"To just let other families know they are not alone," is the passionate reply of Amanda Slater, who believes the public needs to be informed about a cause dear to her heart. "Whether it is multiples, or a single child, premature babies are born every day, and the families of those children need to know there are great resources available to them."
Nov. 16 has been designated "Prematurity Awareness Day" by the March of Dimes in response to the growing rate of premature babies being born daily across America. In Indiana, 12.5 percent of the babies born this year will be premature, in Clay County it is 10.9 percent, and each one will need all the help they can get to survive.
Amanda and Aaron Slater, along with both of their families, have spent the last year on an emotional roller coaster towards parenthood.
Amanda was successfully inseminated with three eggs after three attempts at in vetro fertilization. But the pregnancy became difficult for mother and children.
After several scares while working at Riddell National Bank, Amanda was hospitalized and placed on bed rest. She was monitored by St. Vincent's Family Life Center in Indianapolis.
She was connected to a monitoring station through the telephone line for two weeks before the decision was made to hospitalize Amanda and deliver the triplets. Due to critically low platelet levels and preeclampsia (a condition where high blood pressure combined with protein in the urine cause fluid retention in the mother's body) the triplets, at 29 weeks, were born on March 16, 2004.
After five days in the hospital, Amanda was released, but the triplets' lives would hang in the balance for another 72 days.
Approximately the size of a 2-pound spaghetti box, and weighing less than a 16-ounce bottle of pop, the children were placed in incubators with ventilators to assist breathing, and fed what little their tummies could stand through a tube.
"Premature babies do not have the ability to suck, swallow and breathe, making nursing an impossibility." Amanda explained.
Protein and fat supplements were fed intravenously to the children while they learned the fundamentals of sucking and breathing with a pacifier.
"Multiple births, whether through in vetro or natural, are always high-risk pregnancies." she said. Nearly 50 percent of premature births have no known cause, and account for nearly 24 percent of deaths in the first month of life.
That is why March of Dimes in January of 2003 launched the Prematurity Awareness Campaign to increase public awareness of the problems facing a child born prematurely and educating pregnant women, their families, and health care workers to recognize the signs of preterm labor while raising public and private funds for research.
Another valuable re-source available to parents of developmentally challenged children is Indiana's First Steps program.
Designed as an intervention for children with developmental delays, or who are showing signs of being at risk in the future, by providing services now to enrich their lives for the better.
Services available through First Steps include special education, a wide range of health and diagnostic services, occupational therapy, and family support, to name a few.
"It's a great program that people need to know about." Amanda said while taking a peek in the living room where her parents were watching Hank, Hayden, and Hannah attempting to take a nap. "They do so much to help all kinds of children; that the people, and the program, deserve recognition for all their good work."
The Slater family, who have grown even closer through this experience, have nothing but praise for everyone that helped to bring their three incredibly active children safely home. Understanding the costs and the health issues involved, Amanda laughed when asked if she'd like to have another child.
"Yes," she answered, but quickly shook her head. "But not multiples!"