How Having a Preemie Saved My Life

God has a way of shaking us up, just enough.  It does not happen with the intent to harm us, but only with the intent to get our undivided attention. On April 27, 2012, He successfully got mine. My amazing son, Jharid Lee Smith Jr. was born that day – weighing in at a whopping 1 pound, 5 ounces. He made his entry into this world 16 weeks before his planned due date. Eight weeks before his planned baby shower, 12 weeks before his mother’s planned maternity leave. He was born five miles from his planned hospital, delivered not by his mother’s planned doctor, and not by the planned “push” method. He was not the planned size, we didn’t hear the planned cry, and there was no planned car ride home. He did not spend the first five months of his life sleeping in his planned crib, staring at his planned mobile. I guess the old saying is true; God hears our plans and laughs at them. Thankfully, he doesn’t laugh at our prayers.

The birth of my son 16 weeks premature is not to be pitied. Yes, he came too small to hold or to nurse, and could not breathe without the help of a ventilator. Yes, he could not maintain his blood pressure or kidney function without the help of dopamine for weeks. He could not eat, and therefore needed an IV fluid called TPN to keep him alive. Yes, the stress of it all caused me to eventually lose the breast milk he so desperately needed. He soon developed necrotizing enterocolitis, complete with bowel perforations, and therefore would not know the taste of milk for six weeks. Yes, he has had laser eye surgery, bowel surgery and respiratory interventions. He was born with grade three brain hemorrhages. Not to mention the other preemie regulars; chronic lung disease, retinal of prematurity and cholestasis. At any given time I could tell you his weight, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, respiratory and heart rate, and how many times he pooped in the last 24 hours. (Still can). I had to keep track of his blood count, platelet count and sugar levels. He did not reach two pounds until he was two months old. Yes, there was countless blood drawn and someone else’s put back in via transfusion, and occasionally he would stop breathing and need to be “revived”. I could not go near him without a mask, gloves and a gown. His nurses would take care of him more than I would. He could not be held by his grandparents, I could not show him off to my girlfriends. There were gallons of tears shed, sleepless nights and guilt galore. In the beginning I felt more sadness in my soul than I had ever felt in my entire life. The carefree life I once took for granted was gone, and that left me questioning God….”What had I ever done to deserve this for my child? Why would you put this burden on me, a first time mother who tried my best to be a good person?”. I searched for an answer to the question, “Lord, why me?”  I now know the answers to those questions. For one, He knew I needed it. For two, He knew I could handle it. And for three, why in the world not me?

Without knowing that level of sadness and crying that river of tears, I would have never known the feeling of watching God perform a miracle in my life. I would have never known that the power of a praying mother truly can move mountains. All of those problems mentioned above, my baby overcame. The doctors told me early on that if he made it, it would be impressive. Did they not know the God we serve is just that, IMPRESSIVE! Without this trial, I would have never known that for myself. I would have never known the excitement of seeing my baby breathe without help for the first time, take a bottle at almost four months old, or even the joy of finally being able to hold him at two months. I would have never known how important all of the relationships I had grown over the years would become. How loving  and supportive my friends and family are, how invested his grandparents are, how loyal my co-workers are. I would not have known how strong and nurturing his father is. Most importantly, I would have never known how strong I am. Yes, I had to wait a long time for many of the joys that most mothers feel from day one. Yes, I spent most of his life worrying about his life. But the wait made everything far more beautiful, far more spiritual. I worked on the art of prayer without worry. No…my journey into motherhood is not to be pitied. I was chosen for a miracle, and that is truthfully quite awesome.

My son’s birth required a crash course in faith and prayer. The first days were the hardest; a mother who cannot carry a child the needed length of time is immediately overcome with shame and heartache for her failure. You spend your days trying to figure out where you went wrong and what you could have done differently. You have to sit through people playing doctor, telling you ever so kindly what they believe you should have done to prevent this. You are a little angry – and jealous of all the other mothers who are still pregnant. Sometimes you even want to trip them (just being honest). You are a complete and utter mess. But then…..if you know where to turn to, if you know from whom your help cometh, you manage to pick yourself up and accept this new life. You realize that your child is going to the NICU, not the morgue. The reality is…you better start acting like the Christian you always claimed to be. From the moment they cut me open, I began seeking God as if my son’s life depended on it, and quite honestly it did. I prayed and read and kneeled before each alter I could find; I called the prayer warriors in my life and asked them to go before God, for me. I sang every song and wrote every scripture that spoke to my heart. I fasted. I posted on Facebook not only to share my story, but to solicit support and prayers and love for my baby boy. I wanted to be so close to the will of God that I could feel his favor upon my face. And sure enough, my prayers for strength, help, healing, love, kindness, comfort and life…were answered. Over and over again, I watched God work. I cast away doubt and declared at every twist and turn that my baby was sent to this earth with a purpose that could only be fulfilled if he made it. God gave him to me to make me better, not to destroy me. I immersed myself in his medical care and eventually felt myself come back together. God not only saved his life, he saved mine.

