I just finished reading Juniper: The Girl Who Was Born Too Soon. It was a memoir written a couple about the birth of their premature daughter, Juniper, at 23 weeks gestation. As I read through the pages, I could relate so closely to the stories of my own birth and 6 months stay in the NICU that my parents shared with me. From the nights of almost losing me and my Dad spending countless hours reading to me and the dedication and care that the nurses and doctors gave me or my Mom’s dedication to making sure I had her breast milk to eat. I am thankful to the authors for being willing to share their story. I am amazed at the strong willed nature of those born too soon like myself and Juniper.
Thinking back on the stories of my early birth and stay in the NICU I am reminded of the amazing opportunity I had in 2009 when I got to participate in the NICU Reunion at Minnesota Children’s Hospital. It was amazing to be surrounded by so many strong and talented people who share a similar story to myself. I was thankful for my ability to give back by participating in their 20 year follow up study on the outcomes of micro-preemies like myself. Again in 2014, I had the opportunity to observe Dr. Ronald Hoekstra and nurse Lois Gilmore in the NICU Follow Up Clinic at Minnesota Children’s Hospital and I even got to read through my chart from when I was in the NICU and went through the follow up clinic. It was amazing to see that. I am so thankful to all of the doctor’s and nurses that cared for me and supported my family.
Growing up, I was always reluctant and embarrassed to share about my prematurity and I didn’t want to share about my story as I didn’t want to be seen as different than others. I soon came to realize that my prematurity, vision impairment, and all that comes with it is just part of who I am and it is my story. I am now proud to share my story and about my struggles and adaptations that I have had to make in my life. I would not be who I am today without living this life. I truly feel that in order to survive what I did, I had to have the tenacity and “me do it”attitude that helped me through it. These personality traits have stuck with me and contribute to my drive to go after my dreams. I am so thankful that my parent’s supported me and never held me back from pursing what I wanted to pursue because I coudn’t see as well as others. I am lucky that my vision is my only remaining complication of my prematurity and that I got to take advantage of the early lung studies that were happening at that time.
I was born at 25 weeks gestation, weighing 1 lb, 6 ounces and I was 12″ long. My head was the exact size of a tennis ball and I could wear my Dad’s wedding ring as a bracelet.
During my OT internship at Minnesota Children’s Hospital in 2014, they wrote a blog story about me describing my NICU stay and return to Children’s for the internship. You can read the story by clicking here.
When I lived in Tacoma, WA, I volunteered in the NICU, rocking babies. I really miss this opportunity since I moved back to Portland, OR. I felt as though baby rocking in the NICU was my one way of giving back… of silently sharing my story.
I have always wanted to work as an OT in the NICU, but I know this is a very difficult setting to get into. Maybe at some point in my career… I do have a long career ahead of me. I want to find a way to share my story with others to provide just a little bit of hope to the parents going through so much with their little one. To say, it can turn out okay in the end.
Another book I really enjoyed reading was Before Their Time: Lessons in Living from Those Born Too Soon by Daniel Taylor and Ronald Hoekstra. This book had special meaning to me as Dr. Hoekstra was the one who was on call at the hospital the night I almost died.
To all the parents out there who have faced a stay in the NICU due to the premature birth of their child, my thoughts are with you and may you hear my story and gain a little hope that your child too will make it.