What I Want My Childless Friends to Know, by Kaleena Berryman

Before I became a mom, I remember looking at my friends who were parents, and intently watching them with their babies. I wondered about the joy they felt raising “our” beautiful, intelligent, amazing children (many of whom are my Godchildren).  It had to be the greatest feeling in the world to them, for it was quite astounding for me. I longed for the day I would have a little one of my own, to hear him or her call me “mommy”, to have someone so precious depend on little ole’ me.  As I got past my late 20s, I soon joined the force of folks wondering when I was going to become a mother. I looked in the mirror and echoed their all too familiar, “Kaleena, when are you going to put a bun in that oven?” More often that before, images of baby showers, bassinets, and little cutie clothes hit me full force. I was enamored with the thought of teaching a child to read, to write and to question the world. My biological clock was not just ticking; the alarm that I had set for myself was blasting at the highest volume.

I decided the year before last, that it was time. I was getting close to 30, and my fertile days were growing fewer and farther between. And although I was not supposed to become a mommy until August of 2012, I became one a little sooner, in April of the same year.  And yes, all of the joy and happiness I imagined are as intense as I had imagined. My son is the light of my life! However, now that I am a mom and my biological alarm clock has been silenced, I have a little more range of clarity. Becoming a parent is indeed the most beautiful experience in the world.  I would not trade it for anything. God has given me a piece of creation, a miracle to call my own. That baby is loved by me more than I am loved by me, and the sheer excitement of watching him grow is enough to topple me over. But that question of buns in our ovens is so misleading. The question people should ask is, “Are you ready to become a PARENT”? If they asked it this way, the childless folk may take a minute to ponder what becoming a parent really means. The only problem is, you won’t actually have a clue until you become one. So from a new mom to my childless friends, here is what I need you to know before you start winding that biological clock. Parenthood is no joke.

Imagine your heart and soul, walking around on the outside of your body. You try your best to keep control of it, but there is so much you can do. Not only is it walking around on the outside, you have to make sure that it is happy, healthy and well taken care of. And you love it soooooo much! But, you worry in equivalence to your love. There are no instructions, no cheat sheet and your heart and soul will not give you a transition period. You are responsible for seeing this human being who is new and delicate and little, into adulthood. And you soon realize that their life, from day one, is THEIR life. God has given it to them, and as much as you want to protect them, control their destiny, and keep them from ever feeling an inch of discomfort, it is truly all in God’s hands. So your peace must too, be in God’s hands. THAT is parenthood; little people coming into your world and completely taking it over. So if their world is good, yours is outstanding. But if their world is bad for even a little while, you are in pain until they are not. It’s this intense kind of love that you could never imagine before it came into your life and now that it is here you would easily die without it. It is that throw yourself in front of a bullet to save them without even thinking kind of love. And it gets stronger and stronger every minute of every day.

Friends, I need you to know that with the dress ups and pictures and joys of parenthood will come difficult times. Some experience them sooner, some later. But they come. And you will have to make sure both you and your children come out on the winning side. Choices will have to be made that are not easy. Never again after becoming a parent will you be the priority. Therefore, while you are waiting for or planning your entry into parenthood, consider the things that will make you stronger. Learn to pray. Pray for your children now, even though they are not yet here. Pray that they enter this world healthy and strong. Pray that their lives be complete and whole. And pray that you will be a smart parent. Pray for strength and insight and good judgment. You will need these things.

Maybe my introduction to parenthood has shaken me, but I believe that no matter how your baby comes into this world, the love is the same. The difference is what that love goes through and when. There will of course be way more good days than bad, but be spiritually ready for both. Children are the best thing that will happen to us. They are very precious gifts. And with all things precious, great care is required. So be prepared. My childless friends make sure your heart, soul and mind are all prepared to both love and pray like you never have before.  That is what becoming a parent really means. Not buns baking in the oven, but prayers simmering in your heart.

