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Prematurity in the Media



Spoiler Alert

Our first family photo (28 weeker).

With premature birth being a huge concern in this country, over half a million babies are born too soon each year, it’s important to spread knowledge and awareness. Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed storylines of prematurity touched upon within TV shows that I watch. Not me going out of my way to check an episode out because I heard something would be airing, but things that I actually watch. 


On the most recent episode of “This Is Us,” Kate and Toby brought their son into the world at twenty-eight weeks. While their story looked almost nothing like my own, I knew the triggers that I was going to face and had anxiety over it the entire day leading up to the 9pm start time. I know it sounds silly and some may wonder why I even watched, but the truth is: I needed to. I had to see it because, even though it’s just a TV show, it’s a part of the story. When talking about my own life, I don’t skip over my son’s birth because it’s “too sad.” His prematurity is a part of my story. I can’t just close my eyes and forget. It happened.


I applaud the writers, cast, and the whole team who works on the show for their ability to handle tough situations sensitively and honestly, and this was no exception. There was vulnerability in the performances, which is why it was just as triggering as I expected it would be. And I’m ironically happy that it was because had it not been authentic in its own right, as no two stories are the same, the conversation surrounding it couldn’t be just as real. 


I saw a lot of comments from people about how these situations are “so depressing,” how babies that small look “so sickly,” and how they “couldn’t even imagine something that terrible” happening to them. It reinforced my fears that my son will never have a normal reaction to his birth story. It won’t be a story of growth and triumph, but one about how we were “that family” plagued by such tragedy, “how sad.” Don’t get me wrong: I get it, it’s scary. I know this because I lived it and still continue to face the challenges every single day. Prematurity is surrounded by uncertainty and fear, sadness and pure anxiety. A life brought into this world, however, is not unfortunate even when the circumstances are not ideal. There are countless stories of beating the odds and annihilating statistics and that is not a tragedy. I never want my son to be looked at with pity when, in fact, he is without a doubt the strongest person I know.


RELATED: Attention moms! Learn about your birthing options. 


We should do everything in our power to prevent prematurity from affecting even more families. Arriving into the world considerably earlier than expected can cause a child many setbacks, some temporary and others more serious and permanent, not to mention the extensive complications that could arise. It’s a very serious issue that must be addressed. However, in the journey of a child’s life, prematurity in itself is not a period, it’s a comma in a story. They are not a tragedy, they’re a force. To that point, my favorite part of the episode is when Toby comments about his new son’s size, “He’s just so tiny. He’s doesn't look like like regular...” and Kate cuts him off, “He’s not.” It’s true, he’s more than the story he was given. He’s more than tiny. He’s special. 


For the surviving warriors, and even for those who are lost, we must turn tears into action. Don’t cry for “Kate and Toby” or [insert real-life preemie parent(s) here]; support them, help advocate with and for them, embrace them and lift them up! Together, we adults can all be just as much of a force. 


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Underestimated Strength is a collection of posts all about our journey through life as we navigate preemie parenting after the NICU. You can read my posts here every Tuesday! Also, feel free to follow me on Instagram, where I speak freely about our story and advocacy.

Do you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions? Contact me via email: kristina.mulligan.blogs@gmail.com


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