How the Story of My Premature Boy Can Help First Time Moms

People often compliment my premature son because they haven’t seen a 1-year-old so active.

I always smile, and with wholehearted joy, I explain that my son is actually 2 years-old. And then I say, out of habit, “He’s just small.”

But he’s not just small.

My son was born at 31 weeks of gestation after many complications with my pregnancy.

As a first time mom, I didn’t know what to expect, but as a preemie mom, it got downright scary. Wonderful, of course, but scary.

Preemies are, as I would soon learn, not just small babies.

They have to wrap up their development outside mommy’s womb. A premature baby has to adjust to the light, sound, breathing, and many other things before a baby born at full-term.

If you are a new mom, I wish that our story can help you by giving you hope, and by giving you just another reason to ponder on how wonderful and strong your baby is!

An Unexpected Pregnancy

Doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to have children unless I was willing to undergo a lengthy (and costly) treatment.

I was 15 years old, and, although the diagnosis was devastating, my mind was far away from these matters.

As the years went by, the diagnosis persisted. Fourteen years later, my husband and I were visiting our OB-GYN to start the fertility treatment.

During our first appointment, as the doctors looked at my blood tests, she smiled and said, “Well, it looks like you won’t qualify for treatment after all.”

I was pregnant.

It was, to us, a miracle!

We were ecstatic with happiness and we barely heard the rest of what our doctor had to say. As it turned out, what he had to say was very important. Because of my infertility diagnosis and my hypothyroidism, it was probable that our pregnancy was high-risk.

Which brings me to my first piece of advice, always triple check an infertility diagnosis. 

A High-Risk Pregnancy Diagnosis

The first months were typical. I got the dreaded morning sickness (ugh! To this day I can’t smell cinnamon without feeling queasy!), I got cravings, and I was weirdly into Hitchcock’s movies!

I watched them all while eating popcorn and shamelessly letting my husband pamper me!

At 12 weeks, the doctors confirmed that my pregnancy was delicate due to the high-risk of developing pre-eclampsia. But this was no more than a diagnosis in a paper.

It became real at just 20 weeks. My husband and I were leaving the movie theater when I got a really bad headache.

I was diagnosed with early preeclampsia and admitted to the hospital.

My blood pressure was off the charts, my ankles and face were swollen, and I couldn’t take 10 steps without fainting.

A high-risk doctor team assembled by my bed and told me, just shy of 21 weeks, that they had never seen a preeclampsia case so early.

They suggested that I gave up on my pregnancy to save my life.

My husband and I barely shared a glance without rejecting their suggestion in unison. The doctors, then, labeled my pregnancy as non-viable, gave it two weeks before they had to intervene, and told me to brace for the worst.

After three weeks I was stable, my baby wasn’t growing as well, but at least my preeclampsia was still manageable. The doctors hadn’t seen any case that lasted as long without developing into something much worse, but they were willing to work with it.

One of the happiest days of my life was the first day of my 25th week of pregnancy.

A doctor came in with a needle (at this point I was pretty much over my fear of needles), and told me that my pregnancy had just become viable. She then gave me a steroid shot for my baby’s lungs.

From that moment on, everything changed for the better. My boy was studied from head to toe.

I had two ultrasounds a week to understand the baby’s weight, height, and blood flow. The doctors then formally diagnosed my son with Intrauterine Growth Restriction.

He was basically not growing much because he wasn’t getting that much blood from me.

As a first time mom, pregnancy complications can be very scary, but trust your instincts! My instinct told me to keep going, not to give up.

And the day my baby was labeled as viable made everything worth it!

The Day My Premature Boy was Born

After 3 months in hospital bed rest, my OB-GYN came to me and told me I was showing signs of developing HELLP syndrome.

My liver and my brain were compromised. She smiled sweetly and congratulated me for hanging on for so long. She assured me that Oliver had then a better chance outside the womb and scheduled a C-Section for the very next day.

When Ollie was born, he wasn’t breathing. The medical team had to resuscitate him.

To this day, they tell me every time we visit that they took a couple of minutes to make him breathe. It felt like forever to me. It was the scariest moment of my life until I heard him crying.

