Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Preterm Birth: How It Affected My Family: "We Never Thought Anything like This Would Happen to Our Family"

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Preterm Birth: How It Affected My Family: "We Never Thought Anything like This Would Happen to Our Family"

Article excerpt

While one in eight babies are born prematurely in the U.S. annually, it's hard to believe that it will ever happen to you. In fact, when my husband Ryan and I found out we were pregnant for the first time, we were so excited. Being a second grade teacher I always had a deep love for kids and couldn't wait for the day when I'd have one of my very own. When I found out we were pregnant I thought it was finally my time to be a mother to the child I had always dreamed about.

My dream was finally becoming a reality. My pregnancy was progressing picture perfectly until suddenly, at 24-and-a-half weeks, my water broke. I was very nervous as I was rushed to the hospital. I knew it wasn't looking good when my physician told my husband and I that our baby's foot had gone through my cervix. This was very risky for the baby and we were told I'd have to deliver our baby as soon as possible to increase his chances of survival. Our first son, Ryan Brennan, was born via emergency cesarean section on January 28, 2005. Unfortunately, Ryan was significantly premature and it was too much for his little body to endure. On his fourth day of life Ryan passed away due to health complications. Losing a child is tragic and with time the pain eases, but it never goes away.

As my husband and I coped with our loss I began searching high and low for a resource to help explain this tragic event. Unable to locate a grieving resource for children, I decided to share our story. So I wrote a children's book called Heaven's Brightest Star ( Writing this book allowed me to explore my feelings about my son's loss and begin healing. I wish I had this book when I struggled with how to share the loss of Ryan to my second grade class. Heaven's Brightest Star is a special tool parents can use to help explain to children why sometimes the young, as well as the old, pass away. I hope my book will help other families experiencing similar situations feel less alone.


About eight months after Ryan passed away, my husband and I found out that we were pregnant for the second time. This time I knew that my history of premature birth with Ryan increased my risk of delivering prematurely in subsequent pregnancies. Armed with more knowledge about premature birth, my risks as well as the possible complications resulting from premature birth (cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, and hearing and vision loss), I consulted a Maternal Fetal Medicine physician to help guide my pregnancy--as I knew I was at high-risk for delivering prematurely again. From the very beginning of my second pregnancy I began having my cervical length monitored and was given progesterone shots to sustain the pregnancy for as long as possible.

While my physician used tools like testing cervical length and prescribing progesterone shots, it was important to both my husband and I that we wouldn't be surprised like we had been with Ryan's early delivery. To better determine my risk for premature birth, and to determine when, if ever, this would happen again, my physician talked to me about using FullTerm, The Fetal Fibronectin Test. This test determines the presence of fetal fibronectin, or the glue that holds the baby in the womb. …

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