And that brings us to today. No the road is not over. We are just back to St. Joseph’s Hospital after staying a week at Columbia Presbyterian for extensive emergency eye surgery due to his retinal of prematurity. There will be countless doctor visits and checkups and early intervention appointments to attend. My son will always be a preemie. But that is the special part: He will always be MY PREEMIE. My miracle child who God saw fit to grow into an awesome, beautiful, healthy baby boy. He will forever be the preemie who has touched so many lives and renewed the faith of so many who have followed our journey. He is the son who taught me the meaning of mercy and grace. He is indeed my Sonshine, the reason I may one day make it into heaven. He is the son I prayed for.

We do not need your pity, but I will take your prayers. I will take your kind thoughts and encouragement and well wishes. I will take your love. He needs every bit of those things that this world can muster. I want God to be so overrun with prayers for Jharid that he assigns an angel just to take them down. I pray that God continues to bless him with health. I pray that he has vision; both physically and spiritually. I pray that we are able to give him an extraordinary childhood. And in return, I promise to make sure that he knows how good God has been to him. Even though he will not remember any of it (thank God), his mother and father will. And possibly so will you. So as we continue this road together, I will share with you all I can because I truly believe you care. What good is a test without a testimony! And to all the mothers who have children that weren’t born perfect, who have struggles and things to overcome at such a young age – please continue to put your trust in God. Our children are not early or abnormal; they are exactly as God planned them to be. We will not strip them of that. We will be sure to celebrate what makes them different, the beautiful things that make them ours. I am proud to be the mother of a preemie, of a miracle baby. Contrary to popular assumption, I would not have it any other way.

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34 thoughts on “How Having a Preemie Saved My Life

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  1. Kaleena this was so moving!! Thanks for sharing your story. Baby Jharid will continue to be in my prayers even after he’s home and healthy!

  2. I haven’t seen it in quite some time but as always, it’s such a heartwarming pleasure to read your beautiful writing. You and your baby will continue to get better and stronger. I know I will always carry you both in my heart & prayers. Love you much!

  3. Kaleenab,
    This brought tears to my eyes as I kept reading your story. I remember when I felt like that 2 1/2yrs ago when my twins were born. Unfortunately only my bb boy only made it. But only god knows why things happen to people in life. I also had them at 24weeks and born in the wonderful hospital St. Joseph’s !!!! I love all the NICU staff there and thank them every minute u get for all the care they gave my son while he was there and the support they gave me…! But now I thank god everyday for the beautiful miracle he has given me. It also has made me a stronger person in life, and never take the things you have for granted…….

  4. What beautiful words to wake up to on a Sunday morning! Since we’re sharing…I always felt like you were the more sensitive, emotional one out of us. I felt hurt weighed heavier on you than it would me…so when this happened and anything else that has ever happened in your life that I knew made you really sad, I would tell God that I rather they happen to me than you. I hate to see you sad. It was hard, and it still is, watching you go through this trail and knowing there was absolutely nothing I could do about it…I didn’t even know what to say, unless I was praying. But now I know that you are the strong one, and smart (you always were the smart one). Something that I was so afraid would take a piece of your easy going, funny spirit away, made it even better…and you did that totally on your own. You didnt need my words or the advice of anyone because you had the words of God. You have never failed in showing me how to do something and do it right…you have always been my personal blessing and navigator. Your plight reminded me that there is nothing God can’t bring you out of. If I am ever to go through anything of this magnitude, I am going to know exactly how to get through it and that is because of you. This situation has already affected my life so much, and probably saved it…because of lil Jharid I have not touched a cigarette or any other tobacco product in 6 weeks! Which is major for me because I have been smoking them everyday for about the last 6 years. I didnt want this situation to pass without taking advantage of the strong presence of God that is around, and now I am smoke free and feel better than ever! I love you and lil Jharid soooo much!!! And big Jharid… thank God for blessing you with the right kind of man to help you and himself get through this. You guys did an amazing job! I am so proud of you and I can’t wait to see how you are going to inspire others. Love you kiddo, Muah!

