My daughter was born as twiggy and translucent as a baby bird, her eyes fused shut, mouth agape. Through her chest we could see her flickering heart.
Juniper arrived at 23 weeks and 6 days gestation: the threshold between viability and futility, between what is possible and what is right. For me, after five years of infertility, she came at the trembling membrane between motherhood and despair.
She weighed 1 pound 4 ounces. That’s the size of a 6-week-old kitten or an adult Eastern gray squirrel. It’s the amount of breast milk an eight-pound newborn drinks in a day. It’s $1.26 in pennies.
She spent 196 days — 6 ½ months — in the neonatal intensive care unit at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla. Now she is 5, a ferocious, joyful kindergartner, master tree-climber, “mommy” to her pet chicken, Sesame. She asked me to tell you that she loves her life. She also wants you to know that she voted for Hermione for president.
People ask me, what do you wish you had known?
So many things.
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