Did you know that 1 in 8 babies is born prematurely in the U.S.? In approximately 40% of cases, the cause of premature labor is unknown, and it can happen to anyone. I have shared our story before about Cuddlebug and Bearhug's premature birth, but I think it's worth examining what a difference it makes when a baby is able to be born full term. In contrast with his brothers being born 6 1/2 weeks early, Little Bitty was born 1 1/2 weeks late. Being pregnant with him a full 8 weeks longer felt like FOREVER in comparison, lol, but of course it was well worth every minute because I knew he was where he needed to be (and unlike the situation with CB and BH, it was safe for him to remain in the womb).
What a difference those 8 weeks made! Here is a comparison of their footprints:
I scanned them all together so they would be proportionally accurate. Every time I look at these I'm just amazed at how tiny Cuddlebug's foot was compared with Little Bitty's. The size disparity between Cuddlebug and Bearhug was due to TTTS.
In addition to their sizes, here are some other differences we experienced between our twins' premature birth and the full-term delivery of our youngest. I only have my own experience to draw from, so this may not be applicable to everyone, but I'm sharing it to highlight some of the benefits of full-term delivery and why prematurity awareness is so important.
1. Being able to hold your baby right away. We had to wait 8 days before we could hold Bearhug for the first time, and 2 days before we could hold Cuddlebug. I was able to hold Little Bitty within the first few minutes after he was born. It was an amazing experience!
2. Being able to bring your baby home with you. Cuddlebug and Bearhug spent 22 days in the NICU before we were able to bring them home. Some premature babies stay much longer, depending on how early they are born and their health. Some preemies have medical challenges ranging from mild to severe, while others just need a little extra time to grow.
3. Getting a little more sleep at night. Like most newborns, Little Bitty woke up to eat about every 3 hours when he first came home. Because of their small size, Bearhug and Cuddlebug couldn't hold enough food in their stomachs to last 3 hours and needed to eat about every 1 1/2 hours. Add to that the fact that the effort they had to put into eating often wore them out before they were full, and sometimes we didn't even make a whole hour before they needed to eat again. That's a recipe for exhaustion for mom and dad (although well worth it of course!).
4. Less susceptible to illness. Cuddlebug and Bearhug needed 6 months of RSV shots as a precaution since they'd had respiratory distress early on. We had to be very careful about taking them out and having visitors. We were cautious with Little Bitty also, but the risk level for full-term babies is generally not as high.
For more information on prematurity, visit the March of Dimes. Did you know the March of Dimes is responsible for leading the call to develop Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU)? They also funded the research that led to the use of surfactant to treat respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). They have had many other successes as well, but for those two reasons especially, I will be eternally grateful to them!
For more bloggers writing about Prematurity Awareness, visit Kristie McNealy.