There weren’t many things that scared Jen Silbert, but when she and her husband, Cameron, started trying to get pregnant, she was terrified of two things: preterm birth and/or having a sick baby. This fear was due to her older sister experiencing two preterm births, with one ending in loss and the other an eight-week NICU stay.
After a difficult nine-month IVF journey to remove a hereditary gene she carried, Jen got pregnant after the second transfer. “I had a really small, weird feeling that something just wasn’t going to go right,” Jen says. And unfortunately, she was right. At just 25 weeks her water broke, and she was diagnosed with preeclampsia and admitted to the hospital. Three days later, she had a placental abruption and was rushed in for an emergency Cesarean birth. Jesse Silbert was born at 26 weeks and two days, weighing only 1 pound, 5 ounces. Jen and Cameron weren’t able to meet their son until the following evening. And because he was intubated and on a ventilator, they couldn’t hold him until six weeks later.
Jesse remained on a ventilator and was transferred to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on day 100. He had four surgeries, including having a tracheostomy and G-tube placed, and remained there for another 191 days in the NICU and then the progressive care unit.
After 291 days in the hospital, Jesse was finally able to go home. He has chronic lung disease and is still on a ventilator and has a trach and G-tube. However, he’ll outgrow his lung disease over the coming year or two and should be equipment-free by age three or four.
“He’s a true fighter—the bravest, strongest little boy who continues to amaze us all every day,” Jen says. “He’s thriving at home. We recently celebrated his first birthday which was a huge milestone for us, and we’re excited to see what next year brings. And while he fortunately won't remember any of this, the 10-month NICU journey is something we will never forget.”
Prior to getting pregnant, Jen and Cameron were involved with March of Dimes because of Jen’s sister’s pregnancy challenges. “For five years our family has donated to this amazing cause. My sister’s team, Team Overdorff, has raised over $120,000. It’s special to be able to do this together, as we’ve been touched by preterm labor, infant loss and maternal health concerns three times. And now with Jesse in the mix, March for Babies hits closer to home than ever.”
“Everything they do in terms of support, research, advocacy, in the hospital, in the NICU for preterm babies—we couldn’t think of a better cause to be behind ultimately as a family,” Cameron adds.
With preterm birth and maternal death rates continuing to rise, March of Dimes is working to level the playing field so that every family is healthy regardless of wealth, race, gender or geography.