The Miracle Baby

There are stories of babies conceived by couples who were thought to be infertile, stories of babies born with severe congenital disorders, and stories of babies born extremely prematurely, weighing less than a pound.  There are stories of preemies who beat the odds by surviving battles with necrotizing entercolitis and pneumonia or by simply growing up with no prematurity-related health issues.  In the community of parents of preemies, many proudly refer to their children as miracles.  This always piques my curiosity:  In what way is your baby a miracle?  By some definitions, only a micropreemie who survives without the help of a NICU team could be considered a miracle.  By other definitions, every living person is a miracle.

A favorite quote of Thich Nhat Hanh reads,

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle.  But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.  Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child – our own two eyes.  All is a miracle.

I usually refrain from referring to Peter as a miracle.  Survival and outcome statistics for 27-weekers are actually pretty good, and after he made it out of the delivery room alive, I never really had to fear for my baby’s life.   There’s only one way in which he truly beat the odds:  as a blastocyst, he navigated my treacherous uterus and found a safe spot to implant.  (The rate of spontaneous abortion for women with a septate uterus averages 65%.)

However, at the March for Babies today, I couldn’t help but feel like I was surrounded by miracles.  Hundreds of babies and kids were there along with hundreds of moms and dads who, if asked, would tell you that their children wouldn’t be here today without the help of modern medicine.  And so the race to prevent premature birth and cure congenital disorders presses on.  In preparation for our walk, our family raised $380.  Altogether, participants in the Worcester march raised $200,000 for the March of Dimes.  It’s cliche but true: together, we can make a difference.

I recently came across an essay written by Anna Jaworski, the mother of a child with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a severe congenital heart defect.  Though it was written for parents of children with heart defects, I think it resonates with parents of babies with other congenital disorders and parents of premature babies.  In short, it applies to all parents of miracle babies.  So I have revised Anna’s essay, and in doing so, I have answered my own question.

What does it mean to be the mother of a miracle?

It means going into your baby’s room a dozen times a night just to check to see if she’s still breathing. It means standing over the crib to watch the chest rise and fall and when you don’t see it move, you begin to panic and put your head down close to your baby’s face to try and hear her breathe. It means that when you don’t see the chest move and you don’t hear her breathing (because your own heartbeat is drowning out any other sound in the room), you put your finger under the baby’s nose to feel the air on your finger – until you wake the baby and she stirs and you’re thankful, so thankful that she’s still with you.

What does it mean to be the mother of a miracle?

It means feeling a huge sense of relief when she hears you and opens her eyes and smiles. It means saying a prayer of thanks for another day.

What does it mean to be the mother of a miracle?

It means measuring out her medication and panicking if she spits some of it out. How much did she spit out? One cc? Two or three? Then wondering if you should guesstimate how much more she should have and if you’d overmedicate her.

What does it mean to be the mother of a miracle?

It means checking her nail beds against your own to determine how blue she is today. It means asking your husband, your mother, or your sister, ‘Do her lips look blue to you?’ It means snuggling her in an extra blanket for fear she won’t be warm enough.

What does it mean to be the mother of a miracle?

It means worrying that even a sniffle could develop into an infection that will send her back to the hospital. It means taking your baby to the doctor and worrying that she will catch something in the waiting room, so you walk back and forth in the corridor until the nurse calls her name and takes you straight back to the examination room.

What does it mean to be the mother of a miracle?

It means knowing that every day is a blessing and a gift. It means knowing that you are the luckiest person in the world, just to be a parent. It means cherishing every moment, every breath with such intensity that you feel tears come to your eyes for no apparent reason.

What does it mean to be the mother of a miracle?

It means praying for a miracle to save your baby’s life. It means praying your marriage is strong enough to endure the hospitalizations, separations, and grief. It means praying for the will to live, even if your baby doesn’t.

What does it mean to be the mother of a miracle?

It means your own heart knows a pain no parent should know. It means feeling weak, helpless, angry, and depressed because your child’s fate is out of your hands. It means feeling strong, determined, and brave because you know you have to be.

What does it mean to be the mother of a miracle?

It means your love knows new unlimited boundaries. It means your pride in your child’s accomplishments is unparalleled. It means your pain has taught you a deeper sense of compassion than you ever imagined.  It means that you know the mixed up emotions of dealing with death – but more importantly of living with life.

[Photo credit Rick Cinclair.]

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One Response to The Miracle Baby

  1. sylvia says:

    We havebrecently found out that my unborn baby has hlhs and i am scared i feel so alone

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