Monday, March 29, 2010

Two Weeks Pregnant

No, I'm not pregnant. But...

John and I are trying to conceive. And we have been for seven months now. Seven long months.

We knew when we decided to try to have another child that the process would likely be difficult and full of anxiety - and take a long time. My body is not exactly awesome at bearing children. But, wow, my heart sure does love being a mother.

It took several months to conceive Becca, and you all know how that journey turned out...long (with a short pregnancy), difficult, tiring, stressful, heartbreaking, and very much entirely worth every second of it. I mean, really, who wouldn't go to hell and back to be mommy or daddy to this little girl?

I've mentioned before that according to the specialists, I have about a 55% chance of developing pre-eclampsia again, with a 20% chance that it will develop as early (or earlier) and be as severe (or more severe). And we are well aware of the implications of these potential complications. We've decided that these are risks that we are willing to take. If my body delivers us another precious little preemie (though hopefully not AS little!), we will love and take care of that little baby just like we have Becca. And if that little baby doesn't make it, we will be absolutely heartbroken. But there's also a 45% chance that we will have a perfectly normal pregnancy (albeit with lots of extra monitoring and appointments). We've taken steps to try to reduce our risks, too, like reducing my stress and beginning aspirin therapy (one baby aspirin a day). But those steps don't really reduce the anxiety that is inevitable when we think about the possibility of a repeat performance (which, again, would be totally worth it).

But first there's the getting pregnant. [Warning: this is where I start talking about ovaries and periods and such.]

My ovaries are lazy. Kind of. I have a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS. The simple explanation is that my hormones are out of whack, which causes me not to ovulate (you know, release the requisite egg). With Becca, I took a medicine called Metformin (which is actually a diabetes medicine, but since PCOS can cause insulin resistance, it has a lot in common with diabetes - and women with PCOS are at an increased risk of developing Type II Diabetes). We conceived the first month I was on the medicine (month 5 of trying to conceive, or, as it is known in the infertility blogosphere, "TTC"). If we hadn't, we were going to add a medicine called...dum dum dum...Clomid.

This time around, my doctor (regular OB at Vandy - I won't see the high-risk folks until I conceive) thought that we should skip the Metformin, even though it worked last time. According to him, we basically lucked out because it's not even really considered effective. So we started on Clomid...5 months ago. That's 5 months of running back and forth to Vanderbilt on certain cycle days, getting poked and prodded in unfortunate places, becoming friends with the phlebotomists, dealing with very unhelpful nurses and receptionists, and hoping that insurance doesn't catch on to the fact that these visits regarding menstrual irregularity have anything to do with infertility, since we have zero coverage for that. Oh, and 5 months of being insane.

Those of you who have taken Clomid are probably sympathy cringing right now. Or at least some of you are. Some women take Clomid, and it doesn't phase them. Other women take Clomid, and it turns them into a raving beast. I am one of these women.

Lucky John.

Normally, I'm a perfectly calm, rational person. I am always kind and genteel and greet my husband with a smile, a kiss on the cheek, and a home-cooked meal. My house is perfectly organized, and my garden is immaculately landscaped and thriving.


Wonder what Clomid Nancy is like?

Well, take the normal disorganized, frenetic, spastic, sassy, and every so slightly crotchety Nancy and multiple her x 100 or so. Clomid Nancy does fun things like yell at John for chewing his dinner because he makes too much noise. And burst into tears thinking about they hypothetical woman that John would marry if I died. And then get mad at him for marrying her and replacing me as Becca's mom. And wear the same pajama pants for 10 days straight because nothing else feels right. And run out of the room screaming, "This shirt is choking me!" while stripping down and changing into the aforementioned pajama pants and a comfier t-shirt. (That last one might have happened tonight. Maybe.) Clomid Nancy is awesome.

Remember, though, that Clomid Nancy is one and the same as SuperMom Nancy who has a child with special needs and as Terrified-That-I'm-Going-To-Get-Very-Sick-And-Have-A-Sick-Baby Nancy. Most days it's a wonder that our family and our house make it through the day without visible scars. Let's just say that Clomid Nancy is awfully glad that she's paired with Zoloft Nancy.

