Babies are gifts from above, given to us, by the Most High. Every mother’s joy at the end of that strenuous, body and life-altering nine month journey, is complete from seeing their baby, alive and well, kicking and crying, making noise, announcing its gallant entry into the world of the living. Except that sometimes, which is most often, this is not always the case. A baby may come way too early in the pregnancy causing their parents so much pain and heartbreak— a miscarriage. Sometimes they come out silent, not-breathing, quiet like the unheard voices of the dead—a stillbirth. Sometimes too, they come out and spend some few days cruising the earth, assessing how habitable this place may be to them, and if they find it not as they expected, they may as well exit as quickly as they came—an early neonatal death. But then there are the babies who come neither too early nor on time either. They are just in between ready and not, enough to give you hope that if you love them well, maybe they can make it and live for you—the preterms.
Pre-term babies, as the word itself says, are babies born “before term”. In the language of pediatricians, a term baby is any baby born from 37 to 42 completed weeks of gestation. Hence, a preterm baby would be the one born before 37 completed weeks of gestation. Now these preterm can be further divided/ grouped into various categories: we have the early preterm, moderate, and late preterms all depending on how further away you are from the completed gestational age. Okay, so enough of the child health lectures, I’m sure some of y’all are dozing off by now but I needed to explain that as precedence to what I’m going to tell you about. Which is the story of Miracle Eyra Awuraa Afia Boatemaa Adjei-Poku, who was born at 33weeks via an emergency caesarean section on account of severe oligohydramnios at the Aniwaah Medical Center on a fateful Friday, the 9th of April, 2021. She weighed 700g at birth. And do you know what is considered the least normal weight of a healthy term baby? 2500g or 2.5kg. Awuraa weighed less than a kilo, and doctors would term her as an extremely low birth weight baby. There are many causes for that but unfortunately, we can’t go into all that.
Miracle, affectionately called by everyone as Awuraa, is my sister’s second child. However unlike Ayeyi, her first son, I was in school during most of the pregnancy and was half expecting her to deliver around May so I could claim her as a birth-month buddy. Unfortunately, my dreams were cut short when one morning, my mother called to inform me that on a regular antenatal visit, my sister and her husband had been told by the doctor to prepare for the baby to be delivered by an emergency caesarean section immediately. “If you had come a few hours late, you’d have lost her,” the doctor who performed the C/S was recalled to have said. And this would be the first sign that indeed my incoming baby niece was born a miracle because she had been seconds away from dying in utero.
When I first encountered Awuraa in person, I was not happy with what I saw, truth be told. The fondness, love and eagerness with which I awaited Ayeyi’s arrival and the unexplained joy I felt upon seeing him as though I had pushed him out of myself was not there when I saw baby Awuraa. She did not look like any baby I’d seen before. Mind you, up until then, I had never set eyes on a preterm baby and so she was news to me. Later my sister would tell me in one of our many conversations, that if it hadn’t been for the fact that she was in a good marriage, she’d have run off from the hospital without her child. She too had never seen a preterm prior to giving birth to one. I analyzed Awuraa’s features in my mind and asked my sister questions, whose answers I now know. She’d been in the hospital long enough by then to know more than my amateur medical self who was still in fourth year at the time, not yet introduced to the world of pregnancies and childbirth; its woes and intricacies and the unpredictability of its outcomes.
I remember Awuraa looked to me a very small, tiny human being, almost incompatible with life. She had very bony cheeks jutting out from the sides of her face and big squeaky eyes and a mouth as small as her nose with a forehead drawn downwards taking up half the space of her face. I remember thinking and asking out loud, “But why is she so tiny?” My sister laughed and said Awuraa was even bigger by the time I was seeing her which was four months after her birth. “When she first came out, she could fit into my palm,” she said and I gasped in disbelief.
Awuraa was always falling sick in the first seven months of her life. I would be in school, and they’d tell me, that my sister was in the hospital, yet again, after only leaving for about a week or sometimes even a day, because something had happened with Awuraa again! It could be that she aspirated while feeding. She’s suddenly running diarrhea and vomiting. She’s turning pale and blue from not being able to breath. She’s coughing and is running a fever. It was always one thing after the other. Several months, they spent living in a hospital because preterms are prone to many infections due to their immature immunity. Longer hospital stay meant huge accumulating bills as well. Eventually, my sister had to quit her job to stay at home and care for Awuraa. She had to miss her exams as well because she was also a student at the time. My sister and her husband really went through a lot; it was a trying moment for both husband and wife. And through it all, I admired how strong their faith in God became. I came to admire and respect my sister’s husband even more because he did his best to make sure the whole process was bearable for his wife and child. He was always coming to the hospital straight from work to relieve my sister if she needed to rest and to provide all the monetary assistance as well.
Preterm care requires very specific and delicate measures that you can’t afford to take chances on them. They always need to be kept warm at a certain temperature not bearable for the average adult; they need to be fed a specific measure of feed at a specific rate so they can grow well; not too much that their digestive system cannot tolerate and not too little or they’d fail to thrive. Sometimes you can do all you can and still they might not make it yet they both never doubted for a second the survival of their baby even when all looked bleak. It’s a lot of pressure, fear and constant drain on the parents mentally and the child physically. Obviously having all the veins in your little body tapped constantly right after you arrive in this world cannot be a pleasant experience for anyone.
In her eighth month, when her weight started shooting and the hospital visits had come to an end, we had a big naming ceremony for Awuraa and it was all joy. Awuraa’s weight gain was a source of pride and wonder for all of us who knew where she’d started from. My sister would call me and update me of Awuraa’s current weight after every weighing clinic and I’d exclaim, all smiles and surprised. I now call her “Awuraa Obolobo” as my own personal nickname because who ever thought? Both of her parents cried while giving testimonies at her naming ceremony. It had not been an easy ride. And when it was time to name her, her father declared her “Miracle Eyra Awuraa Afia Boatemaa Adjei-Poku”, like the miracle she indeed was. Her Ewe name “Eyra” also means “God blesses” because indeed she was nothing short of a blessing from God to her family. The greatest testimony of all would be when Dr. Twum, the doctor who took care of her from birth informed her parents that four times in the night, Awuraa’s heart had stopped and they had had to resuscitate. Each time, they thought they were going to lose her but someway, somehow, she’d always pop back to life just when they were almost giving up. This is proof that Awuraa is indeed a survivor, God’s little miracle to the Adjei-Poku and the Quarshie family. And her mother, Mrs Issabella Quarshie, wants this miracle shouted for the whole world to hear.
You guys don’t know how much I’ve suffered with her telling me to write this story since a year ago. I’ve finally written it, yes😂! And I hope to be allowed to sleep in peace tonight 🙏🏾. Nonetheless, I am beyond happy to be able to write my little girl’s story—nothing makes a sweeter birthday gift than this😌. At this one year celebration of being alive on earth with us, we have nothing more than gratitude in our hearts and minds for our little Awuraa’s life and praise to God for his kindness and mercies toward us. Perhaps Awuraa’s story shared would give hope to the mother of another preterm who’s struggling to cope.They do survive and grow into beautiful babies so don’t give up, dear parents. I pray for more strength for the mothers and fathers of such delicate babies. And I pray for all babies born preterm to become miracles and survivors in their families. And I pray especially for little Awuraa to become the Greatness she was born to be. Happy birthday once again to the loveliest baby niece, Awuraa Afia Boatemaa. We love you so much❤️❤️❤️