Harding Family of Pacific Palisades Selected as March of Dimes Ambassadors

When a child is born prematurely, it’s hard on the parents as they watch other families in the maternity ward take their babies home. The adults go home, but the baby has to stay for weeks or even months in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Pacific Palisades residents Staci and Ryan Harding, who had four premature babies (over the last six years) who are now healthy children, are thankful for the help of March of Dimes, the leading nonprofit for pregnancy and baby health issues.

The Hardings were selected as a March of Dimes Ambassador Family and are sharing their story to help raise funds and increased awareness of the premature birth health crisis in the United States, which has one of the highest rates of any high-resource country.

The Harding family (left to right): Staci holding Brooklyn, Camden, Chase and Ryan holding Blake.

“We recognize we would never have the blessings we do without the extraordinary research, technology advancement and relent- less work of the March of Dimes,” Staci said.

Ryan added,“In addition to having world-class doctors and nurses, Chase, Camden, Blake and Brooklyn are all healthy today because of the work of this remarkable organization.”

The couple’s four children were born at the UCLA Medical Center in Westwood.

Staci, a registered nurse, and Ryan, a real estate broker, eagerly anticipated their eldest son’s birth. But Chase, now a first-grader at Palisades Elementary, spent the first 5-1/2 months of his life in the NICU.

According to the March of Dimes, “More than 50 percent of the causes of preterm birth are unknown. A woman can do everything right and still have preterm labor and premature birth.”

Writing to the March of Dimes, Staci said: “The first time we held all of our children was surreal—mainly because we should not have been holding them yet! They were tiny and fragile—Chase was the smallest and the sickest.

“We spent every minute we could with them and gave them our love and prayers,” she said.

Less than a year after Chase was born, the Hardings learned they were expecting another child.

“My pregnancies were filled with ups and downs,” Staci said, chronicling multiple failed IVF attempts, multiple miscarriages and two stints of bed rest of 11 and then 10 weeks within 14 months of each other.

When daughter Camden was born, she had to spend her first three weeks in intensive care. (She is now a kindergarten student at Pali Elementary.) Immediately after that birth, Staci had an emergency hysterectomy.

A surrogate was needed to carry twin girls, Blake and Brooklyn, now 11 months old. Blake was in the NICU 16 days and Brooklyn 19 days.

Staci said, “Our NICU experiences were incredibly warm and loving,” and that she felt the March of Dimes and its contribution to research and technological advancement played a vital role.

Children born prematurely may have life-long health problems such as cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss and intellectual delays. Each year in Los Angeles County, about 125,000 babies are born and 11,000 are preterm.

As ambassadors, the Harding family attended the Los Angeles Signature Chefs Auction on October 15, which paired up-and-coming chefs with local vineyards and brewpubs. The goal was to raise more than $400,000 for March of Dimes to help support community programs such as prenatal wellness programs, research grants, and NICU family support programs.

“We are so grateful to the Harding Family for sharing their time and their story to make a difference in the lives of others,” said Amy Dittmore, March of Dimes development director of Los Angeles. For more information, visit marchofdimes.org.

March of Dimes recommends reducing preterm birth risk by:

  1. Waiting at last 18 months between birth and the next pregnancy
  2. Identifying and treat chronic conditions before pregnancy.
  3. Quitting smoking.
  4. Going to prenatal appointments.
  5. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy and maintain it.
  6. If a woman has had a previous premature birth, talking to provider about progesterone and preterm labor warning signs.

Warning signs of preterm labor:

  1. Contractions every 10 minutes or more often.
  2. Change in vaginal discharge.
  3. Pelvic pressure.
  4. Low, dull backache.
  5.  Cramps that feel like a menstrual period.
  6. Belly cramps with or without diarrhea.
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