My First Breath

Every week, more than 10,000 newborns in the United States take their first breath and are rushed to a neonatal intensive care unit or NICU. Here, parents are overwhelmed by a dizzying array of options and outcomes as the conditions of their fragile babies change moment by moment. CPTV, working in conjunction with Emmy Award-winning independent director, writer and producer Alissa Wood, has produced an hour-long documentary, My First Breath, which examines the health issues of premature babies and how families cope with their situation. My First Breath features an introduction and close by Jocelyn Maminta, WTNH and MyTV9 anchor and mother of two pre-term babies.

The number of babies born prematurely in the United States is up 30 percent in the past two decades. In Connecticut, over 4,200 babies are born too soon and too small each year. Some weigh less than a pound and are no bigger than a can of soda or a carton of eggs. Yet, they battle for their lives like fierce warriors to beat significant odds at a substantial cost. "Pre-term births are the leading cause of newborn death in the first month of life and account for more than $30 billion in U.S. healthcare expenditures," said Wood. "My First Breath explores the financial and emotional impact this growing health crisis is having on families in our country."

"In My First Breath, viewers will venture into the NICU – a place that one parent of a premature baby described as 'an underworld of miniature,'" said Wood. It is a place where the sounds of battle are prominent…whirring, beeping, ringing…a cacophony followed by relative quiet, then a recurrence once again to varying decibels of conflicting noise from high-tech equipment, drug infusion pumps, ventilators, monitors and alarms. Taken together, it is the sound of a pitched battle between life and death.

Wood became embedded in the NICU at Connecticut Children's Medical Center over the course of five months. Granted extraordinary access, Wood and her crew were with parents as medical staff plotted strategies and performed life-saving procedures on their tiny babies. "When a family has a baby in the NICU, they lose the opportunity to introduce their newborn to their extended family and friends," said Wood. "Oftentimes, my crew and I were among just a few of the people who knew these babies in the early days and months of their life. My First Breath follows these families as they journey from their harrowing experiences in the NICU to the familiar rituals of caring for their newborns at home."

Once an infant leaves the NICU, the battle is hardly over. They are more likely than full-term babies to develop blindness, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and behavioral problems. My First Breath features parents who are on the front lines of caring for their pre-term child as they develop.

In the documentary, medical experts and researchers explore the significant medical advances in caring for pre-term babies and weigh in on the potential causes of premature birth, including advanced maternal age, infertility treatments, stress, access to healthcare and insurance, socioeconomic status and genetic make-up. My First Breath explores this growing health crisis and features innovative approaches to helping families increase their chances of having a healthy, full-term baby.

CPTV is currently seeking funding to distribute My First Breath nationally on PBS.