It was a very low cry, almost audible, but it was there! I wanted to see him right away, but he was immediately put into an incubator and rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

I didn’t get to see him until 20 hours later when I stubbornly went to the NICU with a reluctant nurse.

He was small at 1150 grams, but he was miraculously breathing room air (although that didn’t last long), and he was moving his arms and legs all over his incubator.

Most first-time moms dream with the perfect labor, not with a difficult C-Section. But, trust me, no matter how your child is born, you’ll cherish that moment forever!


Oliver spent 43 days in the NICU.

He developed a lung infection and was intubated shortly after he arrived. He had two interventricular holes in his heart that would need surgery later on if they didn’t solve on their own.

Yet again, we prayed for a miracle. At first, Ollie had a catheter for nutrition, but he also had an ng tube to feed him milk when he was ready.

The first book I read to him was The Little Prince, and then Harry Potter.

That, and pumping to get him as many drops of breastmilk as he would tolerate, was all I could do for him until he was three weeks old. A big day.

Most preemie moms remember the day they first held their babies.

Which isn’t usually the day they are born, because of the wires and the risk of infection.

The first day I held Ollie he was almost three weeks old.

I was very nervous handling all his wires, but it worked out wonderfully. We did a lot of skin to skin, and he snuggled with me for hours at a time.

As a first-time mom, you’ll sometimes feel helpless. Just remember, as you lay awake lulling your baby back to sleep, that the love you hold is the greatest comfort they can get.

Life after the NICU

A premature baby has two birthdays: the day she is born and the day she comes home.

Ollie graduated from the NICU after a month and a half, weighing barely 4 pounds. He was on oxygen for the first 4 months of his life and got more shots, tests, and specialists appointments than any person I know. But he was there with us, and he was a happy baby!

His prematurity didn’t end after NICU, of course.

When we got home we had to keep him in kangaroo care all the time. My husband and I took turns sleeping, eating, going to the bathroom, and cleaning the house.

At 4 months old, the cardiologist told us that the holes in his heart were bigger.

He also stopped moving his arms. We immediately called a physical therapist who came every day to our house until he was 18 months old.

Due to the physical therapy, he crawled, walked, and has met his milestones so far within an acceptable time frame. When he was 15 months old, the holes in his heart healed completely!

It was more than we could dare to hope, and we had a big celebration at home!

As a preemie mom, I don’t take things for granted.

Sometimes, us first-time moms get so caught up in our own worries that we forget to pause for a moment and just enjoy the miracles that are our babies. The next time you feel overwhelmed, think about how wonderful it is that you are able to be there, with your baby and enjoy the moment.

A Small Baby with a Strong Will

Oliver now goes to nursery school and runs and plays all day.

He still wears 12-18 months clothing at 23 months and has minor trouble here and there when painting at school. But he’s a smart, happy toddler who drives mommy and daddy mad!

The challenges that Ollie has faced in his short life have made him stronger.

When I look back and remember the days I spent in the hospital, praying for my baby to survive, I can’t help but feel grateful and wonder on the strength that babies have beneath all those layers of cuteness.

Yes, my son is small, but he isn’t just small. He has the biggest hearted and the strongest willed person I’ve ever seen! My son is a preemie, and I couldn’t be prouder!

Every baby is different, but they are equally wonderful! And us mommies learn that tough times do make us stronger!

Do you have a premature miracle? Share your story in the comments!

After surviving early pre-eclampsia, a high-risk pregnancy, and a premature birth; Tere and her 2-year-old preemie Ollie created Preemie Mom Tips a blog dedicated to all-things-preemie. Together, they share their toughest challenges, their story, and general tips and tricks for all preemie parents our there.

