November is Prematurity Awareness Month.According to the March of Dimes, one in eight babies are born prematurely each year.We take you inside the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit at Eastern Maine Medical Center, where babies are cared for in their most vulnerable moments.”Leaving the hospital and having to leave your child there, that’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my whole life,” said Amanda Pate, who had two sons born premature. Amanda Pate isn’t alone. According to Dr. Mark Brown, the Medical Director of the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit at Eastern Maine Medical Center, last year, 250 to 275 premature babies were admitted to the NICU: 35 to 40 of them were under 3 pounds.”It’s an experience beyond which you could ever dream of having. The worst thing that ever happened to you, something happened to your child and to have to go through that day after day for three months or four months is pretty crummy,” said Dr. Brown.Babies born at 37 weeks and sooner are considered premature. There are health issues that come with early birth, including respiratory problems.” It can be an immaturity of the entire development of a lung, or it can be just the lubricant piece that is not robust enough,” said Dr. Brown.EMMC’s NICU has been around since 1977 and over the years there have been big technological changes. “Babies that are now surviving and have a high chance of going home and surviving, in 1977 would have had, at the lower end of gestation, would not of even had a chance at all of surviving,” said Dr. Brown.Brown says the NICU can be intimidating for families when they first experience it. ” You’ll see different rooms and in the rooms will be anywhere from two to eight babies with monitors and equipment surrounding each baby.”Alex Pate, father of two sons born premature, agrees it can be stressful for parents, “I was there for maybe 10, 15 minutes and it was terrifying. I left, I went back to be with her. Buzzers were going off and they were in a hurry and I knew things weren’t normal like you see on TV when they show deliveries. So it was just too much, it was too new to me.”The length of stay for a baby in the NICU is drive by the problems that brought them there in the first place, “A baby born at let’s just say 27 weeks will probably go home at maybe 37 to 39 weeks, so it would stay anywhere from 10 to 12 weeks.”Brown says it’s important to talk to your doctor when you’re pregnant, and always be aware that anything can happen,”The reality is there are certain things that are just out of your control when you’re pregnant and I don’t think you can ever prepare yourself for those.”Eastern Maine Medical Center has a Family Advisory Council. It’s a way for parents of premies to get together and share tips and stories about their experiences with prematurity.Those meetings are held Wednesday nights.If you’d like more information, call EMMC at 973-7000.