    1. Kandi I can’t believe this, this post was so sweet and touching. Wow, you were worried about me….it really affected you emotionally and spiritually. I needed my sister and she was there and as a result I am ok. I love you!

  5. “My son’s birth required a crash course in faith and prayer. The first days were the hardest; a mother who cannot carry a child the needed length of time is immediately overcome with shame and heartache for her failure”

    I thank God for FAITH and PRAYER because there is never shame in you nor failure, LOOK around you, You are sooooo LOVED regardless of what you have came upon.Everything God does is for a reason, We might not know the answer at that time or sometimes we will never know,But to me reading your story is truly a TESTIMONY and an uplift in Spirit, Through your testimony many people will be and can be REVIVED.
    Reading your story brought tears to my eyes because when you see all the children out here they have gone rampant wild because their parents are to busy running wild themselves getting high and acting like the world owe them something when their child get pregnant and killed out here in these streets.

    Kaleena we NEED more PARENTS like you….LOVING, CARING, RESPONSIBLE, ENCOURAGING, SUPPORTIVE, ELOQUENT SPEAKER and a PHENOMENAL WOMAN,
    Sonshine is truly a child of the most high and my prayers are only Thank You Lord for what you have done and for what you are going to do……Stay sweet and POSITIVE God has a plan for you.

  6. The lump in my throat as I read this is so big i can’t tell you. OMG the challenge you have had to live through. It shows real growth and maturity when you can make a statement like, “Why Not Me.” I told you when I knew you would be alright. I am glad you are (all) alright. Let me say this in a way that I know you will understand, because we are true poets; Love you so much Darling.

    “WHY NOT ME”
    (by Dr. Brenda Pittman especially for YOU!!!!!)

    When I look at what they are going through, I would not wish it on my worst enemy
    Looking at the tears and pain they feel, I can only say, thank you God, that it’s not me
    When they smile in your face and you know, They are crying when you turn your back
    I understand they are going through, some hard test or a life changing attack.

    I know they did not plan it, or scheduled it this way,
    they did not know their life would change when they awoke that day
    Yeah their life was routine and normal, uneventful and very predictable until the change
    The change that would last forever, and this one in which God would arrange

    He orchestrated Jharid Jr”s grand entrance, through his mom and into the earth
    But it would not be like any before, because He would have an unusual birth
    One that would bring a “gallons of tears”, sadness and so much guilt
    Very hard but they had to be hopeful after, they saw how his body was built

    When I look at what they are going through, I would not wish it on my worst enemy
    Looking at the tears and pain they feel, I can only say thank you God, it’s not me
    When they smile in your face and you know, they are crying when you turn your back
    I understand they are going through, some hard test or a life changing attack.

    Then I look in the mirror and notice, I haven’t seen that face before
    One so worried and so concern, for this child in which I bore
    I wipe my eyes and lift my head, to pray to Lord that Healeth Thee
    and in my faith and my trust in God, I can now say, “Why Not Me.”

    When I look at what they are going through, I would not wish it on my worst enemy
    Looking at the tears and pain they feel, I can only say thank you God, “WHY NOT ME”
    With a smile on my face I know you knew, I was crying when you turned your back
    You understand I was going through, But God had us right on track, “WHY NOT ME”

    1. Wow Brenda that was awesome! The fact that you took,my story and created such a beautiful poem out of it….what a blessing. That was truly awesome. I love how God has blessed our family with the gift of words. Thank you Cousin Brenda! I will have to post that on my blog

  7. Kaleena, I dont personally know you. However, I do know you as my sister in Christ and as a mother. Know that God’s people always know each other and will continue praying for you and Jharid. I am reading your testimony today because someone cared enough to share it on The Prayer Line page. Please feel free to add me to your friend list and The Prayer Line. We come together every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 6am-7:30am for half hour. We will be praying for you regardless of the day of the week. I too had a premature birth for my son who is now 8years old. We induced him a month early due to a car accident I had while pregnant. We still go through mental health disorders. However, with the grace of God he is as normal as any other little boy. He needed speech therapy and surgery on his ears. Now he just needs one on one at school to keep him focused with ADHD and ODD. I went through it with many other things in between. However, I don’t want to bask on the past now that he has overcome so many things. I will say that it wasn’t easy. Kaleena, I feel your pain and I admire your strength and love you have for your child. You are a fabulous mom and your child will turn out fine because when the doctors say no…Guess what, ,Kaleena? God says YES! God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good. Be encourage as I know you already are and God bless you and your family.

