Thursday, November 18, 2010

BIRTH STORY (and Call to Action): Sam I Am

We've never had a baby as a guest blogger before; but Sam is a special exception. Reposted courtesy of Birthways Family Birth Center. Sometimes it really does take a village. Let's do what we can.
My name is Samuel John Lee, my fans know me as "baby Sam" or "Sam I Am." My Mom, Cheryl, is an EMT, she was 26 weeks pregnant when she went into labor after a long shift helping others. She and I were really strong together and I stayed for just a few more days, but then I was born on 7-27-2010, weighing 2 lbs 5 oz, a full 3 1/2 months early. My due date was in the beginning of November.

It was very scary for my Mom, my Dad John, and my big sister Shelby. I was one of the lucky babies who has done better than the doctors expected, but I still need lots of help. I've been in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit since I was born and I was so sick that Sarasota Memorial had to send me to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

It's been very hard on my family. They tell me that we live in a place called Port Charlotte. I haven't been there yet, so I'm not really sure where it is, but I know it's really far away from where I am and my mom has a hard time getting to be with me all the time. She tried to go back to her job as an EMT in Fort Myers, which I guess is even further away, but it was just too much for me, with the 12 hour shifts and all the kept her away from me way too much!... I really need her to be with me, and my sister Shelby really needs her too; so my mom and dad made the brave decision to forgo the second income because they say I'm worth "more than all the money in the world" and they just want me to get better so I can come home! That's Mom's Christmas wish... that I'll be home for Christmas! (that's what I want too)

I have heard about the amazing community of families around here who help each other out when there is a need, so I thought I'd let all of you know how much my parents, sister, and I need your help. My mom doesn't like to ask for help, so my friends at Birthways said they'd help me get the word out. I can tell my Mom's real worried and I don't want her to worry. She has helped so many other people as an EMT, I figure, others will help her too. My Dad's working real hard, but since Mom can't work right now, there is not enough money to keep the bills paid.

My mom is working hard to provide me with enough pumped breastmilk, some from her and some from a milk bank. She says that is the best thing for me, and I think so too. I am not strong or well enough to nurse on my own always. I can't wait to be able to nurse full time!

I'm so proud of my family. They have been so brave and strong for me. And when my mom's with me, I do even better! So, if you could help my family pay some of the bills that are piling up, my mom can continue being with me and maybe I'll get big and strong enough to go home before Christmas!

I don't know how to use a computer yet, but the ladies at Birthways have been very helpful. I have my own Paypal account...whatever you can see to contribute would be a big help! You can also follow my progress on facebook.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dr. Hill's Editorial on Preterm Birth

The following column can be found in today's Sarasota Herald-Tribune here. Born in Sarasota will post follow-up commentary shortly.

The burdens of pre-term births are significant -- in terms of the individual's lifetime health, the medical care required and the economic costs expended. Simply put, reducing the rate of pre-term births is in everyone's interest and must become a priority.

The most recent national statistics show a 3 percent drop in the pre-term birth rate, to 12.3 percent in 2008 from 12.7 percent in 2007. Prior to this decline, the rate of pre-term birth had steadily increased for more than 20 years.

The modest decrease was encouraging, but pre-term birth remains a serious health problem -- an epidemic -- with more than 540,000 pre-term births annually.

In Florida, the pre-term birth rate in 2008 was 13.8 percent and has not declined in recent years; in other words, one of every seven babies is born too soon.

Nearly 240,000 babies are born annually in Florida -- more than 32,000 of them prematurely.

Even worse, each year 1,700 babies in Florida do not live to their first birthday.

Prematurity is the leading cause of newborn death and has increased more than 30 percent since the 1980s -- in both Florida and Sarasota County. Many of the county's newborns suffer serious health problems or die because of their early births. Preventing pre-term birth (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy) is critical to give more babies a healthy start.

These statistics are startling. Yet even more surprising is a growing trend of women electing to deliver their babies early.

Just because grandma is in town or daddy is off work is no reason to have a baby early.

A healthy full-term pregnancy is 39 to 40 weeks, yet we are seeing a rise in scheduled deliveries at 37 and 38 weeks -- a practice once thought to be safe.

But research is revealing the serious consequences of scheduling births even a few weeks too early. While not officially labeled "premature," babies born between 37 and 39 weeks are at significantly greater risk of complications compared with full-term babies.

More bothersome is a 2009 study that found many women do not clearly understand the definition of a full-term pregnancy.

Nearly a quarter of moms surveyed considered a baby of 34- to 37-weeks' gestation to be full term. Half defined full term as 37 to 38 weeks and 92 percent of women reported that giving birth before 39 weeks was safe. Some women mistakenly said that, since pregnancy is nine months, 36 weeks is safe as well. Clearly, this information shows we have a lot of work to do to educate mothers, their families and the community about the definition of a full-term pregnancy, which is 40 weeks.

