Why I Call Him Sonshine….(from Poetry for the Preemie Mom’s Journey)


One of the most rewarding parts of being a parent, is giving our children nicknames that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. These names often carry great sentimental value and meaning, and help to shape who our children become to the world. When my son Jharid was born at 24 weeks gestation, I bestowed upon him a name and a song, that I found most fitting for the present blessing and the journey ahead. Sonshine (You Are My Sonshine, My Only Sonshine). Here, I explain why.

Why I Call Him Sonshine: by Kaleena Berryman (Jharid’s Mom)

When he was born
The world counted him out
Low Apgar score
Low birth weight
Low percentage for survival
I gave birth to a child
And a rainstorm…
The labels never ending
They said that he would be
Mourned in time
That his light would not last
Beyond the incubator
So I called him Sonshine
To set the world straight
To make his purpose clear
To set his presence here in stone
There is much power in a name
I call him Sonshine
So that when you see my Sweetheart
You see the light of my life
Not the delay in his growth
I had to let the world know
He is smart
He is kind
He is important
And brilliantly loved
I call him Sonshine
So by the time he grows up
Sonshine will outweigh all the others
Words hurdled at him in offices and on school yards
And unintentionally by people who love him
But don’t dream like I do
Who can dim the light of the sun?
No one
And no one will dim the light God has placed
In this fighter child of mine
I call him Sonshine
So the grace of God won’t miss him
So the world will not forget him
I’ve given him full permission
To be my joy come every morning

Mommy is watching, they’re all waiting


Poem from the book Stronger Than We Thought: Poetry for the Preemie Mom’s Journey. Download from Amazon onto any computer or electronic device!

23 Months..... The Quiet Before the Blessing Storm...

My baby is becoming a big boy. He desires independence, throws little tantrums, and is mesmerized by TV. All answered prayers.

I am expecting a storm of blessings as he turns 2. Walking, talking, running.. the entire menu of miracles. The closed eye opening, his thirst for knowledge growing, I am expecting to be filled with joy over and over in this new year. My spirit tells me to believe. And on the eve of his 23rd month, our 23rd month together, my prayer is simple.

Thank you God for all you have done. I am prepared for all YOU will do. Just run wild.

Sonshine, the best is yet to come.

5 Things all Preemie Moms Want Pregnant Moms to Know


From the moment we find out they exist, all mothers begin dreaming for their children. No matter the circumstances that surround our pregnancy, we all hope for a healthy, happy baby who will leave their mark on this world and our hearts. We see their faces in our sleep, imagine holding their hands as they learn to walk, and find moments where the excitement is so intense that we want to reach in our uterus, pull the baby out and cover their little faces with kisses– mommy kisses.

Then, there are moments in our pregnancy when we are intensely emotional. If your pregnancy is a difficult one, those moments are far more frequent. We are fearful of the unknown; we have pain, worry tremendously, and complain. We are even a little bit selfish in our desire for the ten months to be over. Morning sickness, getting fat, and dealing with the aggravating people in our lives –it can feel like too much at times. Both sets of moments are real, and fair and normal. All mothers have them.

But the latter, is what we preemie moms, want you to consider doing less of. Entering motherhood earlier than expected has changed the way we look at pregnancy. For us, pregnancy is the real MIRACLE. We would give our right arm to be able to go back to ours and enjoy every bit of the worry, pain and annoyance that comes with growing our baby to term. At night that is a lingering prayer in our minds, the “what if” that takes us years to let go of. We know that if our pregnancies had been longer, our children would have been born healthier. The conditions in the womb during pregnancy are just as important to your child’s life as the condition of the nursery we decorate for them or the home we prepare for them. In some ways, the womb is even more important.

So pregnant moms, on behalf of preemie moms everywhere, here is some advice. It comes from hindsight, and from experience. It also comes from heartbreak. We understand that you, mom, will rarely be as powerful and beautiful as you are right now. Take hold of that. In a nutshell, for the next 40 weeks it is both all about you and not about you at all.

1. There is Nothing More Important than your Happiness. In your belly, there is a life forming. There is nothing more important to that process than a healthy, happy, joyful, expectant mom. Our lives are complicated, hectic and unpredictable. Your baby’s is not. His or her needs right, now, are simple. They need YOU. Your child did not ask to be born, so it doesn’t deserve anything but the best of you. Speak positively, smile often and rub only goodness into that belly. Stock up on happiness. For bad days, keep some in reserve. Your baby will grow off the energy you give to him or her. Vitamin H is essential.


