Marching to end premature births
Local March of Dimes events will be April 2 and April 30
Posted March 19, 2017
They began as co-workers, grew into friends and opened a business together.
But while Naomi Trotto and Ashley Sonnenfeld, the owners of Bell Amore Salon in Macomb Township, share many things, they never thought they would share birth stories too.
This year’s Macomb County March for Babies ambassadors both lived through the premature births of their three children, and it has cemented their commitment to the March of Dimes, which advocates for legislative services and programs to help improve the health of pregnant women and their babies.
Trotto and Sonnenfeld are hoping to raise money for the March of Dimes during their second annual road rally April 2 beginning at the Fraternal Order of Police Hall, 11304 E. 14 Mile Road in Warren.
The pair are also Ambassador Families for this year’s Macomb County March for Babies, set for April 30 at Lake St. Clair Metropark in Harrison Township.
‘Why fear anything else?’
Trotto, of Sterling Heights, said she thought she was having a normal pregnancy with her first child in 2008 when her water broke at 35 weeks gestation due to slight pre-eclampsia.
“When he came out, he was a little over 5 pounds (and) he went directly into the NICU, the neonatal intensive care unit, and he was intubated right away,” she said.
Trotto’s son, Tyler, spent the first nine days of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit, but was able to go home without the assistance of oxygen. Even so, Trotto said she was terrified because Tyler would experience periods of sleep apnea.
Also, she said that when others found out she had smoked while pregnant, “It was brought to my attention that that was probably the cause of his prematurity,” she said, explaining that it was acquaintances, not medical professionals, who told her this. Even so, she said, “I blamed myself and I felt that I had to do something positive to counteract the fact that it was all my fault.”
So when a representative of the March of Dimes walked into the hair salon where she worked and asked if they could put up a poster for that year’s March for Babies, the event — on her son’s first birthday — seemed like something positive that she could throw her energy into.
“The March for Babies is our signature fundraiser,” said Cari DeLamielleure-Scott, development specialist for the March of Dimes Southeast Michigan Market. “Our mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.”
Trotto said that after that first walk in 2009, many friends, including Sonnenfeld, joined in on the efforts. They continued each year, and three years after Tyler’s birth, Trotto walked while four months pregnant with her second child.
This time, she knew she was doing everything right.
“I ate all organic, no caffeine,” she said.
But Trotto developed swelling and nausea during that pregnancy. Sonnenfeld took care of her at work, trying to alleviate the swelling with ice bath pedicures when neither of them had clients and checking on her daily to make sure she was OK.
At 30 weeks gestation, however, Trotto was put on bedrest and given magnesium as her blood pressure skyrocketed and pre-eclampsia developed into a complication called HELLP syndrome, so named for its characteristic hemolysis — or breaking down of red blood cells — elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count. Her liver and kidneys began to fail, and her body began to shut down.
Trotto delivered Mia on July 6, 2012, at 30 weeks and five days gestation.
“The only solution to HELLP syndrome is removal of the child,” she said. “It’s very much not a delivery. It’s very much that you have to remove this thing from your body to save your life.”
Mia spent 36 days in the NICU. Sonnenfeld was instrumental in helping her friend get to the NICU to visit her baby, and when Mia was over a year old, the pair decided to open their own hair salon together.
Two weeks before they opened the doors, however, Sonnenfeld, of Warren, discovered that she was pregnant and due in February of 2015.
Although Trotto was “very cautious with me,” Sonnenfeld said, “I had to tell her in the first few months that there’s no way you can have (these) premature (babies) and I will too.”
Everything changed on Dec. 9, 2014, when Sonnenfeld’s water broke at 30 weeks gestation.
“I rushed to the hospital and they confirmed that I did rupture, (but) the baby was OK,” she said. “There’s still no reason that I went into labor early.”
Only six hours later, however, doctors discovered that Sonnenfeld had no amniotic fluid, and so her son, Uriah, had to be born at 30 weeks, weighing just 3 pounds 6 ounces. He spent 26 days in the NICU.
Trotto said that those experiences have taken away any fear she might have as a mother.
“Right out of the gate ... we were told how to do everything from how to bathe our child to (how to) diaper, and we were put into the most difficult situations known to man right out of the gate,” she said. “If you can get through that, why fear anything else?”
March for Babies
Registration for the Macomb County March for Babies begins at 9 a.m. April 30 at Lake St. Clair Metropark in Harrison Township. The program kicks off at 9:45 a.m., with the 5K walk beginning at 10 a.m.
DeLamielleure-Scott said there is no cost to participate, but participants are asked to fundraise for the March of Dimes. Day-of registration is available or participants can register ahead of time by searching for the Macomb County event at MarchForBabies.org.
Each year, about 20,000 businesses and 3 million people take part in nearly 500 communities across the country to raise money for the March of Dimes, she said, and this year’s event is shaping up to be a fun way to help prevent premature births, birth defects, and help boost maternal and infant health. Seventy-five cents of every dollar goes back to the March of Dimes’ mission, DeLamielleure-Scott said.
One in 10 babies in the United States is born prematurely each year, and the average medical cost to an employer for a premature baby is $54,149, as opposed to $4,389 for a healthy baby.
“It’s an issue that doesn’t only impact families; it also impacts businesses,” she said. “If you do not have a baby that was born prematurely, you’re still impacted by the March of Dimes. Whether you received the polio vaccine, an Apgar score (or were) born prematurely, the March of Dimes impacts your family in some way.”
Nearly 800 people participated in the 2016 Macomb County March for Babies, which raised $175,000. DeLamielleure-Scott said they’re hoping to meet that goal again this year.
“This is going to be a day to celebrate healthy babies, honor those we’ve lost and cheer on those who have overcome a lot of struggles,” she said.
This year’s theme is Hope, Remember and Celebrate, and there will be a “memory mile” with a butterfly garden dedicated to those whose children whose have died, where parents can make a sign for their child for a suggested $20 donation. The Celebrate section will include a “superhero sprint” for children who have graduated from the NICU, and “Ambassador Avenue” will celebrate the efforts of those who have raised $100 prior to the walk.
Road rally fundraiser
Registration begins at noon April 2 for Trotto and Sonnenfeld’s second annual road rally. Raffles will take place from noon to 1 p.m., and the road rally and scavenger hunt will begin promptly at 1 p.m. at the Fraternal Order of Police Hall, 11304 E. 14 Mile Road in Warren.
Those wishing to participate can call Bell Amore at (586) 799-4093 as soon as possible to be guaranteed the correct size of T-shirt. Registration costs $25.
Although the children have thrived with only minor challenges since their premature births, Trotto said she and Sonnenfeld want to work to make prematurity something their children don’t have to worry about when they want to become parents.
“The more money we can raise, personally, we know is going right into making our children’s future better,” Trotto said. “The March of Dimes actually can change our future.”
“This organization is for everyone,” Sonnenfeld agreed. “For us, being, obviously, good friends, being business owners together, being moms together, I think we wear capes and we want to show the world that if we can do it, you can do it.”
About the author
Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske covers St. Clair Shores and the Lake Shore, Lakeview and South Lake public schools for the Sentinel. Kristyne has worked for C & G Newspapers since 2004 and attended Michigan State University and Chippewa Valley High School.
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