From NICU to Just You: Preemie Prepping Your Home for Your Baby’s Discharge

doctorFinally you get the call; your baby is almost ready to be discharged from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)! Suddenly, the anxiety of the NICU rollercoaster is replaced with the reality of bringing your once so fragile baby to your oh so germy home. (With all that has been going on, cleaning was probably the last thing on your mind). Parents go through so many emotions during their child’s NICU stay and can often find themselves both excited and scared when it comes to an end. The safety net of the NICU is soon to be removed and the responsibility of caring for our children, who have overcome so much, is solely on us.
When it was time to bring Jharid home in September of 2012 after his five month stay, I went into what I affectionately call “parent of a preemie panic mode”. I immediately began washing and disinfecting everything (and everyone) in sight. His dad and I had one goal in mind – that our clean home would be a safe haven for our little miracle baby to thrive in. And so far, it has been. However, preemie prepping before discharge is more than just getting everything clean. Bringing a baby home from the NICU requires the adoption of a new way of life, and it comes with much sacrifice. The good thing is, if you properly preemie prep you can greatly reduce the chance of your child ending up back in the NICU. When it comes down to it, our job as parents is to do our best to keep them healthy. After all, they did all the hard work! Here are five helpful hints to preemie prepping your home.
1. Adopt a Preemie State of Mind: Face it, your child coming home requires a new way of thinking, different than that of parents whose babies did not have a NICU pit stop. You have to be a little more careful about the environment your child lives in. He or she is not the typical baby; a cold can set your baby way back, and an infection can be equally detrimental. Be careful about the things, people and energy you let into your baby’s healing space. You must be disciplined. Feel comfortable in the difference and welcome it whole heartedly. No matter what people think or how they criticize, do not be ashamed of your cautiousness. If you need a little support (which I suggest), join online groups that offer just that, such as Praying4MyPreemie https://www.facebook.com/ThrivingPreemies. Not only will this group help you get into a preemie state of mind, you can also post questions and read posts from others. You are not alone!
2. Get Organized: Before any baby comes home, it is best for parents to organize the living space. Babies turn our worlds upside down, and the worst thing is for your home to look like it. Develop a system for all of the baby’s belongings. Organize your personal space and the things you use daily. Invest in a calendar for maintaining all important dates (your days over the next few months will be filled with doctor appointments, therapy and service coordination). A COZI calendar is a great resource for families; it allows you to maintain an online calendar that all of the family can access (http://www.cozi.com). Invest also in a record keeping system for medical bills, payments and insurance information. More than likely, you will need to revisit these things at some point. Conveniently post the numbers for all doctors, specialists, service agencies and your very favorite NICU nurses (they are the first line of defense). Create a system now, and it will be easier to start off organized when baby comes home.
3. Don’t Just Clean, Maintain: Before your baby comes home, disinfect everything. Vacuum the rugs and dust every room. Wash your drapes, wipe down all furniture, and clean all of your clothes (you won’t have time do it later). Clean all of the baby’s blankets, toys and clothes. However, the key to providing a safe space for your child is maintaining one after the newness wears of. It is impossible to eliminate all germs in your home forever, but you can do a very good job of minimizing the spread of them. Go through the house and make a list of all the things that are touched throughout the day. For instance: computers, door knobs, refrigerator handles, the microwave, bannisters, and faucets. These are the areas and parts of your home you want to disinfect daily and multiple times. Invest in wipes and sprays that are created to kill germs. Don’t forget devices like remote controls and cell phones; they are germ magnets. Maintain this way of living for as long as you can and it will greatly reduce the chance of you or your child becoming sick.
4. Post the Rules and Enforce Them: When your baby first comes home, visitation should be greatly limited. For those who do visit, please ensure that they are not, and have not recently been, sick. Once the visitors are in your home lay down the rules – make guests take off their shoes, wash their hands for twenty seconds, wear gloves and masks, and disinfect their phones and bags. Keep Purell around as a backup. Post the rules so that you don’t have to explain them over and over. Watch your guests and make sure they have done everything accordingly, especially before holding your baby. At some point, you may loosen the rules as your baby becomes stronger and older, but don’t relax them too much. Some friends and family won’t understand your diligence about protecting your baby. They may even say you are going overboard. That is okay – just remind yourself of the days and hours you spent in the NICU. That is all of the inspiration you need.
5. Take Some Time to Yourself: The NICU experience does not end with the NICU stay, and there will be more work to make sure your baby is developing on track. So before your baby comes home, take a moment and relax. Have a shopping or spa day; go to dinner with your loved ones. Exhale. Make a moment for meditation and prayer, bless your home. There are many moments ahead that will offer their set of challenges and you have to be ready. Whether we want to admit it or not, the NICU experience has changed who you are. You will see the world differently. Sometimes the memories will come back even after your baby is home, and the stress can return as well. Bring peace into the space and a peaceful parent along with it. Your baby wants to come home to a happy and healthy you, as if it were three days after your delivery. In fact, you both deserve that kind of homecoming.

