PARENTING
11/30/2016 04:44 pm ET

77 Emotional Photos Of Preemie Parents With Their Babies In NICU

"It was like my heart was finally whole again.”

Overwhelmed. Anxious. Joyful. Afraid. These are some of the many words parents of premature babies have used to describe their feelings in the NICU.

As Prematurity Awareness Month comes to a close, we’re honoring the preemie parents who coped with the rollercoaster of emotions and surrounded their little fighters with love and hope. We asked the HuffPost Parents Facebook community to share photos of themselves with their babies in the NICU and recall how they were feeling in that moment.

Keep scrolling to see these images and read their emotional stories.

  • 1
    "Cali-Rei was born at 29 weeks weighing 3 pounds, 2 ounces. She is 2 months old and currently still in the NICU but due
    Alana J. Martinez
    "Cali-Rei was born at 29 weeks weighing 3 pounds, 2 ounces. She is 2 months old and currently still in the NICU but due to come home very soon. This picture was taken during our first time skin to skin. One of my favorite moments ever."
  • 2
    "This was the first time that I got to see him. I was very emotional and kind of out of it from the magnesium (I had preeclam
    Kristin Aucoin
    "This was the first time that I got to see him. I was very emotional and kind of out of it from the magnesium (I had preeclampsia), and I had no idea what to do. So I kissed his little baby hand and told him I love him and to please start breathing on his own. He was there for a week, and is now a healthy, happy, sometimes difficult 2-year-old."
  • 3
    "This was the first time I got to hold my baby girl since I had given birth, which was two days before. She's my first and wa
    Alicia Femat
    "This was the first time I got to hold my baby girl since I had given birth, which was two days before. She's my first and was born at exactly 35 weeks. I am a type 1 diabetic and had preeclampsia that put me in the hospital for the last nine days of my pregnancy. She had problems regulating her blood sugars and had to have IVs and a feeding tube. She stayed in the NICU for 10 days. My little one is home with me and her daddy now and is the most amazing and precious child. I love her more than I thought I could love anyone."
  • 4
    "My husband, Jeff Nordquist, holding our son Miles for the first time. He was under three pounds at birth and this was f
    Katie Nordquist
    "My husband, Jeff Nordquist, holding our son Miles for the first time. He was under three pounds at birth and this was finally without the vent and CPAP machine. That time felt like it would go on forever, and every setback felt devastating. Sixty-five days later, just shy of Christmas, we brought him home. He is now a loving 10-year-old genius track star big brother, and we are so proud and relieved."
  • 5
    "After weeks of only being able to see him inside his isolate my daughter (3-years-old at the time) finally got to touch her
    Courtenay Austin
    "After weeks of only being able to see him inside his isolate my daughter (3-years-old at the time) finally got to touch her baby brother's hand. I remember being so fearful of such a simple touch -- would she be too rough, would she pass on germs, how will he react to a new person -- and it turned out to be one of my best moments as a mother. I felt a change that day. A shift deep inside my soul that we would survive this ordeal and be together as a family outside the NICU walls. My son was born at 26 weeks, weighing 660 grams -- one pound, seven ounces -- and is now a fantastically busy, happy 15-month-old."
  • 6
    "Payton, born at 24 weeks at one pound, three ounces. I couldn't hold my baby for a while. I could just touch her, and I
    Lauren Sanders
    "Payton, born at 24 weeks at one pound, three ounces. I couldn't hold my baby for a while. I could just touch her, and I remember praying and just being in awe everyday that something so small could be so strong. She will be 5 in March!"
  • 7
    "This is my husband and daughter. In this moment I was looking at the two people I love most in the world. We used the mirror
    Nicole Dunham
    "This is my husband and daughter. In this moment I was looking at the two people I love most in the world. We used the mirror to look at her when we were kangarooing but she is also a spitting image of him, so the mirror is literally and figuratively such an important part of this image."
  • 8
    "This was my first time holding my son Aaron (his arterial line was removed and he was extubated). He is my second and last c
    Sara Bode Cohen
    "This was my first time holding my son Aaron (his arterial line was removed and he was extubated). He is my second and last child, and my second preemie. This picture was taken by a co-worker of mine (I work in the NICU as a nurse where my boys were cared for). It makes me sad to see this picture because I remember feeling like I failed, again. I know there was nothing I did to cause my boys' premature births, but my maternal hormonal mind had me feeling like I failed. I struggled with the fact that I would never have the full-term postpartum experience. I struggled leaving another baby at the hospital when I was discharged. All of this has made me an extremely empathic NICU nurse. But it hurt while I was going through it."
  • 9
    "My miracle! I'm filled with so much joy! 30 weeks, two pounds 11 ounces. She is a beautiful healthy 11-year-old now!
    Nikita Brown
    "My miracle! I'm filled with so much joy! 30 weeks, two pounds 11 ounces. She is a beautiful healthy 11-year-old now!
  • 10
    "I'm smiling, but I'm in so much pain. C-section delivery of Angelique two pounds 12 ounces, followed by my open heart s
    Kelly Zimmerman
