Juniper—the little girl and the book named after her—has an impossibly happy ending. Our daughter is 5 years old now, happy and healthy and just starting kindergarten. She cuddles chickens in our back yard and talks about Hermione and Harry in her sleep. She hurls herself into handstands and scales walls at the rock-climbing gym. She is ferociously, wildly, insistently alive.
Even so, I often think about those long months in the neonatal intensive care unit, when Kelley and I had no idea if we could keep her with us for another hour, much less another day. What I think about, more and more, is everything my little girl taught me even before she could speak.
You are never powerless. Parents of micro-preemies often feel paralyzed because they can’t hold their babies or rock them or do many of the things that mothers and fathers do. Kelley and I were overwhelmed, but once we got past our initial shock, we found ways to bond with our daughter and help her. Our wonderful nurse Tracy taught me how to reach through all the wires and tubes keeping my daughter alive so that I could change her diaper, take her temperature and brush her hair. Junebug’s diaper was the size of a playing card, and if I was clumsy, I risked pulling out one of her IV lines. Tracy talked me through it like I was defusing a bomb. Soon enough, we were reading to Juniper and singing to her and holding her close. It mattered.
Read the rest here.