2. Speak Only Positive Words. Pregnant moms experience much to complain about. But be careful of the words you choose when expressing your feelings. Be careful not to say things that are negative towards the baby. A preemie mom shutters at the sound of a pregnant woman saying, “Oh, I can’t wait for this to be over”. We all said it, and now regret it. Instead say, “I can’t wait until the 40 weeks are over and my child is born.” Both have the same meaning, but one is more positive and specific. Be cautious of what you put out into the universe. Our words have power.


3. Try Your Best not to Worry. No one knows more than NICU moms that sometimes things go wrong. But most of the time, they don’t. One of my favorite scriptures, instructs us not to worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself. Spend your mental energy hoping and praying for everything to go right. Don’t fret over what you cannot foresee or control. Our self-inflicted fears of pregnancy are not worth the anguish they cause. I remember spending at least 20 percent of my pregnancy worrying about the labor. I hoped for a C-Section. I did not know any better. My labor was easy, and I got that C-section, but I also got a 5 month NICU sentence. I now wish I had spent more time, for my son, celebrating instead of worrying about his entrance into the world. And moms, if a doctor is the source of your worry, take heed to their precautions, follow their directions, but don’t let them overtake your journey. Listen, be aware, but choose faith. Faith has saved more lives than a doctor ever will. And no matter what, God is in control.


4. Take it Easy. Mom to Be – PLEASE RELAX. Be lazy. Let everyone else do all the heavy lifting. We know that many of us have to work during our pregnancy, but you do not have to work your butt off. Slack off instead. Call people to do things. Don’t rush. Exercise if you must, but go lightly. Doctors and nurses and “experts” will tell you that you can do your daily tasks normally, but then if something begins to go wrong they will restrict you. We say, restrict yourself. Don’t wait for a doctor who doesn’t love your baby to tell you what is BEST for him or her. And don’t wait for something to go wrong. All of that activity can wait. Stay on the safe side. Your baby is worth it.


5. Listen to Your Body – So many times us preemie moms felt warning pains, or that things were not right, and we didn’t act on it. Maybe we called the doctor the first two times and they checked us out, but told us everything was ok. Certain pain is not OK and you will know the difference. Remember that your doctor has seen plenty of moms, but each pregnancy is unique. No one knows your body better than you. Listen to it. Sometimes it may just want you to rest. Other times, you may need a change of diet. Don’t worry, just figure it out. So many preterm births could have been prevented by bed rest never administered or precautions never taken. Pay attention to your body and never hesitate to call if something doesn’t feel right. You are not being a pain, you are being a mom.


See mommies to be, no one ever really wants the pregnancy to end early. The dreams and visions we have while our children are forming, are all starring big ole eight pound babies. In none of our visions are NICUs, and one pound newborns. We don’t envision tubes and monitors and isoletes. We envision the perfect end, but we often take the process for granted. We should try our best to see pregnancy as a precious gift to be treasured, enjoyed, and experienced to the fullest. No matter how long it is.

Moms to be, we are so happy for you. We want you to rock this. We want you to take the ball to the 40 yard line. Your child is a rare jewel that deserves the best conditions for safe keeping. And you deserve a jewel that is full grown.

Moms to be, we wish you the longest, most annoying, most beautiful pregnancy imaginable – as intended.


