The struggle is part of the story
My name is Amy. I’m 28 years old and grew up in the Adelaide Hills. I’m a Registered Nurse, and I love coffee – I think these two things go hand in hand! I’m also a wife to Scott, and a Mum to a healthy, happy 20-month-old boy named James. From the outside looking in, my life is pretty textbook, and pretty perfect. And it is! But there’s a reason people say, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ – because you might miss an amazing story. And this is mine…
I got married to Scott in 2013 and we purchased our first home that same year. Life was good. At the beginning of 2014 we decided to start trying for a baby – we had travelled together and we had partied together, but I was ready to become a Mum. We did what every couple do and stopped using contraception – that easy, right? Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t. It took us almost 2 years, a lot of tests, a lot of heartache, and a few rounds of fertility treatment to finally conceive our first child. I miscarried that pregnancy just 6 weeks along. This is something I still struggle to talk about. But thankfully, just a couple of months later, we conceived our second child – naturally! We had an early pregnancy scan at 6 weeks and could finally breathe a sigh of relief when we heard our baby’s heartbeat. But things got complicated from there. I bled on and off throughout the pregnancy and I was sent for ‘second opinions’ due to abnormalities at my routine scans. Nothing seemed to be going as it should. What should have been one of the most exciting times of our lives was overshadowed with anxiety about the ‘what ifs’.
And then, in February 2016 at just 30 weeks gestation, our little boy James arrived quick and unexpectedly into this world, weighing just 1.5kg. For the following 5 weeks, our lives were flipped upside down. We spent every waking minute at the W&CH by his side, and left the hospital each day at an ungodly hour with empty arms and an empty heart. We went to bed with zero energy left, knowing we would have to wake up in a few hours and do it all again. We watched our only child fight for his life inside a plastic box, buried underneath cords and drips and attached to a number of scary machines. We held him for just 1 to 2 hours a day, and only when he was strong enough. We watched him have multiple blood tests, receive transfusions, oxygen, medications and be fed through a tube which went down his nose and into his stomach. The days were long, unpredictable and utterly draining. Nothing could have prepared us. In just the first 48 hours of his life, James had already endured and overcome more hardship than I had in my lifetime.
When James was first placed on my chest approximately 19 hours after he was born, a nurse took our first family photo. She printed it off, handed it to me with a notebook and told me to document every little milestone. This became my way of coping with this unique environment and remembering those special moments at such a frightening time. With each new milestone, we could breathe a sigh of relief and a weight was lifted from our shoulders. Ultimately, each milestone meant James was getting stronger and was a step closer to coming home with us. But we were celebrating milestones that were so different to full-term babies, such as the first time James opened his eyes, the first time he wore clothes, the first time he was able to breathe on his own. These are all such huge achievements for these little fighters, yet they are simple things we take for granted every single day.
During James’ time in hospital, I had the idea of creating milestone cards which would help parents capture, celebrate and document each of these unique moments. After James came home from hospital, I worked tirelessly to bring my idea to life. I spent six months in between naps, after bed time and even in my sleep, designing these milestone cards, with zero design skills and on 100 software programs I didn’t even know existed! I spoke to printers and suppliers about things I didn’t even understand. I spoke to hospital staff and other premmie mums for advice, ideas and inspiration. A few months later in December 2016, I launched my small business, Miracle Mumma, and people were immediately drawn to the product – they were buying them for their friends who had a premmie, they were buying them for their own premature baby and they were even buying them to donate to hospitals. Parents were commenting how something so simple was offering them such a huge amount of hope and brightening up such a difficult time; these milestone cards gave them something to look forward to, and were a way of breaking down the overwhelming experience and just focusing on each small step. I had people sending me emails and messages simply saying thankyou for creating something that they could be excited about and that was helping to ‘normalise’ such a precarious situation.
