Today, November 17th, is World Prematurity Day. According to the March of Dimes, 15 million babies are born prematurely around the world each year. More babies die from prematurity than from AIDS, malaria or diarrhea. Each year in the United States, 1 in 9 babies–about 450,000–are born prematurely. Prematurity is defined as birth that occurs prior to 37 weeks gestation.
World Prematurity Day is personal for me–I have two preemies. My daughter was born at 26 weeks. We thought that we would lose her on her second day of life. She almost died again 26 years ago today from sepsis but she rallied. There were surgeries, terrible fears, PTSD, and finally, unbelievably, a day when she came home to be our baby after 100 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Preemies aren’t just small babies and they don’t look like little dolls. As you can see, my daughter looked like a science project. I learned a lifetime’s worth of medical terminology. Bringing my girly into my life changed it in ways I am still learning about. For my infertility clients who want twins, I promise you that you don’t want two desperately sick preemies.
To those who are preemie parents, or those of you who know someone who is, thank goodness for the Internet! For parents of preemies up to age 4, check out Preemie-L, a wonderful listserve of helpful preemie parents. For parents of preemies over the age of 4, check out Preemie Child.
Now I’ll share with you the gift that I was given when my daughter was impossibly small and fragile. Someone showed me a picture of their healthy preemie. The message was “Babies grow. Have hope.” So I share this today with preemies, their parents, their friends, and their loved one. Babies Grow. Have Hope.
At the 30th Resolve annual Family Building Conference in Minneapolis on November 8th, I got a lot of questions about how to avoid others’ questions about babies at family get-togethers, especially at the holidays. “I just can’t explain our fertility treatment another time”, said one attendee. “One more question about when we’re having a baby and I think I’ll scream! Stop asking me about babies!” said another. The whole room was ALIVE with outrage on this topic.
When my husband and I returned from our honeymoon, my father’s first question on the phone was, “Did you make me a grandbaby?” I remember looking at the phone and banging it several times on my desk. When I finally responded, I said, “What? We must have had a bad connection.”
Why, you ask, is it so difficult for many to field this question? There are many answers including:
• It may be painful to explain your infertility status or why you are “not over” a pregnancy loss. The question may bring flashbacks of an ultrasound with a baby who has died. Tears often follow. This can be embarrassing or traumatizing.
• The question is often asked with a wink and a yuckety-yuk. The subtext is, “Hey, how’s it goin’ in the bedroom, yo?” If your butt is sore from intramuscular injections from your fertility treatment, you are probably not feeling so sexy. Yuck.
• It’s personal, folks! How often do you talk with others about what goes on below the waist? (Example, “Well, first I put my right foot in the stirrups, and then the left foot, etc.)
So what to do? Bottom line is that you have choices. Yes. YOU have choices.
• You can set up the situation in a way you can live with. Ask someone else (your partner, your sister) to let others know that this is a question-free event. Sometimes people will go along and keep it zipped.
• You can answer the question with a vague truth, like “We’re working with our doctor” and leave it at that. If you want to offer more with the right person, okay.
• You can feign distress and spend a little time in the bathroom. Why? No one follows you in there and you can quiet any distress you feel. More questions? Repeat.
• You can change the subject, as with my phone-banging example. Be obvious. Hopefully others will get the hint.
• I always give my clients at least one crazy response when we are figuring out a problem. As our squirrel friend would say,
“Dance it Out.”
That ought to finish that.
And finally, in truth, you do not need to attend every family get-together. My attendees at the Resolve conference decided to fly as a group to Hawaii for Christmas. There were some smiles about that fantasy. But really, you can! Spend the holidays a different way if that is the best way for you. Take care of yourselves, my friends. You are awesome.
It’s Infertility Support Friday with Dr. Deborah Simmons, a time when you can ask me any question about infertility and infertility treatment. This includes unexplained infertility, the mood and physical effects of medications, IVF, donor eggs, donor sperm, surrogacy, PCOS, recurrent miscarriage, and many more important topics. I’ll give you a compassionate, knowledgeable answer. What’s on your mind?
Answers on infertility and infertility treatment, IVF, donor eggs, donor sperm, and surrogacy.
And download my free 10 Tips for Surviving Infertility. Have hope!
I welcome you to listen to my podcast on Julie Chang’s Fertility Revolution, a wonderful website for anyone looking for hope on the infertility journey. Julie and I talk about how I use EMDR, clinical hypnosis, and energy work in my work with my infertility clients. Take a listen at Fertility Revolution Podcast 91 with Dr. Deborah Simmons and please leave me a comment about what you think. Yay!