On the Day You Were Born (too little, too soon) – A Poem


On the day you were born, (Too little, too soon)
I lay in denial, until about noon
On the day you were born, I prayed and I cried
For the baby I needed, to stay safely inside
On the day you were born, four months before due
Your heart rate kept dropping, (Mine kept dropping too)
On the day you were born, I wore a fake smile
(Pretend to be happy, you’re meeting your child)
Nurses, doctors and daddy, looking at me with worry
Almost no time for steroids, you were in such a hurry
On the day you were born, my world came crashing down
There was nothing to do, but deliver you now
In the light room I go, for the C-section scar
Twenty minutes of pulling, and whoop, there you are
So little, so fragile, nothing like the norm
I thought I would lose you, on the day you were born
They whisked you away, Family came to say hi
I spent the whole evening, trying not to cry
But as soon as they left, me alone in my room
I mourned for the baby, I’d failed from the womb
On the day you were born, Mommy just couldn’t cope
I desperately needed, to see signs of hope
For you were a pound, and I wasn’t sure
That good things could come, from blessings premature
I didn’t go meet you, heartbroken and torn
Waited 24 hours, from the day you were born
And then I went walking, Motherhood in suspense
The happiness fleeting, the sorrow intense
Before I went in, I said to the worry
He deserves a proud mommy, no matter how early
I walked to your “incu”, to my delayed joy
Yes you were, really little, but MY little boy
You waved a small hand, calling for me to take it
From that moment on, I knew you would make it
I sat there for hours, committed to see
Just a hint of the miracle, waiting for me
I replaced my new faith with the guilt I had worn
On the beautiful, magical, day you were born
Here we go, on our journey, no time left to doubt
For the first time in your life, I wanted you out
Released from the NICU, and home in your room
Laughing and playing and sleeping till noon
So here goes your mother, whose heartbeat you know
We are in this together, on a journey to grow
My baby, you gave me far better than “norm”
My child, a survivor, from the day you were born

If you would like this poem tailored for your preemie “on the day they were born” complete the order form – PERSONALIZED PREEMIE ORDER FORM



On the Day You Were Born, for Ellie

On the Day You Were Born, for Jeffrey



From Twenty Nine Weeks to Perfection, for Gabriel and Alejandro

The Day Our Miracle Came Home, for Andrew



On the Day You Were Born, from the book Stronger Than We Thought: Poetry for the Preemie Mom’s Journey. Download from Amazon onto any computer or electronic device!You do not need a kindle or nook to read electronically.

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Dear Heart of a Working Mom… (in Honor of Women’s History Month)


Dear Heart of a Working Mom,

I need you to stop breaking.
Every morning, when I leave my little one behind, you temporarily take over
With each “See you later”, you make me see his needs
And how much better off he would be if he were home
With ME.
How much faster he would learn to walk, or say his ABCs…
How I might just miss his first sentence,(probably, “Mommy, where are you?!”
If it were up to you, I would just drop it all.
You whisper to me, “Aren’t you forgetting someone?”, with each closing door.
I just can’t take you anywhere.

Dear Heart of a Working Mom,
I am revoking your passport.
No more guilt trips.

You have allowed me to LOVE
This little person with every inch of my being.
But you have also allowed me to love, ME
And a mother’s got to do, what a mother’s got to do
One of those things is – forgive herself
And you must forgive me too.
See, Working Moms need working hearts that are strong
Capable of understanding that when I come home
I will give him all of me
From 5 to 9.
But from 9 to 5, I am carving, for my baby, a future
That will be bigger and brighter than I could have ever imagined
And if you have a problem with that
Tell the Mind of a Working Mom
To pick the right lottery numbers
So all three of us can stay home.

The Color of Prematurity Awareness

My name is Kaleena Berryman, I am an African American woman, and last year I gave birth to my son prematurely.
Kaleena Berryman, pic
If you were to judge the face of prematurity by the color of preemie awareness, you would think it was a “white woman’s issue”. You would assume that there are very few women of color birthing babies too soon and that America’s NICUs are homogenous, from the nurses who care for babies born between 17 and 4 weeks early, to the parents who sit expectantly next to incubators, waiting on miracles.

And your assumptions would be wrong, and if left unchecked, a critical barrier to successful outcomes for our children.

When I became a preemie mom after having my son 16 weeks early, I had no idea what to do with it. Honestly, I did not know that it was possible, that a child could be born that early and survive. I didn’t know NICUs existed, and to my knowledge my family was preemie free. When the doctors asked me before going into the delivery room if I wanted them to try and save my son, I did not know how to answer them. I asked, “What is the other option?” I had no idea what saving my son would involve, and how much “saving” he would actually need.

After getting settled into our circumstance, I sought information, support and guidance to help both my baby and myself thrive through the experience. I came across a plethora of online support groups, Facebook pages, blogs and books that were not only helpful but amazingly reassuring. And although I had much in common with the brilliant mothers and fathers behind these lifelines, our experiences, our stories, our faces – were different. Quite frankly, I could not, and did not, see myself in them.
me and Jay
This is not attributed to the resilient parents who were changed enough by the preemie journey to take up the mission of helping other parents through it. They have all welcomed me with open arms. If it were not for blessings like It’s a Preemie Thing, Kasey Matthews, Life After NICU and Preemie Babies 101, I would have gotten lost along the way. There is no “glass ceiling” in preemie awareness, because motherhood trumps race any day. The things we have seen our children go through – the struggles of our babies, forever bond us.