    "I'm smiling, but I'm in so much pain. C-section delivery of Angelique two pounds 12 ounces, followed by my open heart surgery to repair my aorta. I had an aortic dissection at 29 weeks, and neither of us were expected to make it. I was thinking, 'Did we do it Angelique? Are we out of the woods? Are you going to be OK? Am I going to be able to breastfeed? When can we go home?'"
  • 11
    "Here's a shot I took of my wife holding our son in the NICU. I've never been around such a bonding moment my whole life. She
    David Tassos
    "Here's a shot I took of my wife holding our son in the NICU. I've never been around such a bonding moment my whole life. She was holding our world in her hands. It was such a beautiful experience."
  • 12
    "'I have never hoped harder for anything in my whole life than I am hoping right now that you will live. Please be OK. Please
    Sarah Dill
    "'I have never hoped harder for anything in my whole life than I am hoping right now that you will live. Please be OK. Please baby. Just be OK. Please live.' (Born at 27 weeks, now 13 months old)."
  • 13
    "I think this was the second time I was allowed to hold her, some 10 days after her birth on February 22. The feeling is
    Michelle Jacob
    "I think this was the second time I was allowed to hold her, some 10 days after her birth on February 22. The feeling is indescribable! Morgan was born three months early. I had pneumonia and had to have an emergency Cesarean. To add to the drama I had to be put on an ECMO machine. (Heart and lung bypass or something like that). While I fought to live, Morgan was being strong in the NICU. She was two pounds and change. With no problems. She was just eating pooping and sleeping. The doctors and nurses were amazed. I wasn't. God is good! She passed all milestone and graduated from the NICU on April 18, 2016. God bless the NICU at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin."
  • 14
    "This is me with one of my twins, Jude. His identical twin, Luke got to come straight home and Jude was in the NICU nearly a
    Lauren Acosta
    "This is me with one of my twins, Jude. His identical twin, Luke got to come straight home and Jude was in the NICU nearly a month, just one day shy. Jude was moved to a different hospital than me and Luke. This picture is the first time I got to see him in the hospital, I hadn't seen him for four days. I was overwhelmed with grief but so happy to hold his little hand and talk to him and see him respond to my voice. In this moment I was terrified but chose to remain strong while I visited him, or at least try to seem that way."
  • 15
    "This is the first time being able to hold my daughter, almost 30 hours after having her. I was induced at 36 weeks due to pr
    Mikhayla Mattson
    "This is the first time being able to hold my daughter, almost 30 hours after having her. I was induced at 36 weeks due to preeclampsia, and she has had two out of many surgeries needed since the age of 3 weeks. She is now 5 months. She has a diagnosis of micrognathia, vertical telus, oromandibular limb hypo-genesis and a poor weight gain (she was five pounds, three ounces at birth and is now eight pounds, nine ounces). She has a tracheostomy and G-tube feeding tube in her belly. We were told she wouldn't make it through the pregnancy, but she's now a 5-month-old miracle. BUT what was I thinking? I was thinking why is my innocent baby girl going through all this pain. She's too young to live in pain. I feared for her. I looked at her hands and how there was little to no bone or fingers and just kissed them. I looked at all of the tubes and machines and just prayed to thank God that she is here, and despite all of the pain she would have to go through to be alive, she was alive, she is alive. And that's all that mattered to me at that very moment."
  • 16
    "This is the first time I held both of my twin daughters together. They were born three months early at 25 weeks gestation an
    Valerie Gonzales Stokes
    "This is the first time I held both of my twin daughters together. They were born three months early at 25 weeks gestation and due to a number of complications had to remain separated during their entire NICU stay -- which meant I was only allowed to hold one of my daughters at a time during our entire three-month-long NICU stay. This moment was pure and utter joy. But it was more than that. It was relief, love, longing and heartbreak wrapped all into one small snippet in time. It was a normalcy I has ached for for far too long. A moment no mother should ever have to wait that long to experience. I waited for this moment, longed for this moment, for three long months, and when I was finally able to hold them together, it was like my heart was finally whole again."
  • 17
    "This was the first time I saw my son born at 33 weeks and one day and I remember feeling so much love, worry and hope all at
    Sarah Hager
    "This was the first time I saw my son born at 33 weeks and one day and I remember feeling so much love, worry and hope all at the same time! Our stint in the NICU was very difficult, full of long days and even longer nights away but my 16-month-old son is beautiful, healthy and happy!"
  • 18
    "This is one of my favorite pictures! My son Hudson was born at 23 weeks weighing one pound. He had one of the worst infectio
    BriAnna Poe
    "This is one of my favorite pictures! My son Hudson was born at 23 weeks weighing one pound. He had one of the worst infections a week after he was born. Because of how serious the infection was he was not able to come off the ventilator for a while. This picture is 24 hours after coming of the ventilator -- I finally got to hold him at a month old. It was the most amazing feeling ever! They told us the odds were against us, but my son is a miracle. He came home after 111 days in the NICU, one week before his due date and continues to thrive."
