One in ten

Prior to giving birth to my preemie, I honestly did not know much about prematurity or personally know of many people that have had preemies. I knew my husband was a preemie, but we never really talked much about it at that point other than the fact that they had to cut diapers to be small enough to fit him and he had to get doll clothes in the beginning because newborn clothes were too big. I was reading “What to Expect” while pregnant, but it really only touched on a healthy, full-term pregnancy. My OB also gave no indication that this could be a possibility for me, always saying things look great, but had I known, I would have tried to do some research ahead of time to try to prepare myself. The thought that I would be the one in a one in ten statistic never crossed my mind.

While pregnant, a friend of mine went into labor at 24 weeks and I watched her baby’s NICU journey on social media. I was in awe of this tiny human and what she endured. She called her the “tiny warrior” and that is exactly what she was. First she fought to breathe and then to grow and I watched her be victorious with both. I was nervous when I hit 24 weeks because of this, but then my pregnancy continued so maybe I was part of the nine of ten and wouldn’t have to worry about this happening.

Then everything changed.

My third trimester started and I was still good with no indication of going early, but 4 days after that, Poppy came. I was now the one in the one in ten. When you are the one, without much prior knowledge of prematurity, you are blindsided, you are scared, and you feel alone because you don’t have that many people you can turn to for advice in this situation because they have never experienced prematurity. I was lucky in that aspect because I had a friend whose NICU journey ended the day mine had started so I was able to talk to her right away so I could start to learn what to expect. Even though you are riding on the biggest emotional rollercoaster of a lifetime, you have to be strong, you have to be positive, and you have to be the biggest cheerleader for your tiny warrior. You educate yourself on a topic that was foreign to you before you delivered and now, after the NICU journey, you feel like somewhat of an expert. Conversations now include medical terminology that you might not have otherwise used in life if it wasn’t for your preemie and reaching milestones means more to you than you could have ever imagined. The information I learned about prematurity and how common it is I have also used to inform others so they can be aware too. While all of this is happening, you will learn that you are not the only “one” out there. Last year while fundraising for our March of Dimes team, I found out I knew a lot more of the ones. Friends from high school would make a donation because they had a NICU baby too or knew someone that did. This year has been no different for us. Since returning to work this school year, there has been an outpouring of love and support from the community. They have come up to me at events to let me know that they had a preemie too. Their support has been so much appreciated! I have also met people out and about running errands or trying to get raffle donations for an event that had a preemie or know someone that did. I have had more friends have preemies in the past year too, so I became a person they could talk to if needed. Because of all this, my community of ones is constantly growing. I would not change the fact that my daughter was a preemie. She amazes me each and every day. She is my hero; my miracle. She has made me proud to be part of the one.

Those I met in the NICU became my second family, a family that my husband and I have this urge to give back to now. What you do when you are the one can make the difference to someone else that is currently going through it. We have registered Poppy’s Posse again this year in the March of Dimes Walk and are hosting fundraising events to help raise money to fund research to help premature babies have a fighting chance. We go back and speak to current NICU families at Hillcrest and help answer their questions so they don’t feel alone in their journey. I was also lucky enough to work for a school district that allowed me to lead a service project to benefit the area NICUs. Every little bit helps when you are in the NICU.

They say, “one is the loneliest number”, but that does not have to be the case at all when you are the one in ten and when we are talking about prematurity and the NICU family.

Taylor Voelker