Parents love taking pictures of their babies with stickers on their onesies showing how many months old they are. The photos are cute keepsakes and fun to see how much growth occurs during a relatively short period of time, marking milestone after milestone.
The same isn't true for all parents, though. For those whose babies were born prematurely, the milestones are different. Seemingly normal events—cuddling, even breathing—are worthy of grand celebration. For these babies, one-size-fits-all stickers don't cut it.
So a really creative mom who has lived the preemie parent experience, did something about that.
Amy Purling's son, James, was born a year ago when she was just 30 weeks along in her pregnancy. He weighed in at a little over 3 pounds and about 15 inches long. Even though she knew her pregnancy was considered high risk, due to a misshaped uterus that restricted James' growth, the 30-year-old Australian mom's birth experience was, nonetheless, traumatic.
According to the Daily Mail, James was born bruised and swollen, "like he'd been through a war." The good news was if he'd delayed his debut for even one more week, a platelet disorder that could have killed him was caught. Fortunately, doctors were able to correct the condition with three transfusions.
Fighting to save James's life was how Purling spent the first minutes, hours and days of his life. You know, when most of us were setting up elaborate baby annoucments.
James was on oxygen support and placed in a special protective crib in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, which was tough on Purling and her husband, Scott. So when a nurse took a photo of Purling holding James for the first time, she felt as if she finally had the kind of precious keepsake most moms get of their healthy babies moments after they're born and, again, when the babies turn a week and a month old.
"I started writing a journal anytime he did anything new, the first time he opened his eyes, the first suck of his dummy," Purling told the Daily Mail. She started making cards each week for James' milestones, even if she still envied other moms whose babies' development achievements could be marked in more mainstream ways.
That's when she came up with the idea of Miracle Mumma cards. They include simple, elegant designs with messages such as, "Today I gained weight for the first time," "Today is my due date," "I was brave for my operation today," "Today I opened my eyes for the first time," "First cuddle with Dad" and "I graduated from NICU today." The cards are made to be triumphantly placed next to the baby for photo documentation.
"Celebrating these precious moments helped me heal and gave me strength in a tough time," Purling said. "Premature babies are unique and their early entrance tells a special story (which you will struggle to remember at such an overwhelming time)."
The cards have not only resonated with other parents of premature babies, but apparently the whole Miracle Mumma business has "turned into a support network" for other moms with similar experiences. Many moms can't understand what it means to have a baby place on a doctor's chart for being the same size as their actual age.
A card distinguishing between "He's so tiny" and "He's come so far" can make a big emotional difference for parents whose babies' first moments and months could not be taken for granted for even a minute.
A year later, James thriving, and Purlin's takeaway has been "just how important life is."
"I have made it my mission to help others who will go through the same," she said, " and I believe these milestone cards are helping to make this frightening time just a little bit brighter for these families."