But after the messages of encouragement, health care tips and best practices are shared, there is an immediate need to tackle prematurity prevention. Prematurity can happen to anyone. But right now, it is more likely to happen to Black children. And that message needs to come from all impacted families, including families of color. At some point we decided that our stories were not worth telling. We have to now make a conscious decision to transform that.

African American mothers are 1.5 times more likely than white mothers to give birth prematurely. These disparities exist even when age, education and other demographics are considered, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. In my hometown of Newark, NJ, 20% of children are born prematurely and at a rate 66% higher than that of white women living in the city. The disparity is attributed to many factors, including lack of prenatal care, poverty, and stress.

But there is more to it.

I believe that our lack of voice is making matters far worse. This has to change. Why? We have to save babies. Children born prematurely are far more likely to have physical and mental disabilities. They have higher rates of asthma and other health issues. They are more likely to become blind, deaf, or have developmental delays. When we look at our urban classrooms, we see the alarming number of children designated as special needs and we bring attention to it.  We offer solutions like, early childhood education and the need for parents to be more involved. But rarely is the question asked, “Were they born premature”?. In a city where 20% of children are born early educators, parents, community – we must add that question to the discussion and prematurity prevention to the list of solutions. We have to be just as diligent about prematurity awareness in communities of color and the disparities that come along with it, as we are for breast cancer and AIDS awareness. Not all preemies survive. Not all stories turn out beautiful. It is our obligation to tell our truth and inspire as many people as we can.


African American mothers in the preemie community must come out of hiding. We experience prematurity, we get through it, and we move on. We keep the lessons to ourselves. After giving birth, people were quick to offer awesome stories about how children in their family, my family, were born small and were now big and strong and running around as if nothing happened. I would have appreciated that story more, a little earlier. Maybe then, when I felt the pain of my son coming at six months, I would have fought harder when the doctor told me everything was okay.

This is why I started http://www.praying4mypreemie.com. I want mothers to take the warning signs seriously. I want mothers to take it easy, to get excellent prenatal care, to relax. I want African American women to know that this exists, that your child can be born small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. I need them to know it can be devastating and you should do all you can to prevent it. No longer should we be over represented in the statistics, yet underrepresented in the story.


You may not be able to run a support group or become a preemie advocate. But I invite you to share your story. Become a part of the “Color of Prematurity” Campaign today. Share your story with us at kaleenaberryman@gmail.com. At the end of the month, in honor of National Prematurity Awareness, we will share all of the stories and faces of women of color and their children born before 36 weeks. And we will encourage you to share with your friends. Let’s lend our face to the cause.

I am a preemie mom. A working mom. And an African American mom. All three give me a unique purpose, perspective, and set of challenges. And there are thousands of women out there who share these descriptors with me.

It is time the world knows we exist.

Here are links to excellent resources for preemie parents. While you craft your story, start here.


Life After NICUhttps://www.facebook.com/lifeafterNICU?hc_location=stream

It’s a Preemie Thing https://www.facebook.com/ItsaPreemieThing

Preemie Babies 101https://www.facebook.com/preemiebabies101

Preemie Support and Awareness: https://www.facebook.com/PreemieSupportandAwareness

breatheTo All My Preemie Parents - We Are Stronger than we Thought

Poem from the book Stronger Than We Thought: Poetry for the Preemie Mom’s Journey. Download from Amazon onto any computer or electronic device!

I Am A Mom With Special Needs


I Am a Mom with Special Needs

I need
A heart that is resilient
Faith that never wavers
Coffee and hopeful conversation
With friends who carry tissue

I need moments of intoxicating laughter
And uninterrupted normalcy
Family with praying hands
And legs that don’t bend with the wind

I need strong shoulders to lean on
And people who ignore the differences
People who celebrate the little things
And easily lose track of time

I need plans that aren’t cemented
And a calendar with extra days
A boss who’s willing to work with me
A husband who’s willing to share

I need intuition that’s fool proof
A certainty that challenges
Any expert or evaluator
Who dare stand in our way