Scheduled cesarean sections and elective inductions have become frequent and are viewed as an accepted way to avoid potential complications and problems during labor and delivery.

Unfortunately, those good intentions often result in health problems for newborns who may have to spend time in a hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, need a ventilator to help them breathe or have trouble feeding because of their early birth and may miss an opportunity for the benefits of breastfeeding.

The March of Dimes has invested millions of dollars in the fight to prevent pre-term births. Today the March of Dimes marks the eighth annual Prematurity Awareness Day by issuing its 2010 prematurity birth report card. Sadly, Florida will receive an "F" for the third consecutive year.

Florida can do better to help its pregnant women and their families lower the pre-term birth rate to a national goal -- 7.6 percent.

Hospitals and health care professionals can help by following guidelines to decrease elective deliveries before 39 weeks and recognize the warning signs of pre-term labor.

The March of Dimes has joined with other health organizations in an effort to eliminate early, elective scheduled inductions and cesarean sections -- those done without medical cause. The partners are launching an aggressive educational campaign for women and physicians.

With aid from the March of Dimes, a new tool has been developed in the fight to ensure all babies get to a full 40 weeks. In Florida, several hospitals -- including Sarasota Memorial Hospital and Manatee Memorial Hospital -- are taking a leadership role to address elective deliveries before 39 weeks and to teach the early recognition of symptoms and signs of pre-term labor.

These hospitals are using a new tool kit, which supports health-care providers, patients and hospital staff in changing delivery practices and making decisions to eliminate elective deliveries. Health care providers in Sarasota have always been concerned about reducing the risk and the number of pre-term births. We now expand our concern to ensuring babies have a full 40 weeks of pregnancy.

We want people in our community to know how they can lower the risk of an early birth by encouraging smoking cessation, preconception care and early prenatal care; promoting awareness of treatments for women with a history of pre-term births; avoiding multiple gestation from fertility treatments and unnecessary cesarean sections and inductions before 39 weeks of pregnancy.

Together pregnant women, their families and friends, policy leaders, the general public, health care professionals and hospitals can make a difference in the health of babies born in Florida and all across our county.

Washington Clark Hill, M.D., is a Maternal and Fetal Medicine Specialist at Sarasota Memorial Hospital and a member of the Board of Healthy Start Coalition of Sarasota County Inc.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Re-Post: BIRTH STORY: A Tale of Two Midwives

(In honor of Sage Marie's third birthday, we happily repost one of our favorite reader's birth stories. Written by Elizabeth Sniegocki, about the birth of Sage Marie, 11.10.07.)

One knelt next to me beside the birthing tub, modeling ever so gently how to release my breath with each contraction. Her presence in the room was ethereal – she was there, but invisible, offering guidance and support like an angel whispering in my ear.

The other crouched at my feet, her easy smile and grounded presence giving me confidence and encouragement. Her mindful touches and soft-spoken words offering empowerment; “Let your body guide you,” she whispered calmly. It was in this powerful, supported space that I gave birth to my daughter, Sage Marie.

I was blessed with the gift of two midwives at the home birth of my second child. One was Harmony Miller, LM, CPM, my midwife and maternity care provider. Over the course of my pregnancy, and during labor and delivery, Harmony provided thoughtful, thorough and professional mother-centered care. The other midwife in attendance was my dear friend, and midwife to my first child, Heidi Dahlborg, LM, who this time served as my birth assistant. Together, these women guided me through the most magical experience of my life.

I labored in the warm embrace of the water that filled a small inflatable pool near my bed, strategically placed to face my birth altar. Like my first home birth experience, the labor was short, escalating rapidly and lasting only about three hours. When it was time to push, my husband and my mother each held one of my hands. My 3-year-old daughter Selby danced near my feet with a wide smile on her face, clapping her hands and cheering me on. “You’re so strong mommy,” she said. I smiled through the pain and knew I was, in fact, very strong.

When the head crowned, Harmony told me I could reach down and feel my baby’s head. It was soft and fuzzy. She was almost here! Within minutes, my baby girl was born in the water, into the hands of her daddy, and in the comfort of her own home.

After the placenta was delivered, the umbilical cord cut and the baby weighed, measured, nursed and snuggled, my midwives focused their attention on me. They had prepared an herbal steam bath for my sore perineum, and as I sat over it, they chanted softly: “Woman am I, spirit am I, I am the infinite within my soul, I have no beginning and I have no end, all this I am.” Next, I was given a healing compress made with fresh aloe from my yard. Finally, they settled me into my family bed, where I was anointed with sweet-smelling rose water and fed warm, nourishing food and drink.

Like modern day wise women, my two midwives attended to me with love and support and skill. It is in the gifted hands of midwives such as these that the energy and traditions of ancient womanhood shall live on.