The hardest part, though, is waiting...and waiting...and waiting. The Clomid has worked only about 1/2 the months that I've taken it. (And by "worked," I mean that it stimulated ovulation.) And one of those times it probably wasn't actually the Clomid, but my body actually kicking in on its own eventually, since it was actually outside the forecasted time frame of the medicine. Because my cycle is so irregular, even on the drugs, at any given point (well, just about any given point), I could, theoretically be pregnant. I'm constantly assessing my fertility and checking my chart. (I'll spare you the details of this obsessing for now.) Have I ovulated? Am I tired because Becca woke up last night or because my progesterone levels are high? Are my boobs bigger? Do I need to, ahem, spend some time with my husband tonight? Or tomorrow? Or both? (He usually votes for both.) Am I b*tchy because of the Clomid? Does that mean it's working? Or am I just a b*tch?

And what if I am pregnant? When will I go on bedrest? (I have found that I generally think in terms of when bedrest will hit. John thinks in terms of if bedrest will hit. That about sums up the difference in our personalities.) Who will take care of Becca if I can't play with her and change her and feed her and be her mommy? How long with the new baby be in the hospital? Will s/he be okay? (Mind you, this is before s/he is even conceived...maybe.) Will I get to enjoy a pregnancy and not be waiting for the unthinkable to happen like I was last time around? Will we ever have another baby? Does New Baby Hill (as s/he is already affectionately known) exist? What if s/he doesn't and never will? Who will Becca complain about her parents to? Who will help her pick out our nursing home? And one question that was somewhat settled last night: will John demand that our hypothetical son be named John (which, though I love John, is one of my least-favorite boy names). Thankfully, John said that he's not going to filibuster the naming process. Phew. Dodged that bullet.

As any of you intimately involved with a pregnancy know, once you conceive, you are automatically 2 weeks pregnant. The first 2 weeks are gimmes, since you measure from your last menstrual period (or when it should have been). I feel like these past 7 months have been our 2 weeks. Two very long weeks. Two long weeks in which I have been almost pregnant. But not quite. And not at all.

Here's hoping that month eight, just a couple of days away, begins the third week of a new, healthy pregnancy. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, March 26, 2010

March for Babies T-shirts!

I am now taking preliminary orders for Itty Bitty Becca's Team March for Babies t-shirts. Woohoo!

We are still tweaking the graphics and shirt colors, but some of that depends on how many we sell - so if you are interested, please take a minute and let me know how many and what sizes you would like! You can either send me an e-mail to SpeasHill(a) or leave a comment with the the number and sizes that you would like and your e-mail address. Cost will be within a few dollars of $12, with more than half of that going to the March of Dimes. You'll have a chance to confirm your order once I get the final price set, but reserving yours now will help me tremendously. Check out the awesome artwork Dianne Beard Vallier has been working on:

Isn't that awesome?! It's so fun to have wildly talented friends. The pictures on the right aren't to scale on the shirts - the ruler runs 9.5 inches (you know, Becca's length at birth). Feel free to chime in regarding t-shirt colors, as that isn't decided yet.

By the way, if you are walking with us, I'm happy to provide you with shirts to wear at cost (which will be somewhere around $5-6). Still send an e-mail or leave me a comment so I can keep track of what we need to order!


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sick, Sick, Sick

Itty Bitty is sick.

Don't worry, it's nothing scary, but it's not very much fun for her. Actually, Becca being Becca, for the most part, she's acting completely fine. In fact, she's "organizing" the movies right now. But here's the scoop:

This weekend Becca stopped chewing. Could be weird eating issues, could be ear pain. She has tubes but has gotten several ear infections since they were placed. Sunday night she had a fever. Monday morning, the fever was gone, but she had a goopey ear. By Wednesday, it was goopey enough that I called the doctor, and they called in antibiotic ear drops. Wednesday evening, I checked her ear and it was full of blood, mostly dried. I gave her her drops, and they dislodged a big clot of blood, which had puss behind it. (Gross, I know. Welcome to parenthood.) Her ear continued to seep blood, but she want to sleep fine.

