March for Babies stresses importance of prenatal care

Rebecca Willard and her children. From left, James DeAugustine, Rebecca Willard, Briana DeAugustine and Zac DeAugustine.

Rebecca Willard and her children. From left, James DeAugustine, Rebecca Willard, Briana DeAugustine and Zac DeAugustine.

The March of Dimes is an organization near and dear to my heart.

Not only did I give birth to a premature baby, but I was also a premature baby myself. My younger brothers, Christopher and Charles, were also born prematurely — Christopher passed away shortly after birth, but Charles survived after spending months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Years later, when I was just 16, I gave birth to my first son, Gary Michael. He was three months early and weighed one pound, 13 ounces.

Although doctors fought hard to save his life, Gary Michael did not survive. My time with him was brief, but precious. I later went on to have two sons (both premature) and a daughter. All three are healthy young adults.

According to the March of Dimes, prematurity is the leading killer of newborns in America. Preterm birth can happen to any pregnant woman –- that’s why education is critical. Had I known more about the importance of prenatal care during my first pregnancy, Gary Michael may have survived.

Now I want to help other women have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. That’s why I participate in the Phoenix March for Babies walk every year.

I first walked in 2007 as part of a team put together by my employer Cigna, who has been a partner of the March of Dimes and a national sponsor of March for Babies for the past 21 years.

This year, I’ll be walking with my children and my grandchildren as part of our family team, “Thunder Babies.” And I hope you’ll consider joining me,

March for Babies is Saturday, April 11 at the Wesley Bolin Plaza in Phoenix. For more information or to register, please visit

Remember – knowledge is power. By working together, we can help moms and moms-to-be take charge of their health and the health of their babies.

Editor’s note: Rebecca Willard is a medical administrative assistant for Cigna Medical Group Paradise Valley Multi-Specialty Center. She lives in Paradise Valley.

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