I was born a tiny preemie, weighing only 3 pounds. I was a miracle baby, but I feel guilty for what my parents went through.

I was born a tiny preemie, weighing only 3 pounds. I was a miracle baby, but I feel guilty for what my parents went through.
  • I'm a twin and I weighed less than 3 pounds when I was born.

  • We were born 12 weeks before our due date and I spent 69 days in the NICU.

  • I carry a lot of guilt for what my parents experienced after our birth.

At birth, I weighed 2 pounds, 3.4 ounces, the same size as a small cantaloupe. My twin brother was 11 ounces bigger. Our mother said we fit, neck to bottom, in the palm of her hand.

I was so fragile my parents were only allowed to touch me through my isolette. It was Thanksgiving when they finally could hold me, but they still weren't sure their babies would ever come home.

My brother and I were born on November 19, 2000, 12 weeks and two days before our due date. I was in the NICU for 69 days, and the nurses were a godsend for my parents. In elementary and middle school, we'd go back to visit around our birthday to say thank you for helping give us the life we have. I still message with one of my mother's favorite nurses.

The National Institutes of Health says babies like me, born at 27 weeks, have an 80% chance of survival, and one in 10 of all premature babies will have a permanent disability like lung disease or cerebral palsy.

In October 2023, a month before my 23rd birthday, I learned that my mother had kept more than 55 pages of notes chronicling our birth and first days of life. I had been told some of these stories, but to read them in her handwriting — it was emotional. My mother's words are more than just a time capsule of what happened when her babies were born prematurely; they're raw emotions written as she was experiencing them.

Her words broke my heart: "No, it's too early," my mother wrote in perfect script.

I feel guilty

I somehow believe this was my fault — the pain my parents were experiencing. I feel guilty that our health was poor, I feel guilty my parents were unable to take us both home at once, and I feel guilty that my parents' only experience with birth was so painful. But this guilt is almost silly. I know I can't change what happened.

As I've grown up, I've noticed in an effort to counterbalance this guilt, I've done everything in my power to make my parents proud. I was a miracle baby; shouldn't I do something miraculous to make the pain worth it?

While we live pretty normal lives, I faced many roadblocks early on — lung disease, a blood infection, and a machine that supported my breathing for more than 60 days. I often wonder if there are any other young adults who were born prematurely who feel guilty the same way I do. My brother wonders if maybe it's just who I am inherently.

We'll always remember

The week I found my mother's notes, I asked my parents to tell me how they felt in those early days. My father remained quiet as he admired my mother, his wife of 27 years, while she replied. She spoke calmly and shared many details, but when I looked into her eyes, I could see tears filling them.

What I noticed very quickly was the way she chronicled those days was almost verbatim to what she had written down. It's been two decades. My parents still remember. And I feel bad.

Maybe the way I look at my life and guilt makes no sense at all. But these moments define our meaning of family, and they've never left us — whether we speak them aloud or not. Maybe this life I've been given is a miracle, but whatever it is, I know I'm grateful.

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