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Stronger Than We Thought – A Poem for Preemie Parents

STRONGER THAN WE THOUGHT
DEDICATED TO MY FELLOW NICU MOMS AND DADS
BY: KALEENA BERRYMAN (Mom of Jharid, 24 Weeker Miracle)
www,praying4mypreemie.com

justbreathe

We often look back on the day our lives changed
And it’s hard to recall how we did it
How we loved the smallest child we’d ever seen
From their first moments, our hearts committed
To their tiny noses and beautiful eyes
Frail fingers, we could barely touch
Filled with moments, and dreams, all their “first times”
Something so fragile, yet loved so much

Without question, without hesitation
Without pausing – there’s no time to rest
‘Cause while most moms go home with their babies
We all went home with our biggest test
We learned medical terms, medications
We read monitors, not lullabies
We learned to listen for alarms ringing
Instead of our baby’s soft cries
While most mothers dread all of the vaccines
Meeting colic or baby’s first fever
We are hopeful for sniffles and teething
Glad to trade our worries for either

As we share our babies with nurses
Instead of close family and friends
Watch the day pass as we watch our children
For we have to leave them when it ends
Trying daily to make the best of it
We make friends, plan showers, buy gifts
All the while in our minds we are screaming
There is nothing normal about this!

Though we dare not cry out in our weakness
We don’t want God to think that we doubt Him
For He promised that He’ll answer prayers
And we can’t make it through this without Him
In the NICU there’s no intermission
Introduction; the coaster’s not mild
Plus you never thought so much equipment
Would ever be hooked up to your child

But no lesson in life lasts forever
With one season, another begins
One day you will notice that their frailty
Seems to be coming to a slow end
Now you’re holding your baby, there’s feedings
And you notice they smile when you sing
The CPAP is no longer needed
And the monitors no longer ring
It’s as if they decided in their own time
That’s enough of this darn NICU stay!
And you’ll notice that determination
Will be with them the rest of their way

Yes, the last few months were long and weary
The emotions were so out of hand
It’s a feeling you’d never imagined
One friends and family can’t understand
It was your special journey, your experience
And now you and your child can both heal
You accept God chose you for a miracle
And you know for yourself God is real
Here’s to all of the amazing NICU parents
And our babies who from day one, fought
Now we know that we, and our children
Are so much stronger than we first thought

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Poetry from Praying4MyPreemie
Kaleena Berryman is a preemie parent poet, who has written hundreds of poems for preemie families across the globe. This poem is one of many in her book, “Stronger than We Thought: Poetry for the Preemie Mom’s Journey”. If you would like a  personalized preemie journey poem written for your child, email praying4mypreemie@gmail.com or Learn more here: https://praying4mypreemie.com/order-a-preemie-poem/ and see samples below!

