It's About Healthy Babies

It's About Healthy Babies
  • April 19, 2018
  • Jerome Robinson

A Conversation with Natalie Hill Cerpa

On May 5th the Memphis community will come together again to support the March of Dimes March for Babies. I sat down with Ambassador Mom Natalie Hill to talk about the walk and her very personal story that brought her to this role of event supporter.

Natalie first tells us about the moment that her life changed. "Pregnant with my first child and going into labor at 32 weeks came as a shock. At first, I thought it might be “practice labor” and I would just ride it out, but within a few hours the labor took over and I knew it was real. So many thoughts go through your mind in those moments when you’re sitting and listening to the signals your body is sending, but the obvious paramount concern my baby okay?"  


Despite all her fears, Alexander Cerpa joined the world early at 32.5 weeks, weighing in at 4 lb. 6 oz and 17 inches long. Natalie continues her story; "Lying in the hospital bed, the moment our baby was born, I was ecstatic to hear his cries and see him moving. Overwhelming feelings of relief, attachment, and love took over and the previous pain from 30 hours of labor became so small in that instant. While holding him for the first time for just a few minutes before he had to go to the NICU, I told myself I will never have enough of him. I will hold him...whenever he needs me."


"I had learned from the doctors that preemies can have a ‘honeymoon period’, where for the first few days all is well and then problems begin to surface. I was hanging on hoping we were the lucky ones whose honeymoon period would never end! But at the start of day 3, we found out that he had an intestinal blockage that would require surgery."


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Completely deflated, Natalie tries to remain optimistic in the face of so many unknowns. "I turned my attention to making milk! That was all I could do at the time to support my child. He was in the hands of others, completely dependent on their capabilities to save his life. It’s so tough as a mom not to be able to make things right ALL THE TIME, but this time it was impossible for me to do anything except listen to the doctors explain what was going on inside his little body and tell us what they were going to do to fix it. It was an excruciatingly emotional day full of ups and downs and lots of overwhelming new information, but at the end of that day, post-surgery, we knew that he was going to be okay. The surgeons were able to perform a simple fix and, thankfully, the intestines were healthy and eventually able to develop normally. So much to be thankful for!"


A friend of Natalie’s introduced her to the March of Dimes. Being very thankful, Natalie wanted to help other Moms bring home healthy babies too. Here in Shelby County, the premature birth rate is running at 12.6%. For African Americans, the premature birth rate is running at a rate of 14.3%. The Institute of Medicine reported that the cost associated with premature birth in the United States was $26.2 billion each year. According to new statistics from the March of Dimes, preterm birth costs employers more than $12 billion in excess health care. The high cost of preemies was spotlighted recently when AOL cited cuts to the company's 401(k) benefits on two “distressed” babies born to women working at the company.


Natalie wanted to do more than just be thankful for her blessing. "As the Ambassador Mom, I want other moms, dads, and families to know that you don’t plan for these things. I had a healthy enjoyable pregnancy. I never knew anything was wrong until I went into labor those last few days before he was born. When you put your 4 lb. child in the hands of others, you have to completely trust that they know what they are doing. Organizations like March of Dimes support the growth of knowledge, experience, and research in areas that help moms like me and babies like mine be able to thrive and grow. It was a big scary whirlwind, but the net of support that sustained us will be there for the next mom, the next baby, and the next family when needed. That net of support is held up by those of us who MARCH! Spread the word and let’s get people to march for these babies who have yet to be born who will need this special support." 


Sign up for the March for Babies today, Registration is Free!


Registration Link


Event Page

The March for Babies is being held on May 5th from 8 AM - 2 PM at Shelby Farms Park


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