This morning, she woke up to diarrhea, which has continued throughout the day. We saw Dr. Collins this morning, and she (gingerly) peeked into the ear and decided that we needed to do oral antibiotics, too. We never really determined what was going on (because she didn't want to dig around in a tiny, painful ear), but basically, whatever the issue is (ear infection, dislodged tube, etc.), it would be treated with drops and oral antibiotics. So we've started those. (The oral one is the yummy bubble gum medicine that we had as kids - you know, they one that stays in the fridge?) The diarrhea - and the vomiting that woke her up from her nap this afternoon - are likely from a stomach bug on top of the ear issue. Good times. But, again, it's nothing scary, since it isn't lung-related.

More concerning, though, was the fact that she had lost 4 ounces in 2 weeks, even while growing 1/4 of an inch. Chances are that the weight loss is attributed to the fact that she has thrown up once a day every day for eight straight days. Apart from today's episode, it's always been at a meal, and it's always been way more than she has eaten at that particular meal. Her speech/feeding therapist, Caroline, is confident that she's not gagging or having trouble swallowing, so we (John and I, Caroline, and Dr. Collins) are figuring that it must be reflux-related, so we are going to go ahead and see a G-I specialists because, as Dr. Collins said, "You need more doctors." It's actually quite amazing that we've made it this far without a GI, even in the NICU. Hopefully s/he will be able to help with the reflux and figure out a way to get some meat on Becca's bones without a feeding tube. Or maybe we'll have to go ahead with the tube finally. It certainly wouldn't be the end of the world!

Okay, I hope I haven't grossed you out too much. Oh, and one of the dogs was sick today, too. And just to make sure that this post isn't birth control for you childless folks out there, here's a picture of the pretty, pretty princess - she's even cute when she is pitiful.

Here she is after she threw up at our picnic - all her other clothes were gross!

In the post-puke bath:

And here she is cuddling with daddy after getting her ear drops.

UPDATE 3-28!

Becca is much better, though she threw up in the middle of the night last night (4 a.m., in fact), and has had a couple of gross diapers today...but that's better than the 6 poopy (though there wasn't much actual poop, just liquid, poor girl!) she had in the 12 hours she was awake on Friday. I think the stomach bug may have passed, and we're left with the diarrhea caused by the antibiotics...which she hates, by the way. Hates the yummy pink amoxicillin. But it smells so good! I feel like I'm putting us way back on the progress we've made with feeding when I force the syringe into her mouth, so I'm going to call the doctor tomorrow and see if we really have to do the full 10-day course. (Yes, I know you are supposed to give all the antibiotics even if symptoms have disappeared, but we're going for the lesser of the evils at this point.) Let's hope we have a restful, puke-free and poop-free night!

Piles of Piles

Becca is very, very good at organizing. She helps me put things in piles all the time. Piles of laundry are her favorite, but she also likes to make:

Piles of books (not that we have many books in the house or anything ;) ):

Piles of movies:

And a close second behind the laundry, piles of big girl supplies:

John often wonders why there are piles throughout the house when he comes home, but I tell him we're blessed to have a child with such great organization skills. :)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Healthcare Reform

Well, it passed! John and I watched C-Span for longer than I'd like to admit to you, watching debate (much of it silly parliamentary stuff, along with enough rabbling to evoke the British Parliament at work), and I nearly cried when the bill finally passed. Tears of joy, that is.

My lovely readers obviously know where I stand on the bill. It's not perfect, it's not far-reaching enough, and it really only addresses the insurance side of the equation (and not topics like tort reform). It's not so much healthcare reform as it is insurance reform. So why is it important to me? Because in this case, insurance reform means reform of disparities of access to healthcare. And in this sense, insurance reform IS healthcare reform to many people, like the 32 million who will now have access to health insurance, and thus, access to healthcare beyond emergency rooms.

And yes, this bill does benefit my family. Becca can no longer be denied coverage because she is, as a friend wrote, "a walking pre-existing condition." (Okay, for now she's just a cruising and crawling pre-existing condition, but you get the point.) And when the full plan goes into effect in 2014, I will no longer be denied coverage for my pre-existing condition (almost dying in pregnancy). Becca won't be kicked off her plan when she reaches her $2,000,000 lifetime cap (remember, she's halfway there already). Eventually (assuming we don't have a massive increase in our family's income), we will receive subsidies to pay for our health insurance (because we make less than $88,000). And, diagnosed worrier that I am, I don't have to worry about how we will pay for treatment if one of us is in a terrible accident or is diagnosed with cancer. I just have to worry about everything else that goes along with those awful occurrences.

