Meet the Delinos: a Round Rock family serving as this year’s March for Babies ambassadors. Mom Rachel and dad Roman welcomed their son River, now 6, when he was only 28 weeks gestational age.

River’s premature birth launched the family’s involvement with the March of Dimes, and that involvement only deepened when they later welcomed daughter Loretta, now 3, at 32 weeks gestational age. Rachel Delino recently sat down with us to share how the March of Dimes has helped her family.

AF: What was it like to deliver a baby at 28 weeks?

Delino: I didn’t know I was in labor, because I’d never had a baby before, and when you’re 28 weeks pregnant, you don’t think, “I’m in labor.” They had the neonatologist come in and tell me what to expect: how big he would be, what he would look like, that kind of thing. She said he would be between 2 and 2 ½ pounds. When he came out, he was 3 pounds, 3 ounces. He was huge. [laughs]

They wrapped him up, set him next to my head, clicked a picture real quick, put him in an incubator and wheeled him down the hallway. That was not the best time in my life.

It was nerve wracking. You see your baby, and they’ve got all this stuff attached to them. He had a CPAP mask on. He had a PICC line. They don’t have any clothes on. They’re really skinny. That’s no fun.

But after the initial shock, you talk to the nurses. They explain the procedures. You have to wash your hands for 3 minutes. How to store the breast milk. They gave me labels to put on it. It’s odd to leave the hospital without the baby.

AF: How long was River in the NICU?

Delino: Nine weeks. He came home with no oxygen, no assistance. We brought him home three weeks prior to his due date.

AF: How is he doing now?

Delino: He is a happy and healthy 6-year-old. He loves to bake and dance.

AF: And your daughter Loretta came early, as well. What was that like?

Delino: I had gone to the doctor that Friday and everything was fine. We took maternity pictures that evening—I’d never gotten to take them with River; you don’t think to take maternity pictures when you’re 28 weeks pregnant.

On Saturday, my water broke. My husband and I got in the car and went straight to the hospital. The same thing happened: they wrapped her up, put her next to my head, then whisked her away. She weighed 4 pounds and 4 ounces.

She did have a nasal canula, but she didn’t have a PICC line. She was able to breathe on her own pretty quick. She ended up staying in the NICU for seven weeks, mostly because she couldn’t get the suck-swallow-breathe action down.

AF: How is Loretta doing now?

Delino: She is full of energy and curiosity. Her favorite things include dancing, singing and coloring.

AF: How did you become involved with the March for Babies?

Delino: When River was in the NICU, my mother and I went shopping, and they were selling these little rings that said “Be Happy” for the March of Dimes as a fundraiser. I started looking into it and realizing that some of the techniques they were using in the NICU were the result of research the March of Dimes had done, like the kangaroo care, which was our favorite thing. It just feels nice to be able to put them on your chest and wrap them up. You can see on the monitors that their breathing gets steady. It’s helping them.

One of the other moms in the NICU, I would see her every day. Her son was born the day before mine. So, I asked her if she wanted to do the March for Babies together. We signed up and made a team. By the time the walk came around, we had brought both our sons home. We had them with us in the strollers.

Our friends have been so supportive, buying team t-shirts and donating money. Several local businesses here sponsor our team t-shirts. Now, we walk for eight babies. We’ve had a couple of different team names. We started as River’s Friends, and then we were Two Boys and a Lady, and now we’re Preemie Pals.

It’s important to us, obviously, but it’s important to so many other people, too. You realize how many people have premature babies or babies that have to be in the NICU.

AF: What’s it like to walk in the March for Babies?

Delino: It’s nice. It’s a community. You see all these other people who’ve been touched by this, as well. It’s a little sad. They have memorials for the babies who’ve been lost. It makes you thankful. [pauses]

We plan to do this forever.

by Sherida Mock

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