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What My Premature Birth Taught Me

by Serina Gousby

I remember back in the 6th grade, I told one of my classmates that I was born three months early. She didn’t believe me. At the time, I didn’t understand why that wasn’t believable, or if what my mother told me was exaggerated, but now as an adult, I understand why my birth was such a big deal, and why I have been called a miracle baby for all my life.

I just turned 24 years old on June 27th, and it was such a peaceful day. I went to work because I wanted to be productive and finish my duties for the week, took myself out to eat at IHOP, and walked around my neighborhood for the rest of the evening. I’ve never been good on big celebrations for my birthday because I usually spend that day either being completely selfless, or doing something peaceful that may sound boring, like going to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, a used bookstore, or just listening to the birds outside. I truly live to the meaning of my name. Calm.

I love to be present with life when I shut my phone off for a few hours, and be very grateful that I’m still here. After my depression scare when I was 15, I created a whole new perspective on life and my purpose of living, but that purpose started before I could even say words.

The day I was born.

On a hot and humid morning of Monday, June 27th, 1994, my mother went to her local clinic to get a check up from her doctor, and found out that her blood pressure was high. My mother at the time was 37 years old, so her second pregnancy was high risk. They then admitted her to a hospital, and it was so risky that they had to perform a c-section immediately, and I was born at 7:25pm. I was 2 pounds and 13 ounces. I originally was supposed to be born in September, which is interesting because I have habits of both a cancer and a virgo. To be born that early is such an unfortunate and scary situation because I did not develop long enough, and my mother could not take me home until about a month later. If you have ever been in the same situation as my mother, you would know that the doctors have to prepare you for the worse, and warn you about any birth defects that could happen, learning disabilities, and other long-term issues. Gratefully, I was fine when they tested me at Boston’s Children’s Hospital after my birth, and then was transported to another hospital,  and connected me to devices and tubes for the first month of my life. My mother visited me every single day to give me her milk that she prepared, and even with her pain and loneliness that she felt, she always prayed and had faith up until the day she finally took me home.

As for long term effects, my vision could be a part of my preterm birth, since I started wearing glasses around the 2nd grade. As for learning, I did have a teacher who would visit my home just before I started kindergarten, and would teach me countless things because it took me awhile to learn things quickly. Even until today, I still require visual learning and repetition to learn, but I do retain information a lot quickly than I used to. Thankfully, I turned out to be one of the kids with high grades in elementary school, high school, and college, and I was never afraid to ask for help from a tutor throughout my journey. If you were born premature, please don’t feel like you’re slow or wonder if something is wrong with you. I had to go through that phase, but asking for help was really important for my development from child to adult.

My momma and I.

According to statistics, “Babies born at 25 weeks have a 50% chance of survival.” I was born at 26 weeks, which is still a miracle because I was part of a group of babies who may not live.

Everytime I tell people my story as a preemie, they get so shocked and amazed by it, while I’m the one looking puzzled at their reactions. I’m now beginning to understand how rare it is to be born that early, look and act normal and healthy, and have survived to tell this story. However, I do believe that there are some misconceptions regarding premature babies because not all of them grow up with disabilities and birth defects; many of them live normal lives with perfect vision, healthy bones, and strong organs. I may be related and be friends with people who were premature, including my mother, and this “rare” situation is actually quite common. I do however acknowledge the babies who didn’t survive in their preterm birth, and I honor their lives by always praying and continuing to be grateful of this life I was blessed with.

This was me months later, “highly melanated”.

Now, I’m 24, and I’m incredibly thankful to say that. My birth story is the reason why my birthday is filled with calm vibes and admiration for the environments around me. I’m that weird person who could just stare at trees, kids playing with their parents at the park, the busy streets of Harvard Square, and wonder what the rabbits outside are planning for their day. I know, it’s weird, but that’s me. I adore life so much because I see the beauty in it, and I acknowledge that there was a moment in my life where that chance to see all of this, was slim.

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