November is Prematurity Awareness Month, and it's heartbreaking to think of the number of families having to deal with this occurrence. In the United States, about 380,000 babies are born prematurely each year. That's 9.8 percent. 1 in 10. Whichever number resonates most with you, it's all a way to say that too many babies are being born too soon. The U.S. preterm birth rate is among the worst of high-resource nations. I can remember a nurse telling us when I was in labor, back in 2009, that I was the 3rd expectant mother to go into premature labor just that week. While it's more common than many people realize, I don't know if I'll ever think it's normal.
There's no single primary cause that has been linked to premature birth. Though there are sometimes similarities, the stories associated with these cases are as diverse and unique as the people living through them. I've never heard the same story twice and they all have their place on a polarizing spectrum ranging from Loss and Grief to "You would never know if we didn't tell you" Miraculous. My story falls on the Loss and Grief end of the spectrum, and here's what it taught it me...
WHAT I LEARNED FROM HAVING A PREMATURE BABY
1. No matter how badly you desire a thing, you don't want it prematurely. I get it. The vision you have for it is clear, and so you’re excited, overjoyed…and rightfully so. You can see it; it’s within your grasp. It's so close that you can literally feel it. It’s real and it’s really yours. But here's what you have to know: The manifestation of a thing doesn't necessarily equal the maturity of that thing. And you truly don’t want anything before its scheduled to come to you. Your don't want it before it's ready. The season and timeline that a particular process comes with is significant and purposeful, down to the week…even the day. It’s worth the wait. As excited as I was to meet my daughter and hold her and see her sweet little face, the brutal truth is that I did not want to meet her in the 23rd week of a 40-week process. Actually, my Karis was born at 23 weeks and 6 days. Just even getting to that 24th week would have made a world of difference, both medically, as far as chances of viability, and legally as far as what determines constitutional life in the United States...(but that's another conversation for another day.) Just believe me when I say, it's worth it to trust the fullness of process.
2. Anything that arrives prematurely has risk of dying. If it does live, its life will likely be more difficult. This does not mean that it won’t come with much joy, but it will require a special endowment of strength. God is God no matter the outcome. Every one of His promises still applies to you and your situation.
3. Love and desire are not enough to override the effects of a premature process. But God’s love toward you is enough to keep you at peace while all kinds of things are happening that are beyond your control. If my love could have saved my baby’s life, she would be here with me right now. But she is not…and God is still God and He is still faithful. There is a Karis-shaped hole forever in my heart, and even on the days when it feels like it's bleeding and growing and painfully swelling, God continually fills it with His love, comfort, healing, and ultimately His purpose.
4. Every life has purpose and significance, no matter how brief. My daughter lived for just a few hours, and in those moments, my life changed forever. Giving birth to her simultaneously birthed a purpose in me that I am certain I would not have otherwise realized.
I am a mother because of her.
I have tasted the depths of parental love because of her life.
I am more compassionate because of her.
I am stronger because of her.
Even in my weak moments (and there are more of them than I can count), there are still elements of strength because in the story of her life, I am a survivor and an overcomer.
I see the world in amazing ways that I never would have had it not been for her birth, her life, and her death.
Truly, a person’s purpose outlives their life. Even in death, my daughter’s purpose lives in me.
I gained lifetimes of wisdom in the few moments of her life.
She made me a better person. She makes me better still. I live to make her proud.
In loving memory of my darling, KARIS ALAYNA