Living Miracles

Prematurity is a world you never know exists unless life takes you there. Co-author Kimberly Powell, Living Miracles, describes her experiences editing the collection of preemie parent stories in this interview.

Interview by Allison Martin

What prompted you to write Living Miracles?

hen my daughter, Senia, was born at 28 weeks’ gestation due to HELLP syndrome I was shocked and confused. As B. Lynn Shahan says beautifully in “Living Miracles”: “Prematurity is a world you never know exists unless life takes you there.” During the seven weeks Senia was in the NICU I searched for books on prematurity. The NICU library loaned me all their books on prematurity, but all were outdated and steeped in medical terminology. While some were useful, what I really wanted was to hear firsthand from other parents. How did they cope? How are their preemies now? What was the NICU experience like? Does it get better or worse? No such book existed.

I wanted to be sure other preemie parents had answers to these questions in a book they could read during those long hours in the hospital. So I began compiling stories for “Living Miracles”. One day when telling my daycare provider about the book I learned her daughter, Kim Wilson, was working on the same book! We joined forces and “Living Miracles” is the result.

What advice do you have for new preemie parents?

Focus on your child. Parents, doctors and nurses repeatedly told me to focus on Senia, for she matters most. This was valuable advice for watching her in the NICU beyond the monitors and leads, and is valuable now in watching her grow and develop. Watching Senia’s coloring told me more than the monitors.

Secondly, educate yourself on all related to prematurity, for if you are focusing on your child you may be the one that identifies a milestone or concern, before the medical professionals that don’t see your child everyday. Education through the internet and printed materials prepares you to be the strongest advocate for your child.

Above all, love your child unconditionally for you are their greatest resource!

What did you learn through your experience with Living Miracles?

hile compiling “Living Miracles” I learned that I was not alone, I was very fortunate, and that the love of a parent is a child’s greatest gift. Reading literally hundreds of stories about preemies I learned I was not alone in my feelings or experiences. Preemie parents belong to an exclusive club we did not choose. We are all similar in feeling shock, and experiencing something other than the dream birth experience.

Yet as similar as we are in feelings and experiences, the outcomes of preemies can be so different. I am fortunate that my daughter has no lasting signs of her prematurity, and realize that she easily could have if one thing or the other was different. My gratitude for my daughter has led me to donate all my proceeds from “Living Miracles” to preemie-related charities and individual preemie families in need. Proceeds are also being used to donate copies of “Living Miracles” to NICUs around the country so it is available to families that need hope.

The final lesson is that all the parents in “Living Miracles” regardless of their child or situation love their child unconditionally. It is this love that is a theme in the book and the greatest hope for our children.

Who would benefit from reading your book?

Kimberly Powell: “Living Miracles” is designed primarily to provide information and hope to parents of preemies. All parents of new preemies or older children will find company in “Living Miracles”. The “then and now” photos of each child are proof that most preemies live and many thrive.

My hope is that “Living Miracles” will also offer family and friends of preemies insight to the preemie world. Family and friends many times do not understand what parents experience. The stories in “Living Miracles” honestly and frankly explain what parents endure, hopefully increasing their level of understanding and compassion for preemie families.

Kimberly Powel is mother to Senia, a former 1 pound, 15 ounce, 28 weeker. She compiled, wrote and edited Living Miracles: Stories of Hope from Parents of Premature Babies with Kim Wilson. Professionally she is professor and department chair of Communication/Linguistics at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.