But that's not really why I am so excited about this bill. Our family would get by. We have a great support system, and while we are not rich, we manage and would continue to do so. I am excited about this bill because in many ways (not necessarily every way), the ends that it is seeking to achieve are simply right. I know that is a somewhat rude thing to say in this climate of partisan vitriol. I do try to respect and listen to all reasoned and factually correct positions on the issue. But this is where I come down on it: it is simply unjust that people in the U.S., the wealthiest nation in the entire world, cannot go see a doctor when they are sick because they cannot afford it. That is simply wrong. It is flat-out wrong that people who have paid their premiums for years are dropped by their insurance when they get sick. It is flat-out wrong that kids born into this country with a medical condition (be it prematurity or asthma) are denied coverage (and remember, coverage = access to care).

I know this bill isn't good news for everyone. Some of my friends who work in higher-paying industries will see some additional taxes (individuals making more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000, I believe). Theoretically, I guess, insurance companies may see lower profits, even though they will increase their customer base tremendously, because the bill includes a minimum of revenue that must be spent on actual services to enrollees. And larger companies would face fines if they don't provide insurance to their employees. Folks who are on employer-provided insurance may see premiums raised, but, seriously, have you seen how much they are being hiked anyway? When in full force, the bill will limit these premium increases.

I don't know enough about physician billing to fully understand how it will affect our friendly doctors (and trust me, I want to keep doctors happy - we looooove doctors at our house!), but I do know that there are incentives for new medical grads to go into primary care, which is by far the lowest paid area of medicine. (Seriously, I see a lot of doctors and a lot of EOB's, and our wonderful pediatrician bills at a fraction of the cost of the specialists...but she's our go-to and the one holding all the care together. Seems backwards. Plus, she's awesome and reads this blog, and now I'm just plain kissing up. But she is awesome.) I realize that specialists usually have additional training years, but really, the pay difference is so great that we have a primary care physician shortage in our these incentives are a good thing.

I don't think I'm close-minded. I know that it is very much possible for you to agree with the ends that I see as justice (that is, helping everyone in our country to have access to quality healthcare) and still not see this bill as the appropriate means to this end. And, again, I don't think it's perfect. Not even close. But frankly, I no longer expect perfection out of Washington. I'm not sure why I ever did. Our senators and representatives are just human, after all. And in a messed-up two-party political system. But it's what we've got, and I've learned that you've got to do what you can with what you've got (while trying to make improvements) instead of holding out for perfect. So it's a start. And I think it's a big step in the right direction. Time will tell - and I think that's an another important point.

There are lots of folks on every side of the issue making projections about what will be wonderful and what will be horrendous about the bill, but the truth is, we never know exactly how a piece of legislation this complex is going to play out. And I don't think that is a fault of the bill. I'm just saying that we can't predict the future. Make projections, yes. And that's very important. But I think that maybe we should all take a deep breath before we run for the hills. Let's see how it goes. And, in the meantime, let's celebrate the parts of the bill that I think we can all agree on: more kids will be able to get more care. Families fighting cancer won't have to declare bankruptcy to pay off medical bills. And grieving families of a terminal patient won't get a rescission letter from their insurer. (And yes, I do have a friend who's husband was dropped while he waited for a heart transplant. Wow.)

There. I've had my say. I'm happy about this bill, and I hope you are, too. I would love to hear what you have to say about it, but please, please, please be kind and check your facts before you comment. I have a habit of deleting comments that are not respectful or are blatantly inaccurate. Let's see if we can all play nice. And if you want to learn more about the bill from some relatively balanced and unbiased sources, check out these links.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Becca's First Haircut!

