National Birth Defects Prevention Month reminds me of the importance of babies and their stories. This is The Hospital Baby I Will Never Forget and National Birth Defects Prevention Month tips for moms. This post is sponsored by March of Dimes. All opinions are my own.
Photo credits: Ella Lu Photography
The Hospital Baby I Will Never Forget
So small in such a big world. Did I ever share my daughter’s birth pictures? It’s amazing how alert she was from day one. She didn’t want a miss a minute of the action – even for pictures. How small and sweet she was. That new baby smell in full force. Oh, how I miss those days.
Over my 6+ years as a pediatric nurse, I’ve taken care of so many children. Different races, different backgrounds, different homes, different personalities, different sicknesses. Each child I cared for has really shaped my life – as a person and a parent. Some kids left a bigger impression than others. Some still creep back into my memory banks even today. Some never left – permanently etched into my mind. Some still bring me to tears.
January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. And as I was writing this post in partnership with March of Dimes to share some National Birth Defects Prevention Month tips, memories of a little baby girl I cared for flooded my mind. This is her story, the hospital baby I will never forget, and how she shaped me into the parent I wanted to be for my babies.
I Left My Hospital Shift in Tears
Every hospital shift is a surprise. You never know what situation you’ll be in, what people you’ll meet, who’s life will be in your hands. And as I get older, I admit the memories have faded a bit, but the emotions of that job are still with me, even though I left over 7 years ago. But one memory remains fresh in my mind – a preemie baby girl.
This baby girl was so sweet and so tiny with her pink wrinkled skin and big eyes. I could hold her entire body in the palm of my hand. But her mom was also addicted to opioid drugs while she was pregnant. Born premature and with a serious birth defect, this sweet baby girl would have to face a lifetime of struggles just to survive. And no mom to take care of her. I remember the day I rocked her to sleep, her chest barely a pea on the size of my own – tears streaming down my face.
Why did her life have to be so hard?
It’s unfair, the life she had been given. Tubes, wires, medicines, inconsolable crying, trembling from her own battle with opioid addiction – I imagined her life where she would never be able to play on a playground or enjoy solid food. I wasn’t even a mom yet, but rocking that little baby to sleep that day left an impression on me that would affect the rest of my life. Whenever I was ready to become a mom, I was going to give my kids every possible chance to live life to the fullest. I was going to do my part to bring healthy babies into this world.
National Birth Defects Prevention Month
January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month. And as a huge supporter of March of Dimes, I love that this leading nonprofit for the health of moms and babies really cares about talking about this taboo subject. We don’t talk enough about birth defect prevention. We should. 1 in every 33 babies born in the U.S. (that’s 120,000 babies) are born with birth defects – a major cause of infant death and lifelong disability.
I know that some birth defects cannot be prevented. This is NOT that conversation. And I hope the moms reading this who have been affected by children born with birth defects – I am sending you love and giving you the BIGGEST possible hug. Please don’t read this post as a jab at your motherhood journey. This message is a gentle reminder for all of the women who dream of bringing a beautiful child into this world – and it starts with “Best for You, Best for Baby.”
Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby
A healthy baby doesn’t begin at conception. It begins with taking care of YOU. There are ways that we can increase a woman’s chances of having a healthy full-term pregnancy and a healthy full-term baby. And it all starts with a healthy mom with these National Birth Defects Prevention Month tips:
- See your health care provider for a pre-pregnancy checkup. Be sure to discuss
all your medications, including both prescription and over-the-counter medicines
and any vitamins and supplements.
- Take a vitamin supplement containing 400 micrograms of folic acid every day,
even before you become pregnant. If taken before and in the first weeks of
pregnancy, folic acid, a B vitamin, is proven to help prevent serious birth defects
of the brain and spine. It’s also a good idea to eat foods that contain folate, the
natural form of folic acid, including lentils, green leafy vegetables, black beans,
and orange juice. March of Dimes also recommends foods made from enriched
grain flour, such as bread, pasta and cereals; and foods made from enriched corn
masa flour, such as cornbread, corn tortillas, tacos and tamales.
- Get to a healthy weight, before pregnancy.
- Make sure your vaccinations are up to date. Ask your provider about
vaccinations you need before pregnancy, including the flu shot and the pertussis
(whooping cough) booster. It’s also a great idea to make sure vaccinations are
current for everyone in your family to help prevent the spread of harmful
- Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use harmful drugs during pregnancy.
- Smoking during pregnancy can cause dangerous chemicals to damage
the placenta and/or reach the baby’s bloodstream.
- No amount of alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy, and its
use can cause major birth defects.
- Opioid use in pregnancy can cause neonatal abstinence syndrome
(NAS) and premature birth in babies.
- If you need help to quit, talk to your health care provider or contact:
- Smokefree.gov (1-800-QUIT-NOW);
- National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, (800) 622-2255;
- Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator, (800) 662-4357.
- Smoking during pregnancy can cause dangerous chemicals to damage
Fast Forward to My Motherhood Journey
I never forgot that hospital baby. I still wonder where she is today. But as I became a mom, bringing two full-term beautiful children into this world, I have that baby to thank. Every time I stepped on the scale, said no to a glass of wine, got my booster shot, or took my folic acid – it was because of that day. I promised to do my part so I could have these moments and these memories with my own babies. How time flies. Looking back, my daughter’s birth photos remind me of that hospital baby.
This month, National Birth Defects Prevention Month, I pray that we can empower every mom and every family to do their part – “Best for You, Best for Baby.” Healthy babies begin with healthy moms. And for over 80 years, March of Dimes has been leading the fight for the health of our moms and babies with research, education, programs and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. For more information and more National Birth Defects Prevention Month tips, visit CDC’s website at cdc.gov or March of Dimes at marchofdimes.org or nacersano.org. Visit shareyourstory.org for comfort and support.