On December 31, 2004, my daughter, Natalie, was born at 34 weeks of gestation, changing our lives forever. My wife had a pregnancy complication at 30 weeks of gestation called placental abruption – a condition in which the placenta separates from the uterine wall. This condition can lead to complications for both the mother and the baby, and it has been the cause of morbidity and mortality for pregnant women in the United States and worldwide. Fortunately, with the help of my partners and the great care provided at SHARP Mary Birch Hospital for Women, Natalie’s birth was successfully delayed for another 4 weeks. Because the situation involved my wife and my yet-to-be-born daughter, I was overwhelmed by what was as stake. Following the hardship of a 2-week hospital stay, with constant uncertainty about Natalie’s health, and concern over my wife’s well being, the outcome was favorable.
Although my family’s challenging pregnancy resulted in the successful birth of my healthy baby girl, this is not the case for many women across our country.
- Preterm birth is the #1 cause of neonatal mortality in the United States
- Approximately 11.5% of all live births occur before term in the United States
- Preterm births are responsible for 75% of neonatal mortality and 50% of long-term neurological impairments in children
Furthermore, despite all efforts and advances in trying to screen and treat women in preterm labor, the incidence of preterm birth has not changed significantly over the past 45 years.
I did not completely comprehend what it really meant to love someone unconditionally until my daughter, Natalie, was born. A key element that separates the human race is our “Thinking Brain”, or the neocortex. The neocortex is the center that affords us our thought processes and rational thinking patterns. The sense of responsibility that a mother or father feels towards their child is so strong that it completely bypasses the “Thinking Brain” when their child is in danger.
When Natalie was suffering from the flu, I remember the numerous times my wife and I had said to one another that we wished it were one of us who was ill and not our daughter. I would risk my life in a heartbeat if it would ensure the safety and well being of my child – this is true for every good parent out there. This is the overwhelming power of unconditional love.
During the past ten years, the opportunity to take care of high-risk pregnant women at the San Diego Perinatal Center and SHARP Mary Birch Hospital for Women has changed my life. In my practice, it is not uncommon for women to spend months on bed rest in the hospital or at home, due to pregnancy complications. There are many times during a week that I have had to give very tough news to couples and families regarding ultrasound findings or the prognoses of their pregnancies. I have seen families lose their homes and businesses because of the sacrifices they have made during their pregnancies to ensure the best possible outcome for their newborn. It is always humbling to see how families come together during times of crises and I am especially impressed by the strength of these mothers who are fighting for their children’s lives. I am forever grateful for what I have learned and continue to learn from my patients.