I'm not a huge basketball fan, so I don't know too much that happens in that world. But when my phone started blowing up with friends, family and colleagues texting me this weekend about how I needed to reach out to a basketball player, I knew something was up. Turns out, Cleveland Cavalier's player, JR Smith and his wife Jewel, delivered their sweet daughter Dakota extremely prematurely. They said "5 months early" but since pregnancy and prematurity is counted in weeks, not months, my best guess is she was born around 23 weeks.
As a mother of a 24 weeker, my heart broke for them. I know the devastation of having a pregnancy end so soon.
Of seeing your baby before his/her body is ready for the world. Of feeling like you failed your baby and feeling completely helpless to protect your baby against the lights, sounds...even oxygen..that s/he is just not ready for yet. Of not knowing if you'll be able to bring the baby home.
I'm so grateful to them for announcing the birth, acknowledging that:
“We know we’re not the only family going through this, who has been through this, and who will ever go through it, that’s why we decided to share what we’re going through with you guys,
The more awareness that we bring to extreme prematurity, the more families like mine and theirs can know they're not really alone, even though the journey is very lonely.
I knew I had to reach out and I have so many tips as a perinatal wellness professional and as a former NICU mom to couples like them and readers like you on how to navigate the NICU when you're balancing fear with worry and grief.
Here are my top two tips on where to start:
For additional tips on how to navigate the NICU, email me for the New NICU Parent checklist, filled with over 40 questions you must ask your neonatologist and nurses once your baby is born and admitted to the NICU. These questions will help you be an involved, informed parent in the NICU and teach you how to advocate for your baby so they can get the best medical care they need to grow and thrive.
Preterm birth, even extreme preterm birth, can happen to anyone
Being wealthy or having access to good quality health care doesn't make you immune. Keeping up with your pregnancy wellness plan is essential to lowering your risk of becoming a preemie parent. And being an involved and informed parent in the NICU helps your baby's health tremendously.
My heart goes out to JR, Jewel and little Dakota. I know it's going to be a very long, bumpy road ahead and I send them strength and love.