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Lenten Reflections: Growing and Thriving

Twin babies preemies

Photo: Pat Donahoo's twin daughters, courtesy of Pat Donahoo.

Monday, March 25

By Pat Donahoo

Babies! Whether it is mom, dad, grandparents, aunts or uncles, we all get so excited about babies. When we hear the news of expectant parents we throw parties and buy gifts and start planning what the life of the child will look like. We think about bright eyes and chubby cheeks and smiling, happy faces.

I planned all of those things for my first pregnancy, too. Then, at seven months along, I began to have problems with my health. In spite of a blizzard outside, I was sent to the hospital for tests. A quick x-ray (before the day of sonograms) showed that there were, in fact, two babies. Oh no! I need a second crib and a second car seat and twice as many clothes and bottles and diapers…..Well, at least I had two months to prepare.

40daysTen hours after my x-ray, in the middle of the blizzard, I went into labor. The doctor said not to wait, to get to the hospital immediately because the babies were coming too soon and we needed to be certain to get there before they were delivered. They arrived two hours later—about 12 hours from the time I found out there were two of them. They lost weight, had breathing problems, had to be fed intravenously. It was 16 days before I was permitted to hold them in my arms.
 
Scary? Challenging? Yes. But within a year they had each gone from weighing just three pounds to falling within normal development range. Because they had to be on oxygen those first few weeks of their lives they had to be tested for possible vision problems later. But, after those initial challenges they grew and developed normally and there were no residual difficulties.

How can preemie babies thrive? Why is it that some babies go full term and still struggle? The truth is there are a whole host of reasons. One of those reasons can be addressed: nutrition during the 1,000-day period from the start of a woman's pregnancy through her child's second birthday. I was blessed to have nutritious food, vitamins, and excellent medical care during my pregnancy. When this unexpected challenge came along my daughters were healthy enough to be able to overcome those early difficulties. How different might the outcome have been without that safety net? If they survived, they might still have had physical or learning challenges. Full-term babies without the proper care face those same challenges.

During this time of Lent, as we journey toward the cross we may travel in despair, or we may remember the rest of the story and the hope that the events at the cross birth. As we face this challenge of child nutrition, will we give in to despair or recognize the hope that lies in the fact that we can do something about it?

Pat Donahoo is executive director at Disciples Women.

 

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