Let me just say that I HATED public speaking in college. In fact, If I told you I never chugged a beer before class to ease my nerves, I'd be lying. That being said, I'm am super nervous about getting up in front of tons of people and speaking. I keep trying to remind myself that my reasons for doing this are much bigger than my fears.
I am doing this to support the beautiful miracle babies who are born too soon every single day. I'm speaking for all the preemie parents who are currently sitting with their arms through tiny isolette holes, holding their baby's tiny hand, or struggling with the emotional repercussions that come with having a preemie. I'm taking a stand so that I know what my family and I went through with Lea will never be in vain. God has taught me so much through our journey and given me so much knowledge, that I know he wants me to use it. I've always wondered how God would use me, and I feel like this is it. If He has faith in me, then I need to learn to have faith in myself.
And if I had any doubt at all that this is where God wants me, I got some serious reassurance today. One of Lea's NICU nurses contacted me to put me in touch with another preemie mother who had stumbled across my blog, not realizing we'd been in the same NICU. Well come to find out, my new preemie-momma friend has experience as an advocate herself, and used to coach people to testify before the state house and senate. She has experience testifying as well, and of course had tons of advice and tips for me to make me more prepared for Wednesday. Coincidence? I think not.
Please wish me luck on my first venture advocating for the tiniest of humans. I may not be the best public speaker, and I may stumble over a word or two, but I am going to have faith that God will "qualify the called," and help me through it. And just to be clear... if you ever feel that God has called upon you to do something that you don't think you can do, refer back to the saying above.
Below is the letter that I wrote to Senator Sherri Smith Buffington, which I will be reading Wednesday, sharing my support for Senate Bill 662.
Dear Senator Sherri Smith Buffington,
I am writing this letter to you today to express my strong support of your introduction of Senate Bill 662.
On January 4, 2011, I gave birth to my daughter Lea at the gestational age of 29 weeks. She entered this world as a micro-preemie, weighing in at a mere one pound, 14 ounces, earning herself the nickname “Thumba-Lea.” She spent 64 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at East Jefferson General Hospital, where she received the highest quality of care imaginable. For 64 days, everyday, twice a day, my husband and I visited that NICU. We’d hold Lea’s hand through the tiny porthole in her isolette, we’d watch as the nurse bathed and weighed her, and once a day, if it was a good day, one of us would have the chance to hold her. Each morning we’d wait nervously for the phone call from the Neonatologist, giving us an update on Lea’s prognosis. Weeks passed, and Lea learned to breathe on her own without respiratory support, and began to drink from a bottle, even if it was just a few cubic centimeters at a time. Our patience and faith were tested again and again, but our sweet Thumba-Lea’s fighting spirit inspired us to remain positive. After a very long 64 days, she was finally ready to come home.
Lea was discharged from the hospital on Mardi Gras day, and my husband and I carefully paraded our tiny five-pound miracle home. We left the hospital with a thick stack of paperwork, our baby girl attached to a breathing monitor and a wide array of verbal instructions regarding follow-up care. For two new, young parents, the entire discharge experience was quite overwhelming. Much of the information given to us regarding follow-up healthcare and services fell on preoccupied ears. Instructions came from many different sources over the weeks, leading up to Lea’s discharge, but unfortunately, not all instructions were put to memory, due to the volume of information and distractions at hand.
Once we were safely home, I had many questions, thoughts and fears. In hindsight, though I had the support of my husband, family and friends made in the NICU, another support system would have been quite beneficial. To have the same type of support we’d experienced in the NICU for those 64 days would have made a world of difference in our baby’s homecoming and months to follow. One of the most important pieces of information I had forgotten was enrolling Lea in Early Steps. During a visit to the NICU months later to say hello to our dear nurses, one of them reminded me about the program. Had we not visited that day, I fear I would have completely missed the opportunity to take advantage of such a remarkable program, to which I completely owe Lea’s strong developmental progress.
I was one of the lucky preemie parents, as I had a world of support from my family. I think about the single parents, the teen mothers and others who do not have the support that I had. My heart breaks for these parents, knowing the stress involved in bringing a premature baby home, but it is a great relief to know that Senate Bill 662 could provide the support that all preterm parents desperately need when bringing their babies home.
Having experienced all that comes with being a preterm parent, I now stand as an advocate for preemie babies and their families. This is why I believe so passionately that Senate Bill 662 should be passed, so that support for preterm parents can be improved, inevitably improving the outcomes for preterm infants in Louisiana.