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Thanking my lucky stars

This year, I’m the most grateful I’ve ever been at Thanksgiving.

That is what the holiday is all about, after all.

Last year at this time I had no idea how much my life would change in the course of 12 months. I was happily dating Steve and looking forward to our first Christmas together. I was also planning a trip back to Colorado to pick up some remaining items from storage. Transitioning back to the Midwest after 12 years in the Rockies took some time.



Talk about a culture shock.

Flash forward to today, where I’m in a completely new place in life. I’m not the same I was in 2014, not only because I’m back to living where I don’t have a mountain outside of my window — not an easy transition. I’m a changed woman thanks to a tiny person named Will. He has brought so much joy to me in so many ways, I can’t help but thank my lucky stars every day.



I feel like all stars are basically lucky.

Lucky doesn’t describe how Will and I were able to receive the expert care from our team of doctors and nurses who ensured his safe arrival. Fortunate, yes. For that I am the most thankful. Through our journey, I’ve reveled in the patience Will has brought to my world. The preemie experience taught me that life moves at a pace we often can’t control. I’ve learned to take one day at a time.

And to be thankful for every single one.

Just this week, on Nov. 17, Will and I celebrated the March of Dimes’ World Prematurity Day. This annual initiative brings attention and urgency to global initiatives addressing preterm birth. According to the March of Dimes, for the first time the complications of preterm birth outranked all other causes as the world’s number one killer of young children. Worldwide, 15 million babies are born preterm, some experiencing lifelong health issues including cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, and intellectual disabilities. I’m so thankful Will is growing and thriving at rates nearly comparable to babies born at term. He’s closing in on 12 pounds after four months.

That’s four times how much he weighed at birth. Amazing.

I’m also thankful for becoming a mother at a time when advances in medicine help premature babies defy the odds. During the nine weeks we were in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), I witnessed daily medical miracles. From the little guy brought in at 26 weeks in the incubator across from us to the baby named Waylon next door recovering from surgery, our NICU mates fought with all the strength their tiny bodies could muster. I always thought it was cute that Willie and Waylon were next to each other. And to think, we almost chose Hank instead of Will.

That’s a honky-tonk trifecta.

Life in the NICU produces its share of trauma — parents of NICU babies run a high risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — and our unit lost a baby boy during our stay. I’ll always remember that day, and the panic and sadness I felt as a mother as I watched the scene unfold.

Nothing can prepare a parent for losing a child.

I try to cope with much of what we experienced in delivering early and NICU life by talking about it and communicating my thoughts, especially through writing. Outwardly expressing my thanks truly helps. I like to share Will’s milestones on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and people enjoy seeing his progress. I’m not sure how to explain it, but the encouragement I receive from others as he grows produces a calming effect.

Positivity helps me feel that everything is going to be all right.

On Wednesday, the day after World Prematurity Day, we celebrated four months since Will surprised us all with his arrival. Of course I made a digital collage of the photos I snapped in his nursery because I’m one of those mothers who does that kind of thing.

I can never choose just one I like the best.

I don’t see the gushing over Baby Will changing anytime soon. I can’t help myself. I’ll probably make collages of his photos until he’s old enough to vote. Or maybe old enough to have his own babies. I’m also going to spend all the rest of my days making sure he’s safe, because that’s what mothers do. And thanking the universe — including my lucky stars — for his health and happiness.

Especially every year, on the fourth Thursday of November.

April E. Clark has a cranberry-apple pie recipe she really wants to try out next week. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@gmail.com.


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