I need tear ducts that don’t have filters
Eyes that don’t betray me
Pillows that keep secrets
And pages to remind me

That I am still the same me
Just now, with so much more to need
With so much more to lose
And a little one to live for

Kaleena Berryman, pic

Poetry from Praying4MyPreemie
At Praying4MyPreemie, we specialize in poetry written to celebrate the miracles that come with our children, through our personalization poetry service, Poetically Yours. Give us your story, sentiments, dedications, and we will create a beautiful poem to honor your child, at a reasonable price. There are no cards that tell our story, this poem will live on forever! First birthday – Coming home from the hospital – birth – even loss, we can capture the words of your heart. Email us at kaleenaberryman@gmail.com for more information.

Getting to Forgiveness

For a year after my son was born, I walked around in “unforgiveness”.

For those who have been on the journey into motherhood with me, this may come as a surprise. I am a generally happy person, and I openly celebrated the many blessings that came with the birth of my son 16 weeks early.

However, to be honest, it was the most traumatic experience of my life, and it has had many lasting repercussions. My family and friends lived on prayers during most of his NICU stay. My beautiful little innocent baby boy had to undergo too much, too soon. And it was my fault.

As all mothers do, I wanted the first 18 years of his life to be easy as pie.  I was devastated when this was not the reality.  As the person in charge of carrying him for the agreed upon 40 weeks, I could not help but feel like I owed him an apology. So as I simultaneously thanked God for bringing him through the hospital stay, vision issues, surgeries, illnesses and challenges, I blamed myself for their existence. I enjoyed watching God work, but felt bad He had to spend so much time on my child. It was really, really hard, living in uncertainty. The professionals call this “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”. I call it, feeling inadequate, burdened and helpless. It is a feeling many parents of challenged children live with daily.

Until they get to Forgiveness.

When we first left the hospital I was high on the miracle, so high I refused to accept that his prematurity would result in delays. And then, as the delays began to show themselves, so did the more intense feelings of guilt.  The “unforgiveness” grew. If I had only carried him long enough, made better decisions, rested more – the therapies, doctor appointments and evaluations would not be needed. These were my everyday thoughts.  Watching him struggle to sit up, when most babies do it so effortlessly, broke my heart on many occasions.

I had been warned that this would come, and that it was all a part of being a preemie mom. I also knew that he was improving tremendously with therapy. The reasoning, however, did little to calm the blame on myself. I began to feel discouraged, and struggled to find a place for these feelings. So I kept searching, finding new approaches, counting triumphs. Each milestone he hit developmentally removed a stone from the mountain of guilt I had created. But soon after, I would replace it with a new one. And this – this constant building and tearing down, was my emotional life.

And then, a few weeks ago, my son gave me the gift of a lifetime. We were sitting in the living room, and my son was on the floor, playing to himself. He was laughing, reaching for his toys, and exploring his world. HE WAS HAPPY. Growing. Thriving. PERFECT. No, he was not doing what 13 month old babies typically do, but he did not seem to know or even remotely care. Yes, he was learning more and more each day, and we had somehow ended up in this place where he was like a regular child. He was moving forward, and I was the only one stuck in the challenge of his prematurity.  My boy, was moving on with his life. And in the innocence of his playtime he spoke to me so clearly. His spirit said to mine, “Mommy, I am fine”. Get over it. And finally, I allowed my heart to hear it. In that moment, more gratefulness came over me than I had ever experienced at one time. My guilt began to feel unreasonable. I had finally arrived at a place of forgiveness, and my son had escorted me there. It was as if my son was born to me again, but this time with only joy and happiness. No regret.

Through this I have learned, that when things do not go as planned,  the vulnerability of disappointment can easily  grow negative feelings. But we must keep moving, and leave them behind. They are distractions to our blessings. My son had already learned to do this. If we are to enjoy the rainbow that comes after the storm, we must first forgive ourselves for not carrying an umbrella. The journey is filled with too many miracles to get stuck at the mirages.  For it is true – through challenges, we become closer to God, and more aware of our power to pray and be heard. Forgiving ourselves is the only way to make room for it all.

I have vowed, from this day forward to only enjoy my son. To never let anything dim the light he has placed over my life. To allow him to discover his abilities as he pleases. He and I will completely live in the now. For him this is important, but also for me. I deserve to be happy.

And he deserves a mother who has forgiven herself.


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