Alison Cleveland can't wait to meet her sons, Braylin and Devin. Twins.

She has nearly two months to go, though. April 7 is the special day — her due date.

Until then, she will count every day and do what she must to keep them from leaving the womb too early — a major cause of the state's high infant mortality rate, doctors say.

Charleston pediatrician Henry Lemon said in a January report that premature deliveries are one reason 7.4 babies out of every 1,000 born in the state died before their first birthday, as reported by Lauren Sausser.

Minority infants died 2.5 times more often than white babies.

Cleveland, 29, of Summerville, is homebound and determined to give her boys the best chance at a healthy life.

Homebound mom

Cleveland's doctor put her on bed rest Nov. 9 when she was threatening pre-term labor at 18 weeks.

It has been stressful and hard on her family. Her husband, Eric, leaves early for work, so her mother helps with her 5-year-old daughter. “I don't know what I would do without her,” Cleveland said of her mother.

Cleveland works as a financial investigator. While being homebound is “driving me crazy,” she said it is worth it. “I knew I had to be strict or lose my children.”

She is now 31 weeks trying to make it to 36. Her doctors believe she is out of danger but want her to remain homebound until she gives birth.

Cleveland is health conscious but the added pressure of twins put her at risk. She believes her complications would have been far worse without prenatal care.

She encourages other women to seek out prenatal care long before becoming pregnant. Take prenatal vitamins and eat lean protein, whole grains and fruits, she says.

And she suggests finding a doctor who listens to you and takes time with you.

A united front

Cleveland's personal battle is to fight for her boys.

Collectively, the complex problem of infant mortality is being tackled on many levels. As it should be. State leaders and health care experts have formed the South Carolina Birth Outcomes Initiative to help fight the problem.

On a community level, the Tri-County Black Nurses Association is doing its part.

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 23, the association is holding its Delma M. Woods and Aleta McLeod-Bryant Health & Wellness Fair at the Arthur W. Christopher City Gym, 265 Fishburne St.

Ida J. Spruill, an association member and assistant professor of nursing at the Medical University of South Carolina, said the state Department of Health and Environmental Control will talk about what women can do to keep their babies safe.

A variety of free screenings also will be available, such as blood pressure, diabetes, height/weight and body mass index. For more information, call Pat Mack at 577-6627 or Ida Spruill at 724-9731.

With these united efforts, Cleveland and other mothers have a better chance of saying hello to healthy babies.

Reach Assistant Features Editor Shirley A. Greene at 937-5555.