Yakisha Bookard was devastated when she learned she wouldn’t be able to carry her youngest son to term.
She sobbed as she was rolled into surgery. She begged her doctor to allow her to keep her baby inside just a little longer.
“I didn’t want to have him then. I didn’t want my pregnancy experience to end,” Bookward recalled recently. “I was like, this is probably going to be my last child, I was hoping I would get to a full term with at least one of my children. I felt cheated. I felt upset that he had to come into this world this small.”
All three of Bookard’s children were born prematurely as a result of her preeclampsia, a serious condition that afflicts 2 percent to 8 percent of pregnancies worldwide and causes 15 percent of premature births in the United States.
Joel, her oldest, was born at 29 weeks, weighing 2 pounds, 9 ounces. Joshua arrived two years later, at 34 weeks, weighing 3 pounds, 10 ounces.
And Justus, her youngest, was delivered five years later at 27 weeks. He weighed just 1 pound and 11 ounces, about the size of a bottle of shampoo.
Today all three of her sons, now 11, 9, and 4 years old, are thriving. Joel plays baseball, football, soccer and basketball. Joshua likes playing baseball and video games and running around outside. And Justus, who turns five in May, will start kindergarten at Fort Dorchester Elementary next fall. Justus loves to dance, sing — especially in the shower — and trail his big brothers like a puppy.
Bookard, 39, of Summerville and her sons are this year’s Ambassador Family for Charleston’s March for Babies. A longtime fundraiser for the March of Dimes, Bookard says she’s a recipient of the foundation’s life-saving work.
“I love participating in March of Dimes because it’s an opportunity for me to celebrate my children, their birth, that they’re alive and that they’re well,” she said.
The March of Dimes was established in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, originally as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, to find a cure for polio, an infectious disease that rendered Roosevelt unable to walk. Following the discovery of the first polio vaccine, developed with funding from the NFIP, the foundation shifted its focus to preventing birth defects, infant mortality and premature births.
This year’s March for Babies will take place at 9 a.m. April 30 at Cannon Park. Money raised through the march will support research to identify the causes and prevention of premature birth, and community programs to educate future moms and health care providers on prenatal care.
To register for the walk, go to marchforbabies.org.
Reach Deanna Pan at 843-937-5764.