One of my favorite things about living in Bethpage is visiting our few local businesses. (If you haven't been to Bethpage, you may not understand how amazing it is to have something close by - such a treat!) My two favorites (okay, the only two I know about other than the post office) are Steve Graves tire shop and Jody Harwell at Hairstylin'. Steve has actually come to the house, picked up my car, taken it back to the shop, changed the oil and rotated the tires, and brought it back to the house, just so I didn't have to mess with carting Becca around and walking back to the house with her (which isn't very far away). How sweet is that?! Jody is so accommodating, especially when I call and basically ask if I can come over immediately. And it's always fun to see her pygmy goats and plot ways to sneak a pair home past John. Not to mention that she gives a great haircut at a great price! She chopped 10 inches off my hair last week, and I feel like a whole new woman! (Okay, maybe not a whole new woman, but it did cut a few minutes off my shower time and hopefully a cancer patient (or two - you should have seen the ponytail!) will get a pretty wig!)

But before my chop, it was Becca's turn in the chair! She was getting the baby mullet, and I was not okay with it! Jody trimmed her up, and I can tell that it's growing out getter already. Pigtails, here we come! Here are pictures from her first haircut, courtesy of Blake Harwell, age 9 (or so - I forget!). Enjoy!
Becca loved the comb!

The finished product:
I don't think she enjoyed my haircut as much as hers!
(This handy-dandy contraption, by the way, is called a Pop-a-Tot and folds up like a camp chair. I use it nearly everyday! Becca's happy hanging out in it in our room with an Elmo video while I take my shower. You can order one at

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sensory Issues

I know you've heard me talk about sensory issues quite a bit on here, and you may be wonderingwhat in the world I mean. Well, today at physical therapy Super Jane gave me a really good explanation of where all of these "issues" arise. Let's see if I retained enough to explain it all!

Since Jane is a physical therapist, this explanation is from a gross motor perspective, but the general ideas apply throughout the therapeutic disciplines (for Becca, that's physical, occupational and feeding/speech). (Gross motor, by the way, just means big motor skills - walking, crawling, sitting, running, etc. - as opposed to fine motor skills - writing, picking up Cheerios, buttoning buttons. Generally, physical therapists work with gross motor and occupational therapists work with fine motor (among other things).

When we talk about sensory issues from a gross motor perspective, there are basically 3 systems/aspects to consider:
  1. The tactile input you receive when body parts are touching a surface - for example, when Becca is standing holding on to something, she is getting feedback from the ground under her feet and the surface her hands are holding. This information travels through the nerves and to the brain, where it is processed. At the same time, ligaments in each joint are sending messages to the brain as well (I guess also through the nerves...not sure about that). So when you're standing all the joints you are using (like your ankles, hips, etc.) are noting tiny movements and stretching or contracting to make corrections, keeping you balanced.
  2. The visual input you are receiving as you look around, helping you orient yourself in your environment. Are you close to the wall? Can you reach out and touch it? What is the ground like? Rocky? This information is taken in through the eyes (duh) and travels via the optic nerve to several different spots in the brain, where it is processed.
  3. The vestibular system, which, according to Wikipedia, "contributes to our balance and our sense of spatial orientation, is the sensory system that provides the dominant input about movement and equilibrioception. Together with the cochlea, a part of the auditory system, it constitutes the labyrinth of the inner ear, situated in the vestibulum in the inner ear." Got that? Riiight...and that was the easy part of the article! Basically, the vestibular system is based in your inner ear and orients you in your environment and controls balance. That's why you are dizzy when you have inner ear infections, and vertigo is an inner ear issue. Interestingly, the reason the world seems to spin when you are tipsy is that alcohol messes with your vestibular system. Next time you are tempted to over do, remind yourself to be kind to your vestibular system. :) And, like the others, the vestibular system sends messages to your brain to be processed.
Okay, that's how things are supposed to work. Clear as mud?

Now, here's the deal with preemies. The vestibular system is one of the last systems to develop in a fetus, so preemies are born without a fully developed vestibular system. So that's off to begin with. Then this preemie with an underdeveloped sensory system is traumatically introduced to the outside world instead of spending, say, another 12 weeks tucked away snugly in mom's womb. The preemie's immature brain immediately has to start processing sensory input that neither the sensory system nor the brain are really ready for. Think about it - the lights, the touch, the touch, the smells, the cold air - it's a lot to take in, even for a regular newborn. Ever notice that no baby enters the world smiling? So the immature brain has to process everything, on top of all the work it's doing to, oh, keep the baby alive, regulating the heartbeat, respiration, temperature, etc. But then, to make matters worse, these preemies are subjected to all kinds of additional (and necessary) sensory input - intubation, IV's, central lines, umbilical catheters, heel sticks every couple of hours, injections, etc., along with the stimuli we would consider normal but are very abnormal for a fetus/baby this age - even the lights and sounds of the NICU (both of which are intense - think florescent lighting and rooms full of beeping machines and busy people) must be taken in by the underdeveloped sensory system and processed by the underdeveloped brain. See where I'm going with this? All of this taken together basically messes things up. Their systems form a little bit off, and the brain doesn't learn how to correctly process the messages it receives, and it's hard to undo that damage. It's a necessary evil, of course, and when docs and nurses are in the midst of saving and sustaining a life, it's kind of at the bottom of the list, but it sure can leave an older preemie with what we call...drum roll...sensory issues.

