An Excerpt from Micro Miracle: A True Story for World Prematurity Day
November 17, 2020
In recognition of World Prematurity Day (November 17), Signature Editions shares an excerpt from Amy Boyes Micro Miracle—a true and moving account of a first-time mother whose expectations of childbirth and parenting are dramatically altered when she gives birth sixteen weeks prematurely.
When Amy and Josh Boyes discover they are expecting their first child, they worry about money and nursery furniture and baby names. Then Madeline is born, weighing just over a pound. As she battles to survive, Josh and Amy’s lives are thrown into chaos as they experience what it means to be loving parents to a micro-preemie.
Micro Miracle is a true story of a medical triumph, yet it is also the loving tale of accepting the inevitable, fighting for the impossible, and honouring the most fragile of lives.
She doesn’t look like a baby. She looks like a missing link between an embryo sketch and a wide-eyed Gerber baby. She has a complete assemblage of infant anatomy, yet she falters, functioning only at the pleasure of machines.
I read the birth record taped to her incubator as if it were a description on a museum display case:
24 weeks gestational age
16 weeks premature
1 pound, 6 ounces, 12 inches long
I watch for signs of life, but there aren’t any. Instead, I take the word of machines, beeping out evidence in long electronic lines, that she’s alive.
She lies still, her wrinkled limbs flopped across a stiff flannel sheet. A sunshine-yellow toque covers her tennis ball-sized head. Her tiny bits of ears peek out from under the toque’s fuzzy yarn. Cartilage hasn’t formed yet, so her ears are just flaps of skin, folded forward against her head. Her puffy eyelids are fused together like a newborn kitten’s. Their inability to open creates an illusion of blindness, a suggestion she’ll never see the worried faces hovering over her. Saliva foams and dries around the ventilator tube that slinks over her pointed chin, into her gaping mouth. She has no fat, nothing to plump the pouches of skin that drip off her jaw and pile into layers on her neck and shoulders, just a coat of downy hair to protect against the amniotic fluid she no longer swims in. With each breath forced into her underdeveloped lungs by the mechanical ventilator, her ribs protrude against her crimson, gelatinous skin like shark fins skimming the surface of the ocean. Her fragility disturbs me. I’m overwhelmed by her helplessness.
I inhale deeply, trying to stop the room from spinning. Gripping the side of the incubator, I whisper through the Plexiglas pane that separates us, “I love you, Madeline.”
She opens her mouth in a silent scream and claws at the air with thin fingers. She seems resentful of being ripped from the nurturing womb and plopped onto a drafty resuscitation table. She can’t be cared for like other babies and she can’t be put back where she came from. She’s been pushed into the world and declared a baby, but I cannot accept the declaration. She’s too wrinkled and half-formed. How will she survive? It isn’t possible.
But in this dark, hushed ward, this endless cavern of incubators lit by a dozen machines all churning out life, a steely-nerved nurse takes my shaking hands, stares into my exhausted eyes, and says calmly, “Good evening, Mrs. Boyes, and welcome to the Neonatology Intensive Care Unit. I understand you’ve just given birth. I know she’s a bit of shock, but she’s your baby. She’s your Madeline.”
* * *
Until giving birth to Madeline, Amy Boyes identified as a pianist, writer and educator. She earned piano performance and pedagogy degrees at Brandon University and University of Alberta, and she teaches a busy music studio in Ottawa, Ontario.
When her daughter Madeline was born sixteen weeks prematurely, Amy's identity grew to include the beautiful role of mother. Through the struggle of Madeline's birth, Amy discovered the complex emotions that come with bringing a fragile life into the world. She shares this journey in Micro Miracle.
Amy explores an introspective approach in
Micro Miracle. Often funny and always unapologetically honest, Amy recounts a vivid tale of life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Amy lives with her husband Josh, and daughter Madeline and baby son Zachary in Ottawa, Ontario where she gardens madly all summer and dreams of it all winter.
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