November 17, 2014 marks the 4th worldwide awareness day for prematurity. "World Prematurity Day" is a global movement to raise awareness about prematurity highlighting the burden of preterm birth, informing on simple, proven cost-effective solutions and invoking compassion for families who have experienced preterm birth." Most people probably don't even know that such a day exists, but if you are the mother of a preemie, undoubtedly that day sparks many emotions for you. For some parents of preemies, it is a day that you thank God for the blessing of your sweet baby, who overcame the odds and survived her premature birth. For other mothers, it reminds them of dark days spent in the NICU with their teeny tiny baby, almost unrecognizable from all of the tubes and wires that were keeping her alive, feeding her, breathing for her. For some mothers, it's a reminder of the day you gave birth to the baby you prayed for and who grew inside of you, yet were unable to hold and hug when she was born. A reminder of days that turned into weeks, and weeks into months for some women who spent nights praying and begging God that her child would get to one day make it home to see the room she prepared for her, or meet her brothers and sisters anxiously awaiting her arrival. Hopefully for many of those moms that story ended happily, and those sweet, prematurely born babies are now thriving and healthy. And because of your struggles, the days with your child are fuller and you are cherishing hugging and kissing those sweet faces that you stared at through a glass crib for so long. Unfortunately, the stories don't always end happily, and for some mothers, this is just another day to be reminded of the loss of their precious baby who got her wings too soon. A day that their heart aches, and they are reminded of the piece of them that was lost.
If you are one of the fortunate people who have never given November 17th a second thought these past few years, then hopefully after reading this you will. Premature birth is the leading cause of death for newborns. Every year 15 million babies are born prematurely. Statistically, that is one in ten babies. A pregnancy is 40 weeks long. Doctors consider a baby full term when the mother reaches 37 weeks of pregnancy. Therefore, any baby born before 37 weeks is considered premature by the medical definition. Most doctors define the age of viability as 24 weeks. In many hospitals, 24 weeks is the cutoff point for when doctors will use intensive medical intervention to attempt to save the life of a baby born prematurely. In the hands of experienced specialists, some babies born slightly earlier may have a chance of survival. The earliest baby to have ever survived a premature birth was born at 21 weeks 5 days. The likelihood of survival jumps from 17 percent at 23 weeks to 39 percent at 24 weeks. By 25 weeks, the baby has a 50-50 chance of survival if born. Jumping another ten percent the next two weeks and by 28-31 weeks if born, babies have a 90-95 percent chance of survival; however, this doesn't discount the many obstacles that the baby will have to overcome. The lungs are the last major organ to develop and won't be fully developed until 34 weeks or slightly later. The biggest hurdle premature babies must overcome is breathing on their own. But any loss of oxygen to the brain for a sufficient amount of time can lead to brain damage which is why proper ventilation is essential to survival. The journey of a gestational baby is so fragile and time is of the essence.