Ashlee Wells Jackson is a photographer, the founder of the 4th Trimester Bodies Project, and a mother of three premature children – Xavier, born at 28 weeks and now 10 years old, and twin girls, Nova (in the pictures) and Aurora, who were born at 24 weeks. Aurora was stillborn due to complications resulting from a condition called Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome. Girls’ Globe interviewed Ashlee about what World Prematurity Day means for her and her family.
Why is it important to have World Prematurity Day? What in your opinion is the main purpose for it?
World Prematurity Day is very important to build awareness of premature birth. This is something that many people never think about until it happens to them which means, we’re addressing the issue too late. Over 40% of premature births happen for unknown reasons and we need more research to understand why. And we need more options to treat women and children to give everyone access to not only 40 weeks but their full potential.
You are a mother of premature children – what does World Prematurity Day mean for you on a personal level?
I am. My son Xavier was born at 28 weeks in 2005 for reasons still unknown and my Identical twin daughters arrived at 24 weeks due to an infection acquired during an intrauterine surgery. My daughter Aurora didn’t make it and both Xavier and my surviving twin Nova have life long special needs directly related to their prematurity. World Prematurity Day is a day for us to share our stories, to have visibility and hold space for our early birds.
Are there ways to prevent babies being born prematurely? Is there something expecting mothers can do, and what role does the health services sector play in preventing premature births?
While having proper prenatal care is crucial to a healthy pregnancy – prematurity can not always be prevented. I am the poster mother for that. My son’s pregnancy was textbook in perfect health until I went into labor that couldn’t be stopped and while my daughter’s pregnancy was high risk there again wasn’t anything more medical professionals could do. This is why we need more research and options.
Why is it important to raise awareness about prematurity?
Awareness saves lives. The more people are aware of how often prematurity happens and how far reaching the effects the more we can collectively do to address the issue through education and support.
What can we – the general public – do to help this cause? How can we support families with children who were born prematurely?
The general public can help by listening to and advocating for families who have been there. Again, education and awareness are so important. For families with children that are born prematurely support is always welcomed. Listen to them, hear there stories, if you can give these parents a much needed break, a hug, a hand – I’m certain they’ll take it. Our days are filled with therapies and doctors appointments and often uncertainty. Our children are amazing though, ask any preemie parent and I know they’ll tell you that never knew the littlest of people could be so amazingly strong.
November is Prematurity Awareness Month and November 17th marked World Prematurity Day. To learn more about Ashlee, her family and especially the remarkable journey of her surviving twin daughter, Nova, please visit her Facebook Page and Instagram account.
All images courtesy of Ashlee Wells Jackson, used with her permission.