Discovery Health Channel has embarked on yet another medical drama, this time with a view into the NICU
I have to admit I was pretty underwhelmed by it.
Let me say at the outset, that I have always had an issue with the term "miracle" baby, a term which was repeated throughout the show. My discomfort with the term "miracle baby" has nothing to do with any religious belief. To me terming one child a "miracle" because they struggled at birth seems to diminish the value of the life of the child who had a boring old 40 week gestation and uneventful birth. Personally, I think any baby who survives from an from embryo through 40 weeks of gestation and makes it through a vaginal birth is a miracle. It is amazing to me that most of us make it out that way in one healthy piece. But then there are the babies who make it to barely more than half of the requisite 40 weeks. I think of these babies, like Eliza, as "survivors." "Survivor" gives Eliza at least some of the well deserved credit for overcoming monumental hurdles and does not just credit some higher power for her health and progress.
Micro preemies, generally babies under 2 pounds, are a small percentage of the preemies born each year. Some estimates indicate that less that 1% of all preemies are micro preemies, which translates to a very small number of babies relative to even the preemie population. Given that small number, I recognize that the issues that we and our children face are not something that is going to be terribly relevant to a television producer who is trying to attract an audience, so I suspect our perspective will not matter much to the powers that be at Discovery Health. To a parent who spent months, not a few days, in the NICU, the Discovery Health show might have been better titled "NICU-lite."
To parents of micro preemies, I think the Discovery Health show perpetuated the idea that our babies just needed a few weeks at most until they fattened up and could go home. For sure, near term preemies often face far more problems than the public is aware. There is no doubt about this. But the show made it sound as if a 4+ pound baby was an incredibly tiny baby, when in fact that was the weight that Eliza (and probably most micro preemies) came home at after 100 days in the NICU.
This is a 4+ pound baby:
This is a 1 pound baby:
If the first show's agenda was to have an episode on near term preemies, then it should have simply stated that this was the focus of this particular episode. The problems that near term preemies face can be extremely difficult and it is incredibly important for the public to be educated to understand that each baby deserves a full 40 weeks in utero, that 36 weeks isn't "good enough." I am appalled when I hear women complain about how they can't wait to have their babies at 36 or 37 weeks. The baby needs 40 weeks for a reason.
The second episode was more of a public service announcement about the adverse effects of obesity on a pregnancy. An important topic no doubt, but not one that was particularly related to life in the NICU. The scenes in the NICU were minimal and more of a reminder of what havoc obesity and high blood sugar can cause.
I don't know what future episodes will hold and maybe Discovery Health will dare to have a show on a micro preemie and show some raw footage of the NICU life of a micro preemie. If not, you can always rent Little Man if you want to learn about the NICU life of a micro preemie. Unlike the first episode on Discovery Health, you will learn that not all mothers find the time, within a week of their baby's admission to the NICU, to have (or give a thought to) their hair, make up and nails (as did at least one featured mom).
Another good recent article on life after the NICU is this article in the Boston Herald.
I am hoping that future episodes will show a broader range of experience in the NICU and do a better job of explaining what is transpiring.
But it is television, so I am not holding my breath.