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I Gave Birth To My Miracle Baby At 23 Weeks

I never imagined I would have any problems having kids.

Motherhood

I never imagined I would have any problems having kids.

We see the everyday norm of these beautiful pregnant women carrying to term, sometimes over their due date, and I didn't think I would be the exception... Except, I was. I had been pregnant three times and each time ended in heartbreak.

Losing a baby at any stage is hard, but feeling your baby, knowing the gender, getting outside of the typical first trimester miscarry stage, only to be told that your baby is coming and there's nothing they can do to save them? That is a whole different type of grief. For that to not happen once, but twice?

I was definitely at my limit.

Between the children I lost and the possibility of not having any children at all, those burdens were more than I could bear and I was ready to live my life without it. I was faced with a question: How was I supposed to overcome this?

Family and close friends tried to encourage my husband and I by saying things like, "You can try again," and the "There's always next time." But I couldn't find solace in any of it. The second loss hit me the hardest because I bonded with my baby.

Against my fear, I planned for him.

I'd walk through the baby section at Target and imagine what stroller I'd buy. I made Pinterest boards with all the cute mommy and me outfits and the adorable newborn photography. This was happening and I was going to embrace it.

What was most surprising to was the feelings of guilt and embarrassment that came with the grief. I was ashamed of my body. What I was supposed to be able to do naturally, I couldn't. It felt like not only had my body betrayed me, it had betrayed my babies. The grief after losing a baby never leaves. I just know that each day, it took everything for me to begin to piece myself back together. And it took time, but eventually, I did.

A year later, and I was living my best life. I was getting fit and working on my physical, emotional, and mental health. My husband and I were traveling and investing into our marriage. Just as I was getting ready to finish school, I found out that I was pregnant again.

All I could think was, how could I put my fears from my miscarriages aside to accept this new baby?

I couldn't wrap my mind around it. At the time, I wasn't even considering having another child. It was an everyday challenge to cultivate a positive mindset and try to accept my portion. I just decided that whatever happened was going to happen, and whatever time I had with this baby, I was going to spend it with joy and love.

I met with my high-risk doctor and we created a plan where we marked out all the milestones that would get me to term. At 13 weeks, I got a cerclage (a stitch in the cervix to keep it shut and from dilating prematurely; think of it like a drawstring purse) placed, and every week, starting at 16 weeks, I would get progesterone shots once a week until 38 weeks. Progesterone is known to aid in preventing preterm labor and my doctor felt I needed it.

When I made it past 18 weeks, I began to breathe easier. It was the longest I had ever been pregnant.

During my anatomy scan, everything looked perfect. My stitch was doing its job and baby was nice and snug. I was almost at 24 weeks then and we were finally feeling like this was happening. After 24 weeks, the baby was able to leave the womb if need be. If I were to go into labor, the baby would have a chance of living. That's when everything was put into perspective for me. He was coming. No longer was having this baby a hopeful thought. I could actually picture myself leaving the hospital with my child.

Despite having the stitch, at only 23 weeks, my son was on his way earthside. 16 weeks premature.

Nothing can prepare you for when the doctors come in and ask you if you want to save your child or just hold them and let them go. Pushing all the fears aside and the statistics of if he'd make it or not, my husband and I knew we wanted them to save our son. A day later, my son DJ was born at 24 weeks gestation. He was one pound, 11 ounces when he was born. I remember when the doctors pulled him out and said, "Whoa, he's a big 24-weeker."

I was prepared to not hear him cry.

Before the C-section, the doctors told me that he probably wouldn't cry because there was a chance he wouldn't be breathing, but our son opened his little mouth and took his first breath. He was strong. The road to recovery would be a long one. There would be ups and downs, lots of sleepless nights, but we would endure. He stayed in the NICU for over 130 days, was on a ventilator for two months, went through numerous blood transfusions, endured two low-grade brain bleeds, and was given multiple rounds of steroids for his lungs. The list of tribulations was long and hard...but he came home.

I don't take motherhood for granted because some micro preemies like DJ don't make it home.

One of my fondest memories to date, was when he was finally able to breathe on his own. None of the doctors thought he could, but I did. That has been the recurring theme in his little life, what they said he couldn't do, he did. From a 20% chance of survival to running around the house, singing his ABCs, climbing up steps, hitting therapy goals like a champ, I thank God on the daily to have a thriving toddler. Of course, having a preemie has its challenges; but if I know nothing else, I know that God is real.

I literally get to look at a miracle every day through my son.

I'm forever grateful that he chose me and that I get to do life with him by my side.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissons@xonecole.com.

Featured image by Shutterstock

Originally published on May 31, 2018

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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