    1. Hi Salena! Thank you for reading and also sharing your story. I appreciate it so much. I will request you and search for the prayer line. God bless you! And of course your family! is the prayer line a Facebook page?

  8. With God all things are possible.You have been through the valley and around the mountain utter God you serve is truly marvelous.He has and will see you trough this journey in your life.Remember if he takes you to the mountain top and you fall that is the day he will teach you to fly.

  9. Kaleena, this is a beautiful and inspiring story; thank you for sharing it. I admire your wisdom and am sure that Jharid is and will continue to be a precious gift to his father and mother and wonderful citizen for the rest of us.

    1. Thank you Dr Powell for taking the time to read it! I am very appreciative of your kind words and the support of the department of Urban Education every step of the way.

  10. Kaleena,
    Thank you for the contribution you are in the world and thank you for this particular contribution of your words about such an intimate and powerful experience! Love, Carolyne

  11. God is good. Truly a touching story..and I pray it touches and makes all who read it appreciate life’s blessings..Prayer changes things and I am glad God heard the many voices who prayed for Jharid Jr. And family:) Love you Leena and may your blessings continue to pour down on you ❤

  12. Kaleena you are such an amazing friend, and from the moment you told me you were pregnant I knew you would be an even better mommy. You have one of the biggest hearts in this world. I am so much closer to God now because of our miracle baby. I have never pray so hard and so much as I did for Jay. We serve an awesome God. I prayed for you, you prayer for me I love you I need you to survive .

  13. This is beautiful! I can’t stop crying- I also have a baby boy born at 24 weeks. He was born 1 pound 6 ounces. He is still at St. Joseph’s in Paterson NJ. God Bless you and your baby boy! I feel everything you wrote and your words are perfect.

    1. Hi Jade, my son was at St. Joe’s what an awesome place to be! I have so many nurse friends there, and my son’s main nurse, Pam, was truly amazing. Your son is in the most loving and caring hands. I am here if you ever want to chat, on Facebook, from here or you can call me at 9735176581. I will tell you now Jade, when your beautiful boy is home and its months after the NICU, you will still cry. But tears of JOY. It is an experience that changes us!! Thank you for reading and please keep in touch.

  14. I can honestly say that I rarely ever comment on anyone’s blogs or posts but your story has hit SO close to home and brought my exact same thoughts to life! I am where you were a few months ago and am so happy to have stumbled across your post as I go thru this experience; it has touched and encouraged me tremendously. I recently delivered my daughter, Savannah, at 24w5d on December 29th on Long Island, NY weighing 1 lb 10 oz but she was then transferred two weeks later to Columbia Presbyterian for NEC surgery and she will remain here until it is time for her to come home (as of now, not sure when). She was due in April so you can imagine that I was totally unprepared mentally, emotionally and most of all spiritually. I was so captivated by your post because all along I kept asking God why, why did you choose me? Was it because you knew my bubbly spirit could handle it? Was it because my husband and I hemmed and hawed for so long as to when we “thought” we would be ready to have a child? Or was it because we both needed a challenge to instill our faith in Him and strengthen our relationship with Him? I must say that I truly believe it was to TRUST him. Never had I/we ever had anything as this experience happen to us before so we didnt know how to trust and truly believe in God. Just like you, I learned how to pray. Its not perfect but its my prayers and so far there hasnt been any prayers that havent been answered. I want to thank you so much for your story, your words of encouragement, your ability to be so open and frank about your experience and faith because it made me feel somewhat “normal” again, perhaps this is just MY “new normal”. Thank you, thank you! ~ Shonika

    1. Shonika, you have tremendously touched my heart this morning. YES, YES, YES! I understand what you are going through. And the answer is TRUST. It is pure and simple, and when God delivers, HE DELIVERS. Please, just hold on, stay faithful, and put your faith in God at the forefront, into action. I am here if you need me, I am on Facebook, Kaleena Berryman, and you are even welcome to call me! I was also at Columbia with my son twice for eye surgery. But let me tell you, he is a BEAUTIFUL baby boy, I mean all the things the doctors said would make his life difficult are NO MORE. God is awesome! I will add you and your baby girl, whose name I love, and your family to my daily prayers. Our God is a deliverer and pretty soon you will look up, she will be home, and this will be a memory. It will still make you cry, and still fill you up, but with wonder and praise! And you will still ask God, but with gratitude, WHY ME?????!!!!! It is a complete 360. I am here if you neeed me and thank you for reading and sharing with me!

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