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On the Day You Were Born, for Amelia13511973_851711971600330_989726466223908688_n

The Day Our Miracle Came Home, for Andrew

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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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Planting My Mustard Seed – Putting Faith into Action

In Matthew 17:20 Jesus says to his disciples, ” I tell you the truth, if you have Faithas small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Well I must admit, before April 2012, I could not make a piece of paper move with my Faith. My Faith was hand me down, “passed down from generation to generation”. I hadn’t worked for it; I had no spiritual connection to it. I had no stake in its power. Don’t get me wrong; I believed in God, praised Him and prayed to Him – I thanked Him for His many works in my life pretty often. But all I knew was His goodness, His mercy and grace, and as far as I was concerned it had all come automatically. Until that point my Faith had never really been put to the test. And then God enrolled me, without my knowledge or permission, into the Faith accelerated program. Over the last few months this crash course in Faith has been the most rewarding class I have ever taken. It was also the hardest. However, I now know for myself that Faith the size of a mustard seed is a powerful thing. Once you put it into action.

When my son was born a 24 week preemie, I prayed constantly that God would protect him. He was so little, so fragile and needed so much support to live. I prayed for his life and his health, and believed that if anyone were to help us, it could only be God. All of my prayers were of desperation. All of our family and friends told us that it would be fine, that God would take care of it. They were talking from the Faith. I heard them, and deep down couldn’t imagine the God I serve, not working it out. I made the declaration that it would work out, but I did not live as if I believed it. My actions spoke louder than my so called Faith. One Sunday I went to my best friend Danielle’s church and lay before the altar – but I did not leave my problem there. I still worried myself to death. I knew God could do it, but I was not sure that He would do it! I did not trust Him, and therefore I tried to control the situation by myself. For many days I worried to the point where I became unproductive. I watched the baby’s monitor, waiting for something to go off so I could spring into action. I couldn’t allow myself to trust the nurses, I couldn’t relinquish the little power over his life I thought I had. I had a mustard seed size Faith, but it was sitting in a cup somewhere. Therefore I had no peace.

Then one day a woman whose grandson was in the PICU severely brain damaged pulled me aside because she could see that I had been crying. Things were looking really bad that day. She pulled me into a waiting room, took my by the shoulders and sternly said, “STOP IT!” She sat me down, looked me square in the face and scolded me. “What are you saying to God when you ask Him for help and then worry? You are telling him that you do not trust Him!” (Yep…she was right, I didn’t.) She told me that in order to have peace, I must activate my Faith. Remember, He is the same God who has covered you and protected you and provided for you all the days of your life! (And He has!).  A light went off within me. Then later that day Nurse Joyce, who was one of my favorite nurses, reminded me that there is nothing too big for our God. She said to me, “Just Believe, all you need is Faith the size of a mustard seed”. Trusting Him would be the only way I can experience the victory that is sure to come. Their words jolted me out of my daze and into a clearer reality. It was time to “get the planting”.

I got to work. I took my mustard seed and placed it carefully into soil I fertilized with the word of God. I watered it with prayer. I let my belief shine on it daily. I went back to work for a few hours a day, journeyed off to shopping centers. I got my hair done, cleaned myself up. I shopped for my baby boy, planned the baby shower. I still spent the majority of my day at the hospital but spent time getting to know the nurses instead of watching them. I made friends. I had fun watching my baby grow instead of agonizing over it. Soon after I realized that God had put me in a NICU that fit both my child and his parents perfectly; we truly enjoyed the relationships we built with the nurses, staff and other parents. Plus they were the best! Our friends showered us with love and support. Even distant friends prayed for us daily. We welcomed grandparent visits with excitement. I was able to leave and visit Danielle for short periods of time; she lived nearby. And eventually I became so powerful that each time we were confronted with health scares I looked them square in the face and said, MOVE! And sure enough, each and every one got out of my son’s way. My mustard seed size faith, once planted and fed, had made so many impossible things, testimonies of grace. The seed did not stay a seed, it grew and I was able to turn it into something that added flavor to my life. I call it, the flavor of favor.  It is now the greatest power I possess.