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Wow, your story is so similar to mine! My son was born 4 weeks early. I went for my 36 week check up and my blood pressure was so high, I was sent immediately to the hospital for an emergency c section, I had developed preeclampsia and my son was diagnosed with IUGR. I had started measuring small around 34 weeks but my doctor wasn’t concerned so I tried to not WORRY. Thank God I was far enough along and even though my son was small, 4.7 lbs, he was developed enough to survive without me. We were extremely lucky, he only had to spend 2 nights in the NICU and was discharged 2 days after me although I refused to leave the hospital without him. He just turned a year old about two weeks ago and even though he’s a little small, he’s perfect! He has hit every milestone on time and gets better at walking every day. It’s comforting to read similar stories, thanks for sharingReply to Abby
Eva Moore This tugged at my heart strings, I’ve had 2 iugr pregnancies. My oldest daughter is 15 and it resulted in pituitary dwarfism and my youngest son was full term but only 4 lbs 3 oz. He was also born with congenital vertical talus and congentital clasped thumb. At 7 mos he’s only 22 inches long and 11.5 lbs. He was born at home we knew he had growth restriction from our 2nd ultrasound. He had issues nursing, but we were very blessed that no other preemie like issues arose. His size terrified me. I understand the round the clock shifts my husband and I did constant skin to skin with him for days. He still sleeps on my chest, he’s hitting milestones pretty well too. My neice on the otherhand shares a story similar to yours and she is a beautiful 5 ft 8 in 17 year old who does all the things is an honor student and you would never know today that she was a preemie. I’m sharing this story so others with preemies can see the hope and that wonderful outcomes do happen with these amazing tiny babies. You are an amazing mama.Reply to Eva
Wow, what an amazing story! I’m so glad that Ollie is running around driving you crazy. I used to work for the March of Dimes and raised a good share of money to help fight prematurity and birth defects. Your story is incredible. Wishing you all the trials of motherhood!Reply to Amber
Thank you so much! Wow, working for the March of Dimes surely must have been such a rewarding experience! Preemies and preemie parents need all the support we can get, they are tough times, but people like you make them much easier!Reply to Tere
Hi, Elna! Thank you, I’m glad you and your babies are healthy as well! IUGR has been one of the most persistent pregnancy complications for us. Ollie is still on the small side, the doctors keep telling us that as long as he develops normally he should be OK. Being a first-time mom is so wonderful and scary at the same time! Thanks so much for sharing! TereReply to Tere
Tere! I’m crying! What a beautiful story. My son is also small. He stopped growing at 4 months. No medical reason was found. Then he started growing again a few months later, but at a slower rate. He is almost four and people regularly think he is two. I love that you said your son is not just small. I need to start making that distinction for my son as well.Reply to Jenny
Jenny, thank you so much for sharing! It can be so tough comparing our boys to others who aren’t that small. Last Friday was my son’s second birthday and the other parents in his classroom kept asking me if it was his first birthday. But, they have so much more going in for them, each child is unique, and what’s important is that he meets his milestones! Children are such a blessing and I wouldn’t want my son to be different in any way!Reply to Tere
Tere, This story struck me hard and made me cry when I read it. I also had IUGR and was put on bedrest at 23 weeks. This brought me back to that time when my emotions were on a roller coaster. I’m so glad you’re healthy and your baby was born healthy 🙂 Thanks mama for sharing your amazing story.Reply to Elna
Beautiful story, very helpful!Reply to Gabriela
Thank you, I’m happy to share it!Reply to Tere
Oh, mama. I teared up reading your post. My twins were born at 31 weeks and 3 days. Our journey was different in that my girls were “just early” and needed to gain and grow, but I remember that roller-coaster feeling of being in the NICU for 6 weeks. Every step that wasn’t forward felt like a huge set back, and it was just so hard to have any perspective at all. My girls are two now, and while it feels like forever ago that they were in the NICU, it’s still such a formative part of their story. Part of me still mourns the “normal” birth experience that I wasn’t able to completely have. Thanks for sharing your story.Reply to Amanda
Hi, Amanda! It’s so comforting that we find stories similar to ours! No preemie journey is the same, but they are all equal in all that the family has to gain! We are all so blessed to have our babies! I totally agree with the mourning of the “normal” birth experience, I felt so guilty of having him early, and in the other hand sad because I didn’t get to experience the late months of pregnancy! Thanks so much for sharing!Reply to Tere