Looking for inspiration in what has lately felt a bit like desperate times? Look no further than the NICU ward. Every day around the world, tiny babies fight for their lives and survive despite the odds. Here, the stories of five miracle premature babies who proved to doctors — and the world — how resilient our kids really are.
The world’s tiniest preemie
At just 26 weeks pregnant, Sabine Grabarczyk delivered baby Emilia via emergency C-section because her daughter wasn’t getting enough nutrients from the placenta. Dubbed “the smallest preemie ever born,” Emilia weighed only 8 ounces — less than the average grapefruit. Her foot was only 1.2 inches long. While doctors in Witten, Germany, didn’t expect Emilia to survive, they cared for her with a tiny feeding tube and cotton balls soaked in sugar water, and performed abdominal surgery on her when she was just 12 ounces. At 9 months old, Emilia fights on, weighing in at nearly 7 pounds.
Miracle twins reunited
At 23 weeks pregnant last December, Rachel Wardle was at the low end of what doctors consider to be a viable pregnancy when she went into labor with twins. Doctors told Rachel and husband Barry that her babies, Claire and James, had only a 15 percent chance of survival — but that every moment they spent together counted.
“Even if all you can do is sit there and hold their hand or read them a book, they feel your presence,” Claire said the doctors told her. “Do anything you can to interact, even if it’s just diaper changes through the portholes of the isolette…We stayed very involved, and I truly believe it helped them heal.”
After 294 days at the Akron Children’s NICU, Claire was released this October; brother James had been released after 168 days. “I could go on and on about the things that didn’t look good. We were expecting to be here a year and she is going home at 10 months. Everything about them is…a miracle,” said Barry.
Joyful to be alive
Lauren Vinje was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia at week 32; two weeks later, she was induced. More than 12 hours into labor, her baby flipped out of the head-down position and Vinje’s blood pressure shot up, so doctors decided to move forward with a C-section. The following day, Vinje wrote, her surgeon told her that her daughter’s cord was abnormally short — and by flipping and forcing the C-section, she most likely saved her own life.
Five days later, Vinje shared a photo of her beaming daughter to the Facebook page Love What Matters, with the simple but powerful caption: “Our first daughter at five days old. 3 lbs 14 oz (1.7 kg), she was happy to be alive!”
Fighting no matter what
When Keri Putt’s water broke at 21 weeks, she wrote, doctors said she’d need to terminate her pregnancy. Seven weeks of bed rest later, her daughter Dahlia was born via C-section. Although her lungs were still underdeveloped at 28 weeks old, she survived. At 4 weeks old, two weeks earlier than expected, Putt succeeded in breastfeeding Dahlia for the first time and posted the resulting photo to the Facebook group Breastfeeding Mama Talk. “She’s proving everyone wrong!” wrote Putt.
“I knew that I was going to fight no matter what from the very beginning. I didn’t want to look back some day and say what could have happened,” Putt later told KREM news. “I saw the picture of a mom feeding her preemie. So in the comments of the post, I posted that picture without thinking anyone would see it.”
But Putt’s photo went viral, with nearly 40,000 likes and over 3,000 shares and comments — inspiring even more moms to post photos of their first successes breastfeeding their preemie miracles.
Healthy as any other kid
At around week 28 of her pregnancy, Desiree Caraway began bleeding heavily; her doctors found an infection and performed an emergency C-section. Defying all odds, daughter Abby came out breathing on her own, despite weighing just 2.88 pounds. And although doctors said Abby would need to spend 10 weeks in the NICU, she went home after only five-and-a-half. Abby is now 6 years old, and no one believes she’s a preemie.