My son’s life and health is a reminder of how powerful Faith is. God knows that it is hard to believe when the challenges seem so hard. He just asks that we take our little seed, plant it and take care of it daily. He will take care of the rest. Now, I won’t say that I never worried again. That would be a lie. I am a mother; that is my job. However, I pray and trust God with a confidence that now allows me to keep pushing forward in spite of any situation. I can sleep at night because I know He won’t give me more than I can handle. I believe in God and His favor over my life, and that He has my baby boy carefully tucked in His arms. He will be just fine. And so will his father and I. We will both go to sleep at night thanking God and asking Him for another day. And we won’t take it for granted when He gives them to us. We will not only keep the faith, but we will keep our Faith moving.

The Top Ten Ways You Know You Are A Preemie Parent

When you become the parent of a preemie, life as you know it is no more. You find yourself knowing, doing and participating in activities you’d never imagine! Sometimes your friends and family may look at you like you are crazy, but that is because preemie parents have a language and culture all our own. There are a plethora of things uniquely preemie. Here are ten of them. The top ten ways you know you are a preemie parent! Are there any I missed? Please be sure to leave a comment with your additions to the list! I will take the ten best submissions for round two.

The Top Ten Ways You Know You Are A Preemie Parent

10. You keep hand sanitizer…EVERYWHERE.

9. You know what RSV, BPD, CLD, and PDA mean.

8. You have a bunch of baby clothes you are saving to give away to someone, but they can only fit on a baby doll.

7. Your Facebook page is filled with quotes and statuses that show you’ve recently been through a major life changing experience, and you have.

6. When your baby does something new, the first person you want to call is….their NICU nurse.

5. While your baby sleeps, you constantly check to make sure he or she is still breathing.

4. You have a bunch of congratulations cards with the word miracle in it.

3. Whenever you hand your baby to someone the look on their face says, “Are you sure?”

2. When someone coughs near you or your baby you want to put the smack down on them.

1. Every now and then you burst out in tears of joy, for your baby is a blessing and when they were born today felt so far away! God bless you moms and dads for you know the joy that comes with the glory of God, He saved our babies! Amen!

15 MINUTES…by Charleene Shingler (Olivia’s Mom)

A must read Excerpt from Charleene’s book

15 minutes seems pretty short under normal circumstances, but when you have a preemie in the NICU, 15 minutes can feel like a lifetime. There I sit, holding my daughter while her respirations are in the high 100s, thinking, Lord please slow her breathing down. The NICU doctor comes to me and says, “Charleene, as soon as respiratory brings in the vent we will have to move fast.” Her doctor asks to take her but I refuse- I tell him I will hold her until they are ready. I look down at my baby and think, how could this be, it’s her due date, they said she would be home by her due date. She was already born at 27wks and weighing only 1 pound 5 ounces in October and here it is January. Everything is supposed to be good. It was our turn to go home.

I glance back at the monitor and see that my child is sating at 85 on 100% oxygen.   Now I know that’s not good, and I look at the heart rate – 175 beats per minute. I see the nurses running with IV pumps – they bring fluids and meds to her bedside. Then they remove her crib and replace it with the warmer bed. I haven’t seen her in that bed since she was born. I glance back down at my baby whose nose is flaring and whose head is bobbing. I look back at the bed and remember seeing my baby for the first time in that bed, and how she was wrapped in plastic wrap to keep her 12 inch body warm. I look back at my daughter’s bed side and see two of her primary nurses, one from the day shift and the other who just came on for the night shift. My daughter’s doctor, who I call her miracle doctor says, “Charleene we are just about ready.” She sits back down with her eyes on my daughter’s monitor and I look back at my precious baby and think, she got you off the vent the first time, she will get you off this time, even though we are faced with two bigger hurdles. My daughter is now in heart failure and the pressure in her lungs is severely high. I remain optimistic.