I soon realised that it wasn’t purely the milestone cards that drew people to Miracle Mumma – it was also our story. I had been blogging and sharing our experience on social media since day one. Our story, and it’s progression to ‘Miracle Mumma’ Milestone Cards, was received with love and published by media and news platforms such as Mamamia, Babyology, Daily Mail, ABC News, Inside Edition and Huffington Post. It soon became evident that despite how isolated I felt at the time, there was a village of other premmie parents who could relate and who also needed support. In fact, premature birth is not uncommon. Each year, 15 million babies worldwide (or 1 in 10) are born too soon, and one million of those sadly lose their fight for life. It is more common than you think, it is on the rise and it can happen to anyone. It happened to me.
Miracle Mumma quickly became a place where parents of premature babies could come for insight, inspiration, advice and support. They could share their stories without apprehension, and open their hearts with others who understood. For me, it was no longer a business, but a community. My ‘customers’ were becoming my second family. I would share their ups and downs, literally beaming from ear to ear when the news was good, and feeling sick to my stomach when the news was bad. I became a part of each of their journeys and each photo I received made my heart so full with pride and love.
Almost a year after it’s launch, Miracle Mumma has flourished better than I could have ever imagined, both locally and overseas. I have stockists in other states in Australia, as well as in the United States and New Zealand. I have been and am still involved with a number of charities including Miracle Babies Foundation, Pre-term Infants Parents Association, Lil’ Aussie Prems Foundation, Australian Multiple Births Association and TeamKids (the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Foundation). I have donated a large number of my milestone cards to NICU’s all over Australia, as well as non-profit organisations overseas, and I aim to continue to do so with the profits I make. Donations have been received very warmly by nurses and doctors. I have received many photos and emails with thankyou’s from staff, who have laminated the milestone cards and use them over and over for the babies in their unit – they just love being able to celebrate these milestones with the families in their care. The head doctor of neonatology at Townsville Hospital, Guan, was so thrilled with the cards that he approached their hospital foundation to purchase sets of milestone cards in bulk so that he could give them to each of the families that came through his unit.
During special occasions such as Easter and Christmas, I donate specific milestone cards such as ‘My First Christmas’ to Flinders Medical Centre & W&CH to give to every family who will be spending the holidays in hospital. On occasion, I have created custom milestone cards for special circumstances, such as 3-year-old Batman (a.k.a Eamon) who is fighting cancer. I have also made personalised milestone cards for a number of babies who sadly lost their fight and grew their angel wings. Most recently, I have personally organised and am hosting a ‘High Tea’ fundraiser with 170 guests, with all proceeds being donated to TeamKids. Later in November I am guest speaking at the ‘Walk with Wings’ Premmie Party, which aims to raise awareness for premature babies and their families. I have made friends all over the world, and have recently met some of what I call my very own Miracle Mumma ‘family’ in New Zealand. I’m getting excited to release my newest product which is currently in production – a premature baby record book. Again, this has taken me a long time to design and perfect, so it is something I am very proud of!
To this day, I have made it my mission to raise awareness of premature birth, to ensure premmie parents know they are not alone, and to give back. Being a parent of a premature baby is a rollercoaster of ups and downs, a world that cannot be understood until experienced. It is being faced with the painful possibility that you could lose your baby at any second - something no one should ever have to experience. But with each passing minute, you slowly come to realise the undeniable strength and determination of a baby born too soon. You start to believe in miracles, and your baby is proof that they exist. You grow a support network of nurses, doctors and other premmie families inside those hospital walls who become your real-life superheroes. Although you are afraid and vulnerable every single day, you are part of something truly special. And as time moves forward, you gain perspective about what really matters in life, and what doesn’t. Every single time you look at your happy and healthy baby who defied all the odds, you are reminded to be thankful. You are reminded to be brave. And you are reminded of how much you have overcome. Being a Mum to a premature baby is not something you ever get over, but with the help of the premmie community, it is something you get through. Because at the end of the day, the struggle is part of the story.