November is Prematurity Awareness Month, a chance to raise awareness about the challenges that families experiencing preterm birth face and how we can support them. One in ten babies are born prematurely, and we've heard so many stories from parents, including those in our community whose children spent the first months of their life in the NICU. We love hearing stories and seeing pictures of these little fighters in our pajamas, and we’ve had the opportunity to speak with Sydney F. about her experience and her daughter's time in the NICU.
Tell us a bit about yourself, Scarlett, and your family.
My name is Sydney Fetsco. My daughter, Scarlett was born prematurely at 26 weeks in December 2019. My son Harrison was born by VBAC delivery full term in June 2021. I work as a Registered Nurse. We live in West Virginia in a historic home built in 1906.
How many weeks was Scarlett when she was born?
Scarlett was born at 26 weeks 3 days. I suffered from a condition known as PPROM, Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes at only 23 weeks pregnant with her. PPROM is a condition when the amniotic fluid ruptures before term at 37 weeks in pregnancy. The amniotic fluid is critical for fetal growth and development, and results in preterm birth. I went 3 weeks with amniotic fluid, remaining hospitalized before I spontaneously went into labor. Scarlett was born by emergency c-section on my 24th birthday on December 7th, 2019. She weighed 1 pound 13 ounces at birth.
What was your experience like in the NICU?
Scarlett faced many challenges in the NICU. She had a grade II brain bleed, low birth weight, a urinary tract infection, a right lung collapse, which required two chest tubes, and stage 2 retinopathy of prematurity in her eyes. She had to learn to feed from a bottle. She would spend a total of 96 days in the NICU, and she came home on supplemental oxygen.
Did you have any memorable moments with nurses or loved ones during your time in the NICU that gave you hope during that difficult time?
Scarlett spent Christmas 2019 in the NICU. There were many gifts, cards, and donated items left by her isolette during this time. It was very heartwarming that organizations, past NICU families, and other community members had left gifts for us in NICU during the holiday season. The NICU nurses also made many crafts with Scarlett’s hand and foot prints and hung them in her NICU room.
What advice can you share for families going through a premature birth?
My best advice would be to take it day by day in the NICU. Some days are good, and some days are bad in the NICU. Each day will be different. Take lots of pictures and videos, you will want them later. Remember, you will get through this.
Why is it important to raise awareness about Prematurity in November and beyond?
It’s important to raise awareness for prematurity because 1 in 10 births are premature. There are many pregnancy complications, which result in preterm birth and it’s important to be aware of them. I never thought I would be in a situation of having Scarlett at 26 weeks, and I didn’t know what to expect until it happened. Raising prematurity awareness is extremely important to help past and future NICU families not feel so alone.
How can others help support those with premature babies?
Look into your local Children’s Hospital NICU and if they allow donations or gifts to current NICU families. Something as simple as a handwritten card made such an impact on me during my NICU time. Check in with NICU families and see what you can do for them outside of the NICU, such as cleaning, meals and grocery shopping, pet care, and other errands.
We’re so grateful to Sydney for so willingly sharing her story to help raise awareness for Prematurity Awareness Month. We always love hearing your stories and seeing families connect. Please feel free to join us in our LS VIP Facebook community to connect with other parents this month and beyond.