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Brooke Brown, Asheville, NC

by Brooke Brown
A silent clock, looming over you, counting to nine months, a time line you are constantly thinking about. You tell yourself, I have nine months of planning and preparation for one of the biggest events of my life. Every experience is new, every emotion is intense, the emboldening phenomenon of one day being able to give birth to your first baby.
You might be one of those that prepared for every moment, countless hours of reading and research, technic for doing what naturally happens and have little control over. Or you may decide to experience as it is happening, no preparation needed. I was the type to learn, read, and repeat for months. All of a sudden towards the end of my pregnancy I am forced to have the word “preterm” enter our baby story.
Every mother has a baby story.  Science makes sure that your experience is your own.  Some are wonderful, others are complicated, and some are heart breaking. Preemie, a baby that is born three or more weeks before the end of full term of gestation, I gave birth to a nine-and-a-half weeker.
Leading up to the big moment of actual birth, to the days and weeks after, I felt on auto pilot; not really grasping what had happened and just going thru the motions that medical professionals were telling me. I never felt fully relaxed, rested, or at ease in my situation. You hope your story will be like others, a full term baby. You blink and you are out of the hospital, experiencing life in your home with this new tiny little stranger you are getting to know as a permanent roommate, or at least until they grow up anyway.
You feel helpless leaving your baby with others who care for the tiny newborn you made. Although you are not limited by time spent, you are exhausted, despite making you as comfortable as possible in a tiny space that is not your home, nor a place that you can live. I would come up and down the elevators seeing families every day leaving with a baby.  Every family had the same picture: swaddled baby, car seat, hospital bag of belongings. I would almost cry every time I saw this, waiting for weeks and weeks.  Silently wishing other families well, I would long for that to be me one day while riding up the elevator as they were going down.
Knowing that I had to leave was one of the hardest parts for me.  They gave me tiny cloths to place in the incubator that smelled like me. I always made sure that my baby was sleeping before I left; so that she would not know I was gone. One day we came in and a nurse introduced us to something new. A product that at first glance looked odd, it mimicked a soft human hand. The nurse explained how it worked, handed it to me and I gave it a squeeze. The nurse then placed the hand on my sleeping baby to help her feel as though my hand was there, comforting, soothing, and protecting. I learned this product was developed by a NICU mom, which made me even more excited.  I put it to work right away, trusting and relying on The Zaky HUG. When I would leave my baby’s space I knew The Zaky would not leave. It had a very important job to do, and the peace of mind it provided, made my NICU experience better. No other product in our setting, other than vital medical equipment, provided that satisfaction.
After six long weeks, we become one of those families, going down the elevator baby in hand. One of the most anticipated days I have ever encountered. We have a success story. Our baby is growing and recently celebrated her fourth birthday. To see her today you would not know that she was once a tiny preterm baby. I am passionate about prematurity awareness and now work to support other families by sharing my baby story.

This photo is of me and my daughter, I choose the photo as it has my hands on my baby, like The Zaky HUG did when I wasn't there. 
The photo below is a more recent one.
Brooke Brown Recent