DES MOINES, Iowa –It can be a roller coaster ride of emotions when your baby is born earlier than expected. Tuesday, November 17 is World Prematurity Day. Groups like March of Dimes will raise awareness about the complications of early birth and the programs that can help.
Mom Britney Howard enjoys every moment she gets to spend with Nixon. "I didn't get to hold him until he was well over 2 weeks old, and then did not get to hold him again until he was 4 weeks old," she said.
Nixon isn't supposed to be here yet. He was due to be born December 2nd, but his mom delivered him when she was just 28 weeks along. She said, "He was delivered due to Hydrops, which is severe edema, swelling in babies."
Doctors also found a condition with his heart and an obstruction of his small intestines. Howard said, "But, he's a fighter, and you can't even tell by looking at him how sick he was."
Howard and her husband have spent much of their time in Nixon's room in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Blank Children's Hospital, but they've also had to juggle going back to work and taking care of two older kids. "Hopefully this can make people aware, because I did have two healthy children prior to this, and I had no idea how much of a struggle this, the NICU life, really can be. Prematurity is hard enough and lots of babies are born with complications on top of prematurity."
Blank Children’s Registered Nurse and March of Dimes Family Support Specialist Linda Carter said, "Sometimes families just need to know that it's ok, and we know that they have a life outside the NICU, but we're here to help them get through that journey."
Blank Children’s Hospital and the March of Dimes partnered two and a half years ago to offer the family support specialist. Part of Carter’s time is spent giving out parent care kits to let families know what to expect.
A few months ago, Child Life Specialist Kristi Kerner joined Carter on the floor to help parents, along with siblings. "Meeting parents where they're at and kind of helping them explain what is going on that they're making sense of things, and then a big piece is the sibling support and making sure they know what's going on and coping appropriately," said Kerner.
The Howard family is coping as they look forward to bring home baby Nixon. Howard said, "We just want him healthy, but it would be great if we could all be under one roof by the holiday time."
Families can share their stories of premature birth in honor of World Prematurity Day. You can find out more on the group’s Facebook Page.