By Anna David

 

The March of Dimes’ March for Babies takes place Saturday, April 26, starting at Rose Quarter Commons.

The mission of March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality.

Every year they raise funds through individual, family, and company teams. These groups walk across Portland wearing all manner of memorial t-shirts, waving banners and carrying children, and smiling all 6.2 miles because their lives were touched, some just briefly, by remarkable children.

Miranda dressed as a bug for Halloween

Miranda dressed as a bug for Halloween

Fundraising efforts and participation hinge on translating dry statistics into compelling stories that motivate others to donate or join the walk.

When our daughter was born 14 weeks early, I had no idea that one in nine babies are born prematurely. I hope our story will inspire you to see past the numbers and get involved in this worthy cause.

Mount Tabor is a great neighborhood and my husband and I waited five long months for the purchase of our house on 58th to be completed.

It wasn’t long after unpacking the last of our boxes that we became pregnant. After a lovely summer with barbecues and the customary housewarming, the dreary fall weather, combined with an increasing pregnancy-induced lethargy conspired to keep us mostly indoors.

In December, at 20 weeks we were told Miranda was small for her age. There were tests, ultrasounds, extra appointments, and many sleepless nights while they searched for a reason for her growth restriction. At my biggest, I gained 10 pounds and might have been mistaken in my stretch pants and t-shirts for an out-of- shape yoga student instead of a 5 month pregnant woman.

At 26 weeks, Miranda was 22 weeks in size, all tests were inconclusive, and I was having nightly chest pains of excruciating severity. The doctors wanted to hospitalize me for the remainder of my pregnancy, and only days later the decision was made for us.

Both Preeclampsia and HELLP presented themselves at the final hour and an emergency c-section was performed to deliver our baby. Preeclampsia is a serious condition that causes blood vessels to constrict, resulting in high blood pressure and reduced blood flow to the vital organs of the mother and potentially the baby in utero.

HELLP syndrome is a further complication related to Preeclampsia that causes the breakdown of red blood cells, liver damage, and low platelets necessary for blood clotting.

These life-threatening complications posed a significant enough risk that our only option was to deliver as soon as possible. Miranda was born into the world weighing a mere one pound, two ounces at 26 weeks and 4 days old. She was the smallest baby many of the staff had ever cared for or seen in person.

Before Miranda came home, we would spend 80 days in the Randall Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Peter and I would drive in for her morning care, he would bike to work from the hospital, I would sit with her during the day, drive home mid-afternoon, and we would return for her evening care.

On day two, we were able to change her doll-sized diapers and take her temperature. On day three, I was able to hold her an hour, skin-to-skin in what they call, “kangaroo care.” Peter held her for 45 minutes on her sixth day.

Between days of life, pounds and ounces, mLs of breast milk, heart rates and oxygen levels, blood pressure and hematocrit, our life was all about numbers for what felt like an eternity.

While we couldn’t have chosen better care for Miranda, all her “firsts” were to a soundtrack of whirring, beeping, and bubbling machines in the sterile environment of a hospital.

The threat of germs and contagions was so strong while hospitalized that, aside from staff, only three family members were able to see her right after she was born. It would be several months before any of our other friends or family would meet our daughter.

Miranda had her bad days but on the whole her NICU “course” was thankfully uneventful.

It is not uncommon for premature babies to suffer a variety of respiratory, heart, digestive, vision, and brain issues and we’re fortunate she grew and thrived as well as she did. Apart from her size, Miranda has grown to be a healthy, happy little girl with no lingering issues.

Given her size, charm, and tenacity we gave her the nickname, “Tiny Bug Wonder”. Miranda’s journey changed our lives forever and we couldn’t be more proud of her strength, courage, and resilience.

She came home on April 11, 2013, weighing just over 4 lbs. There was little fanfare as we played it safe until the end of cold/flu/RSV season and adjusted to having a baby at home.

Over the summer, we were able to enjoy company and a few outings. Once fall arrived, cold/flu/RSV season came again so we’ve been in isolation redux to protect Miranda’s immature immune system. These measures are only necessary for the first year but we’re certain it’s worth the social sacrifice.

In 34 years I’m not sure I’ve ever looked forward to summer as much as we do now. I’m genuinely excited for yard work and picnics on the lawn that will bring opportunities to properly meet and greet our neighbors and show off our daughter. I promise she’ll steal your heart with a smile, just like she’s stolen ours.

As a celebration of Miranda’s experience and in honor of all the babies like her, we’re walking in the March for Babies come April 26.

The many causes of prematurity remain a challenge to the medical community, but with the support of organizations such as the March of Dimes as well as doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, lactation consultants, and blood and milk donors, the chances of survival and treatment for premature babies become better every year.

Find out more about the walk and team information at www.marchforbabies.org/team/t2118030. No contribution is too small — we learned that from Miranda.