Anna Faris is well-known for her successful acting career and relationship podcast, but when her water broke at just 30 weeks along in her pregnancy in 2012, she realized that "the celebrity stuff doesn't really mean anything" when it comes to keeping your child safe from harm.
In her new memoir, Unqualified, Anna, 40, writes about the emotional experience of her son's premature birth and recovery in a chapter titled "Jack Pratt." The 5-year-old boy is now happy and healthy, but during her early labor and in the months that followed, Anna and her then-husband Chris Pratt didn't know if their son's story would have a happy ending.
After immediately calling the doctor for help, they rushed to a packed emergency room where nurses quickly wheeled Anna away and began pumping her full of magnesium in an attempt to stop the labor.
"There were a lot of medical professionals in that room, and that's when the fear really set in, as well as the reality that my son might be coming two months early," Anna writes. "The magnesium worked, fortunately, but the doctors were very clear that I would not be leaving the hospital until my baby was born."
Following an excruciatingly long week on bed rest, Anna went into labor. She described her pain as so intense she could barely speak, and it was only made worse when the doctor told her they wouldn't know if she could hold Jack after he came out.
"That's where the unexpected nature of this whole fiasco really hit home," she wrote. "When you have a healthy pregnancy, you never wonder if you'll get to hold your son right after he's born. It's a given. I was terrified, but I also knew I had to be a soldier."
Anna and Chris were able to hold Jack briefly before he was taken to the NICU, and she described him as looking like a "minuscule noodle" but "tall and beautiful and perfect." On his fourth day in the NICU, the pediatric neurosurgeon told them that Jack had some severe brain bleeding, which meant there was a chance he could be developmentally disabled.
However, they wouldn't know the true state of his development until he was 18 months old, so she and Chris went into what she called "soldier mode."
"There's a shield you build when faced with obstacles like these, largely for your own self-protection and the protection of your child," Anna writes. "So Chris and I did what we could, which was hold hands and hope and face it together."
They were finally able to take Jack home from the hospital nearly a month after his birth. He weighed only four pounds, three ounces and still had appointments every day with brain specialists, heart specialists, eye doctors, and physical therapists.
But as Anna and Chris watched him develop, they felt he was on track for his age, and their instincts were right. Today, he only suffers from minor leg muscle and vision issues.
"Given that these are the biggest challenges, we count ourselves extremely lucky," Anna wrote. "There are plenty of parents who walk out of the NICU and don't have as wonderful a story."
In fact, preterm birth is the leading cause of death for children under 5 years old, according to the World Health Organization. For this reason, Chris and Anna have become involved with Healthy Pregnancy 2030, which aims to reduce preterm and stillbirth.
"We know how fortunate we are to have a happy ending," Anna wrote. "So the fact that we have a charming and outgoing and athletic kid who loves dinosaurs and introducing himself to people, Chris and I are both grateful every day."