Mommy feature: Preemie Strong! Written by Raven H. 

Most parents dream of the moment their child is born and holding them only seconds after. But for my fiancé and I, it would be a very long time before we could ever cuddle or gently caress our precious little girl. From the simple questions about her diapers to overwhelming medical procedures, we were in for a roller coaster ride that we never expected to take." Born 16 weeks premature and weighing only 1 pound, 4 ounces, my daughter Raegan is living proof that there is hope, thanks to breakthroughs in medicine, advances in research, and the generosity of strangers.
It was my last day of finals at Southern University. Throughout the whole day I felt like something wasn’t right but I was determined to finish my Junior Year off strong, so I could return to Texas. That evening the uncertainty increased. I called my doctor’s office and explained my symptoms and the nurse told me, “ As long as the baby is moving and your not bleeding heavy you're just fine.” Unhappy with that answer I called my Mom basically in tears. She urged me to go ahead and go to the hospital. By that time my doctor’s office was closed. Initially I went to Baton Rouge General Hospital where they made me wait for what seemed like ages. My fiance was on edge so he called the emergency line at my doctor’s office and they asked me to come to Women’s hospital instead. By this time I couldn’t sit or stand due to the excruciating pain I was feeling. My fiance did almost 100 mph all the way to Women’s hospital, and by the time I was admitted into a room I was 8cm dilated. I was rushed upstairs to labor and delivery in a state of shock. The doctor’s and nurses did everything to reassure me that everything would be okay but I was terrified. Everything was moving so fast I couldn’t process what was going on around me. I was given multiple medications to help advance Raegan’s lungs and also to prepare the both of us for delivery. When I got to the delivery room there were numerous doctors and nurses gathered around me. The events that followed next are all still a big blur to me. I was hysterical, drugged up, and mentally and physically exhausted. With everything that was going on I ended up having to have an emergency c-section.
When our journey began, the NICU team warned me that her extreme prematurity would be a long journey filled with many steps forward followed by many setbacks. I was an emotional rollercoaster during the entire NICU stay, being a full time college student athlete, 7 hours away from family support I did not know what to do or how to feel. I practically lived at the hospital for 6 months while Raegan slowly crept toward her due date. Like other moms of preemies, I felt guilty about her early birth. I would constantly contemplate, “Did I work too hard”?” Stress too much”?” Eat too little”? So many questions ran through my head on a daily basis. Nothing ever made me feel better besides Raegan getting better.
As time progressed, Raegan experienced many of the common complications associated with extreme prematurity including feeding issues, respiratory distress, Lung infection, bone issues, Retinopathy issues (eyes), blood transfusions, and countless feeding issues. As a result, some of these complications resulted in many surgeries during her NICU stay. The most life threatening was the infection of NEC an intestinal infection which almost took her from us one extremely terrifying night. A night I will never forget due to her doctor’s stunning words to her father and I, “ You guys might have to start thinking about making funeral arrangements. ” No parent ever wants to hear those words. It was like my heart suddenly shattered into a million tiny pieces in a matter of seconds. I thought I was losing my daughter before I could ever get the chance to be the mother I have always desired to be. But God, had a plan for my little angel, and losing this battle was not on his list of plans. Who would think a tiny infant could endure so much pain with such resilience. With that being said, I then made the decision to never allow negative news to cause me to give up on her. There was no option of losing faith and giving up, when she was fighting with every fiber in her tiny little body.
Milestones became joyous celebrations, no matter how big or small they were. Raegan slowly but surely showed anyone who doubted her that anything is possible with faith. After 6 long months, we finally were able to take her home. Despite having an 85% chance of death or disability, Raegan completely defied all odds that were once against her. That day was truly phenomenal, one of the best moment of our lives – joint first with being able to hold her for the first time! We were finally on our own for the first time, just our little family. I spent the whole evening smiling, I was so elated.
“Having the qualities of a superhero does not mean that you will never face failure or disappointment, it means that you will get up every time the odds are against you and try with all of your might.” Raegan may seem like your average toddler, but the resilience, courage, and fighting spirit within her makes her my very own superhero. From the day she was born I have been filled with nothing but gratitude to have a continuous reminder that miracles really do happen.

Raegan taught me to have strength I never knew existed. She is my reason for keeping the faith and never giving up. It’s crazy how a tiny human can teach you a life lesson bigger than themselves. To all the preemie mommy’s out there who are faced with this journey: Always remember to keep the faith, and NEVER give up! Our little superhero’s were brought here to teach us and those surrounding lessons far greater than you could ever imagine. Just keep holding on . . .We are PREEMIE STRONG! 

Tyler E. JohnsonComment