March of Dimes National Ambassador Shalini Wittstruck

I don’t talk about it much anymore since Declan is quickly creeping towards ten years old, but he was a preemie. A 32-weeker, who came into this world screaming and fighting, like so many other babies – and we never found out why. At the time, I really didn’t care why, I just wanted him to live. It took six weeks of hard work on his part, but he was released from the hospital around Halloween 2002 – and he has been growing and thriving ever since.

Declan – September 2002

When I chatted on the phone with Shalini Wittstruck last week, and she shared her story with me, I kept nodding my head into the phone. And tearing up a little bit. Shalini, her husband Shane and their son Kieran are the national ambassador family for March of Dimes, and are working to reduce pre-term birth all across the country. The crazy things is, Kieran was born right here in south Denver – so our stories are even more tight-knit.

So many of the details were the same, yet I know we all have such unique birth experiences. Some are joyous, some are tortuous, some are funny… OK, I assume not that many are very, very funny. But the point is, we all come together in the end with one purpose, raising that baby. Making him or her as healthy and happy as possible.

Shalini told me that one-in-eight births are still coming too early – and 40% of those are from unknown causes. We both never found out why our boys were premature, and she used a phrase that hit me hard. “I was grieving the loss of my pregnancy.”

I absolutely did that, for a long time – and had to turn my back on the fact that Declan was a preemie for quite a while. It was all too overwhelming to deal with, that we could have lost him, and me. Yes, yet another time I had a medical emergency. Shocking, I know.

We all know people who lost their fight. Most recently, I think of the lovely Kami Bigler. And of course, Maddie Spohr’s heroic journey for the 17 months she was with us.

Shalini has turned her grief into something positive. They tour the country now, after moving to Seattle – and help spread the word about March of Dimes. Shalini is a Cigna employee and they support her in this quest, and are donating $5 for every like on their Facebook page to support March of Dimes activities.

Shalini and I are lucky. Our boys are strong. Kieran knows he is helping other babies. My family is joining Cigna this year for the Denver March of Dimes WalkAmerica event. I am excited to finally turn over the pain I have buried so long, and channel it in a more positive place.

I would love for you to read more about the amazing Wittruck family, and like the Cigna page (so easy!) to raise money for the March of Dimes.

If you are in Denver, come out and walk with us on April 28th – which is also the day after my birthday. What an awesome present for when I turn 21 for the second time, right? (That would be 42, but who is counting.)

Whether you are a mom, dad, grandparent, or a friend – I am sure we have all known someone personally with a premature baby. The odds tell me you do.

How about we work on fixing that?

Aren’t they like the cutest family EVER?


Please note: Cigna arranged for my chat with Shalini and has invited us on to the Cigna Denver March of Dimes team, but this is NOT a paid post. All words and thoughts are mine.

This article has 5 comments

  1. Everyfann

    I forgot that Dex was a preemie. So scary and so preventable! Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Anonymous

    I am sure this was hard for you to revisit. Nut I am happy that you are walking! -m

  3. zipper

    Just saw this… both of you are awesome!

  4. Andy ROK

    I forgot about this! must be why he is such an amazing kid! he is a tough little bugger!

  5. Amira Lewis (Real Estate)

    How amazing. I get really emotional when it comes to my children so I can imagine recalling such a difficult time. I’m sure it’s a wonderful feeling seeing your son now.

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