Though Prematurity Awareness Month is over, we are continuing our series Prematurity Voices, where we give parents of preemies a place to share their story in their own words. Today, we share Jennifer’s story of her family’s miracle baby and perfectly imperfect outcomes:
Nine years ago my husband Michael and I brought our second child into the world, a tiny little angel we named Grace. Grace was born prematurely on October 7, 2004. She was 24 weeks old, nearly half the age of what doctors consider a full-term pregnancy. Due to her incredibly tiny size, 1 pound 6.2 ounces (approximately the size and weight of a 20 ounce bottle of pop), her outlook was bleak.
Grace would be faced with many months of ongoing health issues. Her lungs were severely underdeveloped, that she was considered the age of viability. Babies that are born 24 weeks or earlier like Grace, are at high risk for many problems, and will need lots of respiratory support. But our miracle baby was and is still is a fighter. From the moment we saw her, we knew she would beat the odds. She had to, and we were determined to do whatever it took to help her.
Our miracle baby was born at Methodist Hospital in Rochester, Minnesota. I was airlifted from Mankato, Minnesota to Rochester on the same day my water broke. Grace would spend the first nine months of her life in the hospital while our family traveled back and forth from Mankato to see her.
When Grace finally came home, she had another nine months of in-home nursing care around the clock. We never imagined that our journey would be so difficult, or that we would live through so many exhausting days. Looking back, we feel very blessed and incredibly thankful for how far Grace has come. She is a true survivor and has made it through circumstances that felt nearly impossible at the time.
Grace is now a beautiful nine-year-old third grader. When she was born, she endured life threatening medical problems. As she has grown and started grade school, her needs have shifted from constant medical issues to challenges related to cognitive learning delays and behavioral. Some days, because of her cognitive delays, she needs a lot of help and guidance to get along, but she wants to be just like any other kid out there.
Although she spends the majority of the day with her paraprofessional in the special education department at school, she is mainstreamed part of the day. Her best friends are her sisters. We hope they will always be close and have each other to lean on.
I am a stay-at-home mother of Grace and her two sisters, Autumn and Faith. Autumn, our oldest daughter, is now ten years old and in fifth grade. Faith is our youngest. She is four years old and goes to preschool.
Grace’s story has impacted many lives. She is living proof that miracles really do happen. In sharing her story, we wish to bring hope and support to others who are undergoing many of the experiences Michael, Grace, and I have lived through. We also want to provide guidance to those who may know someone who may be living in a hospital setting and trying to cope with the daily challenges this environment brings.
Though there are times in our lives when we feel completely alone, with faith, we are not alone.
Jennifer Schwertfeger is in the process of turning her family’s full story into a book, Life With Grace, which will be released in January of 2014. Like the book’s Facebook page for updates on publication dates and more!
If you’d like your story to be a part of our Prematurity Voices series, email your story in a Word document along with one or more photos to email@example.com.
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