I see my daughters resident doctor walk in. She comes to me and asks me if I’m ok, I look at her and at that moment I feel it. I feel my baby who was once breathing at 115 breaths just a second ago – I feel her body stiffen.  I look at her and then at the monitor and watch her heart rate go from the high 100s to the low 90s..80s…70s… 50s.  I hear the alarms and her miracle doctor snatches her from my arms. I look at the clock and realized its change of shift time; no parents are in here.  I stand up frozen and look down to the front of the pod and see the nurse practitioners running towards us. I look back at the clock and watch the second hand go around. Tic tic tic…one minute, then I start to realize what is going on. I look to my right and see my once brown baby, gray, and I see all of these medical professionals at her bedside. I see them turn her so that her head is toward the doctor’s stomach and I hear them say she is having a bronchospasm and we can’t intubate. Start CPR.

I look at the clock- just 2minutes have passed. I look at her pumping on my daughters chest and look at the monitor and realize every pump they do on my baby’s 4pound baby is showing up on the monitor, I stand quite cause I know if I freak out they will remove me from the room. I see them passing EPI needles and giving it to my baby and them trying again to intubate her with no success. I look at the clock -3 minutes. I hear, “Come on Olivia”, and then I hear “You’re getting tired doctor let me take over”. I see one of her nurse practitioners start CPR and I look at her doctor who never takes her eyes off my baby and I think, oh my goodness my baby is dying. I look at the resident and see she has a tear in her eye and she then reaches for my hand and holds it. I then see them switch off again and the next nurse practitioner starts CPR. I look at the clock-6minutes. I see more needles coming of EPI and I watch as her primary nurses stand at her bedside as well. I turn and see the once empty pod filled with nurses. One asked me if I was ok. I still haven’t spoken or moved, I am still frozen. I remember thinking, why is happening to me, what did I do that was so wrong that God is trying to take my baby from me, and the first tear drops. I think how I lost her twin at 9weeks and how I was in the hospital for 6weeks just to keep her in me, how I went through an emergency C-section where I had to be put to sleep. How she was born in a 24 weeker body when she should had been at least 2pounds. That’s when the next tear drops. I look at the clock-10 minutes, and they are still doing CPR on my baby. I then start to feel hot and like I’m going to pass out. I reach for the chair and her resident helps me to sit down.

I look at the clock and 11 minutes have passed; I close my eyes and pray that God sends my grandma down to be with me in this moment because I don’t know what to do. Do I tell them to stop CPR or let them keep going? I then begin to bargain with God, I pray that he takes me and spares my baby. She hasn’t had a chance to live life. I hear the next person say, “Ok let me start CPR”.  Then doc says, ”How long has she been down?”  I look up at the nurse who has been writing this all down and she says 13 minutes. I then see the doctor say, “Move let me try”, and she resumes CPR and she starts saying, “Olivia sweetie come on, come on Olivia”. I then look up and see that it has been 15 minutes. Then I hear a whimper and the doctor asks for the ET tube; I look up and see she’s no longer doing CPR and I look at the monitor and see her heart beating on its own. I feel her resident rubbing my hand with both of her hands and look at her and see she had tears in her eyes. I see respiratory attaching the ventilator tube to my baby’s breathing tube. And see her respirations at 40 sating at 94 and heart rate 102 and realize that my baby was back. I look over at her and she’s back brown. I see her arms flying around and I exhale and tears start flowing like a river, the monitors are going off because she’s fighting against the machine. The doctor comes to me and says, “Scary moment I know”. I say it was the longest 15 minutes in my life. She hugs me and I exhale and look at the clock and think, thank you God. Tic…tic…tic…toc, 16 minutes and the next chapter in her life begins.

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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