  • 19
    "The first time I was able to really hold my little guy, born eight weeks early. I was telling him how much I loved him and h
    Kylee Wilson Freimuth
    "The first time I was able to really hold my little guy, born eight weeks early. I was telling him how much I loved him and how sorry I was that I couldn't protect him. So many overwhelming emotions, impossible to put into words. He's now a healthy 10-month-old."
  • 20
    "I was a single and first-time mother who had a textbook perfect pregnancy until the 34th week. Out of nowhere, I started ble
    Marty Greer Robinson
    "I was a single and first-time mother who had a textbook perfect pregnancy until the 34th week. Out of nowhere, I started bleeding. My OB tried to stop labor but ultimately wasn't able to, and my daughter was born at four and a half pounds and 17 inches (she was my itty bitty string bean!). She had no sucking reflex and could not regulate her own body temperature, so we spent 22 days in the NICU. Because she was unable to regulate her own temp, I was only allowed to hold her for small periods of time because she couldn't be outside of her incubator for very long. Every moment I was able to hold her was so precious and emotional for me. I just wanted to be like all of the other moms I knew who had a baby and came home with him or her a couple of days later and could hold that baby whenever they wanted for however long they wanted. I spent all of that time doing as much skin-to-skin as I could to bond with my baby girl. I would rock her and sing to her while I held her. Sometimes I would just close my eyes and savor the feel of her in my arms (like in this photo). It's 8 years later, and she is 100 percent happy and healthy. And she still wants her mama to hold her and sing to her."
  • 21
    "Fear, love and hope."
    Kelly Keister
    "Fear, love and hope."
  • 22
    "At this moment, all I felt was sheer joy."
    Simone Praylow
    "At this moment, all I felt was sheer joy."
  • 23
    "This is my third baby and my youngest, Tori. She was born 12 weeks early and weighed just two pounds. This was the firs
    JoLynn Sieburg Baumer
    "This is my third baby and my youngest, Tori. She was born 12 weeks early and weighed just two pounds. This was the first time I got to hold her, she was 5 days old. That was a long wait. She spent two and a half months in the NICU. She completed our family of 5. So thankful! She changed my life. She's now a happy, healthy 9-year-old!!"
  • 24
    "This is what uncertainty, fear, hope and elation looks like. I was afraid I would tear his skin. The alarms were always goin
    Sara Scapanski-Schindele
    "This is what uncertainty, fear, hope and elation looks like. I was afraid I would tear his skin. The alarms were always going off. I was looking at the nurses for reassurance. Twelve weeks early ... every moment was focused on being positive, but reassurance was always a gift. Especially, when very few knew what we were going though. After 69 days, Victor graduated from the NICU."
  • 25
    "This was Christmas Day and my daughter who was born at 23 weeks was 5 days old. All I wanted to so was hold her. She was so
    Ashley Marie McCarthy
    "This was Christmas Day and my daughter who was born at 23 weeks was 5 days old. All I wanted to so was hold her. She was so tiny and frail, and I was completely terrified. But I was so thankful to hold her and not just reach through a hole in the isolatte. For that hour while I was holding her, every ounce of fear I had melted away and I was just thankful. At that moment, I knew everything would be ok. She'll be 2 next month."
  • 26
    "My trio was born at 27 weeks. This was half way through our NICU stay, and I remember being told that one might be heading h
    Paige Parsons
    "My trio was born at 27 weeks. This was half way through our NICU stay, and I remember being told that one might be heading home soon. They were up to four or five pounds, not eating the greatest, and still setting off alarms. I thought we'd never leave. That photo constantly reminds me of how far we've come. We spend four months in the NICU surrounded by an amazing team of nurses, doctors, and respiratory therapists. Now, my boys are 4.5 years old, weigh 40+ pounds, and are healthy kids. We are so blessed!"
  • 27
    "This is my daughter Patty. She was 7 weeks early. Here she is holding on to her daddy's finger while laying inside the incub
    Julie Borbon-Marcelin
    "This is my daughter Patty. She was 7 weeks early. Here she is holding on to her daddy's finger while laying inside the incubator. These were roller coaster days, and I remember feeling so scared and sad some days. I remember praying hard for her to be OK and come home soon. But I also remember being so in love with my preemie munchkin."
  • 28
    "She was six weeks early and you can see all the vessels that ruptured in my face while I pushed. I was so tired and worried,
    Nohemi Ruelas
    "She was six weeks early and you can see all the vessels that ruptured in my face while I pushed. I was so tired and worried, but mostly I was blissful and in love."
  • 29
    "Joy."
    Kamaljit Bath
    "Joy."
  • 30
    "This is my husband and I holding our son Elliot who was born at 32 weeks. I can't exactly say what I was thinking because I
    Michelle Dickinson
    "This is my husband and I holding our son Elliot who was born at 32 weeks. I can't exactly say what I was thinking because I honestly don't remember, there was so much going on. All was worried about was if he was going to be ok. Tomorrow he will be 18 months old and he is a vibrant, curious, very active little boy who is our whole world."
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