Reasons I like Hand to Hold's annual photo & essay contest for premature babies:
1. The title. Preemie Power. It speaks volumes to parents of premature babies. Our children had to learn to do things the hard way, and they powered through.
2. The stories. When my son was born, I felt like we were alone, like 23 weekers just didn't make it. That's what the internet seemed to tell me. But Hand to Hold's photo and essay contest tells me a different story. It tells me that there are many many kids out there whose parents were scared to death for the first few weeks and months. It tells me that despite the rough start, those kids made it. And that brings hope. Hope is good.
3. The spin. I admit, I entered this year. It's our first time entering, and I did it in part because I really really looked forward to throwing a superhero spin to my son's NICU experience.
I pretended I was future-him, a junior high kid with an overactive imagination, explaining to all his
comic-book-geek friends what all his scars are about. I made up this elaborate story, complete with super-villians. And then, when I was done, I had his dad throw in a few good touches, and a friend who is better at comics than I help me get the genre right. I was excited with my finished product (which I might post here when voting opens, we'll see).
I realize my essay probably won't win. It is light-hearted and lacks some of the sympathy, tear-inducing language that the judges will likely gravitate toward. It makes fun of some of the scariest NICU diseases out there - but it does so on purpose. I learned something from five months in the NICU and from my chronically ill father. Namely, we need humor. In our darkest times, humor is like a firefly, shining a bit of light. Not enough to read by, but enough to remind us that there's an end to all of this.
And there's something delightful about an escape into fiction, into a world of superheros. In that world, the good guys always win. And that's something I longed for in the NICU. An easy, straight-forward fight.
Pontificating aside, you all should check out the Preemie Power contest for inspirational stories and pictures of other cute kids who beat the odds.
And -- if you are the parent of a preemie -- you should enter this contest. You can win cool stuff. Entries are accepted for the next two weeks, and voting begins mid-October. CLICK HERE for more information.