain development at birth; but you can only get these potentially lifesaving drugs if you recognize the signs of preterm labor and contact your health provider to begin receiving medical care for preterm labor. Trust your instincts and never be afraid to contact your doctor if, in your heart of hearts, you think something is wrong.
If you already are the parent of a preemie, check out the clothing I've designed to show your preemie pride at my Preemie Mama store. From now until April 17th all profits from sales go to benefit the March of Dimes.
2. Donate to our March of Dimes team: Click the purple badge above, or visit: www.marchforbabies.com/teammcdonnell.
3. Get Kitchen Gear! Looking to buy some swanky kitchen tools and benefit a good cause? Maybe you need an awesome pizza stone, a garlic press, or some stylin' new plates? check out my team page and find our the exciting fundraiser we are doing that will help pimp your kitchen while giving 20-30% of sales to the March of Dimes!
4. Spread the word. I will love you forever, I swear. Post this post to your facebook or retweet on twitter. Contact me to get a copy of our March of Dimes badge to help do fundraising on your blog. Ask your friends, family, coworkers, or miscellaneous strangers to donate. If you want to be a super amazing supporter, you can add my badge to your blog until the march on April 18th. Just copy and paste the code below:
<a href="http://www.marchforbabies.org/personal_page.asp?pp=&ct=4&w=4070406&u=teammcdonnell&bt=7"> <img src="http://www.marchforbabies.org/fgetsig/pp=&ct=4&4070406t.jpg" border=0 /> </a>
5. Participate in my Blog for Babies Challenge: Between now and APRIL 17th, blog about a recipe that features an ingredient high in folic acid, a nutrient known to be important for pregnant women to consume to help ensure healthy babies. Folic acid is a well-studied nutrient for preventing neural tube defects, and recent research suggests that taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid for a year before conceiving can help reduce your risk of preterm birth by half.
1. Blog about a recipe featuring a high folate food (see list below) OR blog about a personal story with premature birth for you or someone you know
2. Put a link back to this post
3. Put a link to the March of Dimes or my team
4. Send me an email at: skinnygourmet[AT]gmail.com with a link to your post
5. I'll post a round up with links back to you
Good Dietary Sources of Folic Acid or "Dietary Folate Equivalents," according to the USDA
Enriched cereals, rice and flours crowd the list, thanks to enrichment. But see also (in descending order of folate-awesomeness):
Chicken giblets (simmered)
Cowpeas or Black-eyed peas
Orange juice frozen concentrate, undiluted
Green Soybeans (edamame)
All of these foods have more than 113 units of dietary folate equavlents per serving. My first reaction was: iceberg lettuce? you mean that stuff isnt just air and fluff? And I'll also admit that the list, just above "split peas" also includes none other than corn dogs. No joke. 1 corn dog has 135 units of DFE. So if you want to get crazy creative with a corn dog recipe, be my guest.