Becca's sensory issues affect her in a few ways. We're picking up weekly physical therapy again since she's having trouble progressing because her vestibular system is out of whack (hard to stand and walk without it!) and the tactile messages that she is receiving likely aren't being processed correctly. Same goes for occupational therapy (though we've been weekly with them for a while now.) Also because those stimuli aren't being processed correctly, Becca (as you know by now) can't tolerate certain textures on her hands or in her mouth (or anywhere else, really, but those are the most problematic areas since they keep her from eating), so in occupational therapy and feeding/speech, we work on desensitization, which ought to help her brain learn how to process things correctly. For example, today in feeding therapy we stripped her down, and she played in chocolate pudding. Many toddlers would dive right in and welcome the opportunity to make a huge mess, but for a kid with sensory issues, it's really a challenge. She did great, though! That is, she did great in a relative sense: she tolerated the pudding on her hands and even some on her face for a few minutes, and she even finger painted with it a little bit. No, she didn't actually eat any (I would be all over licking chocolate pudding off my fingers!), but she did better than she has in the past. It's a really, really slow process, so we celebrate even "little" victories like this one.

And that takes me to some good news: the sensory system (and the nervous system in general) is very "elastic," meaning that it can adapt and form new pathways. I know a couple of kids who are completely missing their cerebellum (the part of the brain that controls movement), and their brains have adapted. Crazy. Seriously, our bodies are amazing, particularly our brains. You might have heard about people who are impaired in one sense making up for it in another, and this is why people who are blind can still learn to walk, for example, because their vestibular system becomes more refined and makes up for the lost visual input that is typically needed for motor development. And that's the point of all of this therapy: to retrain her compromised sensory system.

The other bit of good news is that NICU's have caught on to the sensory problems that preemies experience and many have taken steps to attend to "developmental care;" that is, they try to develop protocols that are more gentle on a preemie's sensory system and brain. For example, in Vandy's NICU, they cluster the babies care so that every three hours they change their diaper, take their temperature, adjust their position, and give them any feeds or meds that are due. Obviously they attend to a baby in between, but they try to do all the routine things together so that they aren't constantly disturbing them. Young preemies have thick blanket-like coverings over their isolettes to keep the lights out. (You may remember them from Becca's NICU pictures.) Nurses try to keep the noise level down by limiting visitors and not talking to each other too loudly. They probably do a lot of other things, too, and even some new ones that they have come up with in the past 2 years, but those are the big ones I remember.

Okay, that's all I got. Please leave any questions you have in the comments, and I'll try to address them in another post. And please leave any corrections or clarifications you have, and I'll try to address them in the same another post. :) And because you deserve a reward for making it to the end of this technical post: a picture! Here's Becca trying to orient herself in the space underneath my parents' coffee table. She likes to crawl into small spaces - and there are a lot she fits into!
p.s. It's not too late to make a donation! Help the March of Dimes find new ways to prevent sensory issues in tiny kids like Becca by donating here: To date, we are $645 from meeting our goal. Thanks!

Monday, March 8, 2010

March for Babies 2010

You may have noticed the button on the side of the blog...or you may have seen adorable purple signs sprouting up all over town and even facebook...but if you haven't, let me formally invite you to the 2010 March for Babies season! Wohoo!

