A child's early months and years are full of firsts, each a bittersweet reminder to mom and dad that their baby is already growing up. It can be hard to look ahead to first steps when your biggest hope is just to bring your preemie home, or even have the chance to hold her.
Amy Purling knows that anguish all too well. The Australian mom's now 1-year-old son James was born 10 weeks premature, and she very clearly recalls what those early days were like.
"I didn't get to meet him until 4 hours after he was born, and I didn't get to hold him for almost 24 hours," Amy says. "I spent the first few days by his cot side in the NICU, trying to comprehend what had happened and convince myself that he was my son. I would return to my room on the postnatal ward each night and cry myself to sleep as I heard other moms next door comforting, holding, and feeding their babies."
Amy Purling and her family, then and now
Amy was discharged from the hospital four days after giving birth, but returned home without her baby. It was five long weeks before James was able to join his mom and dad. While she waited, Amy kept a journal, filling it with photos and notes of every tiny milestone her son accomplished.
"I spent every waking hour scribbling in his journal," she recalls. "This was my way of slowly healing my wounds and staying strong. It was my way of simply surviving each day and bringing hope at such an uncertain time."
Amy came to realize just how important it was to celebrate these small milestones. That's what sparked the idea for her business, Miracle Mumma.
Launched in December 2016, Miracle Mumma's Premature Baby Milestone Cards were created to "celebrate, capture and document the unique journey of your premature baby from hospital to home." The sweet cards include achievements such as "Today I'm breathing all on my own" and "I graduated from NICU today."
Amy says that the response to the cards has already been overwhelming, and that she's grateful to have been able to form connections with other preemie parents.
"Having a premature baby has changed me," Amy says. "It has given me a huge amount of perspective about what really matters in life, and what doesn't.... These milestone cards are my way of giving back, and my way of supporting others through this rollercoaster ride. While they may not completely heal the heartache of having a baby in the [NICU], I truly believe they make a difficult time that little bit easier and offer a glimmer of hope."
Be sure to visit Miracle Mumma to see the entire collection of cards.
(All photos courtesy of Amy Purling/Miracle Mumma)
This post was originally published in February 2017.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.