Over the next couple of months, thousands of parents, nurses, therapists, grandparents, doctors, friends, compassionate bystanders, aunts, uncles, and, yes, NICU graduates will march in honor and support of the thousands of babies born sick and/or too soon. And that's right: thousands of babies are born prematurely every year in this country -- every month, even...actually, every week. That's ridiculous and mind-numbing and heart-wrenching. And you can see more of the statistics at this post from last fall. Prematurity flat out stinks. I mean, the fact that our kids' lives are forever affected (some more than others) by the conditions surrounding their birth just stinks. I mean, not to get all biblical on you, but who's sin is it? The baby's or the parents? The answer, of course, is nobody's, at least in the majority of the cases that are not caused by maternal neglect. But to those of us who experience the trauma of a premature birth, sometimes it does feel like a curse. And we're left asking why.

Well, they don't really get too much into the why questions (which are healthy to ask but often unanswerable), but the March of Dimes is making great strides in answering the how questions. How do we predict premature birth? How do we prevent premature birth? How do we help these tiny babies survive their traumatic entry into the world? How do we save their lives? How do we help them thrive? How do genes and their protein signals guide the formation of the brain, limbs, spinal cord, axial skeleton, and other organs during embryonic and fetal development? Just making sure you are still with me. That last question was explored by March of Dimes grant recipient Drs. Beachy and Tabin in 2008. But that's the kind of research that eventually leads to life-saving treatment for these tiniest of patients.

The March of Dimes goes beyond the technical how questions as well, to explore questions like: How can we best support and care for parents and family members of babies in the NICU? How can we educate high-risk populations of steps they can take pre-conception and prenatally to reduce the risk of their babies being born sick and/or too soon? How can we help parents recovering from the effects of premature birth? Or even more gravely, how can we support parents whose precious children lose their battle, parents who never get to take their babies home? How indeed?

The question for each of you lovely readers, then, is how are you going to help the March of Dimes tackle these tough questions? How are you going to take a stand, take a tiny hand, and make a difference in the lives of countless babies and families whose lives are forever changed when their little one - their itty bitty one - is born too soon?

Well, I have some ideas, of course!

You can:
  • March with us! Supermom, Superdad, and Itty Bitty Big Girl Becca will be walking in the Nashville March for Babies on Sunday, April 18th at 2:00 in Centennial Park. We'd love to have you join us! Maybe Becca will actually be taking steps by then!
  • Buy books! During March, if you make a purchase with Itty Bitty Books, I will donate 10% of your purchase price back to the March of Dimes. (This donation is in addition to our family's personal donation.) So if you've been thinking about making a purchase, March is a great time to do it!
  • Buy a t-shirt! Very special Team Itty Bitty t-shirts are in the works. Look for more information and the opportunity to purchase your very own in April!
  • And, of course, a flat-out donation is the most cost-effective way to make a difference! Simply visit to make a secure, tax-deductible donation. If you are not comfortable donating online, please leave a comment with your e-mail address, and I will send you our mailing address to which you can send a check made out to the March of Dimes; I'll get it to the right people.
Last year, I marched in honor of our own miracle, Itty Bitty Becca. If you need a refresher on our story, check out last year's March for Babies post here. In the past year, though, my view has broadened some as I have gotten to know many other families whose lives are touched by premature birth. This year, I march for:
  • Our friend Dylan, who was born only 4 weeks early, but suffered major complications and is severely handicapped as a result...but who is a feisty, loving teenager, the light of our church congregation, and the absolute apple of his mother's eye.
  • Becca's micropreemie boyfriend, Vince, born at 26 weeks, but now a veritable (and adorable!) chunk of a man!
  • Goofy Daxton and beautiful Eliza Grace, who were born even earlier than Becca, and who fight tooth and nail for every milestone and are blowing the odds out of the water every day.
  • Baby Austin, born last week at 25 weeks, fighting for his life - and winning!
  • And for sweet, sweet babies Jillian, Grace, Aubrie, and Dominic...who lost their battles, but will always be mommy and daddy's precious children. I walk so that no parent would have to know the pain they live with every day. And I walk to let them know that their children are not forgotten.
And so I ask you to walk with me, literally or metaphorically. Your donation means the world to families like us. They mean hope for the future. They mean the possibility of being spared this difficult road with future pregnancies. And they mean that you are still walking with us in our journey. Prematurity may be a curse...but it is well worth the blessing.

Help other babies get from here:

to here!