PARENTING
11/22/2016 02:54 pm ET Updated Nov 23, 2016

Photos Of Premature Babies Then And Now Show Their Incredible Journey

They're truly fighters.

Kate McGowan’s twins, Dylan and Elizabeth, were born in 2010 at 29 weeks. They each weighed just over 2 pounds. After 100 days in the NICU for Dylan and 80 for Elizabeth, the preemies went on to overcome incredible obstacles and are now almost 6 years old.

“It is amazing how far they have come,” McGowan told The Huffington Post.

Kate McGowan's twins were born at 29 weeks.
Kate McGowan
Kate McGowan's twins were born at 29 weeks.

During her time in the NICU with her twins, McGowan especially remembers Elizabeth learning how to eat and Dylan having multiple surgeries.

Almost six years later, Elizabeth is known to watch out for her brother, and Dylan has a knack for making friends with everyone who comes his way.

“Although his vocal cords did not work for the first year of his life due to prolonged intubation and severe reflux, he is now making up for lost time by talking nonstop and charming all that he meets,” McGowan told HuffPost. 

“It is amazing how far they have come,” their mom said.
Kate McGowan
“It is amazing how far they have come,” their mom said.

While it was tough watching her babies fight to survive, McGowan and her family made it through thanks to all the love that surrounded them and the support of the medical staff

“While the NICU time is never easy and it is a roller-coaster of good days and bad, it was our journey, and Dylan and Elizabeth’s beginning,” she said. 

Spending the first days and even weeks of their children’s lives in the NICU is an experience that is all too familiar for parents of preemies, or babies born before 37 weeks gestation. Though premature birth declined between 2007 and 2014, 2015 showed a rise in early births. About 10 percent of babies in the U.S. were born early, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

November marks Prematurity Awareness Month, which is a time to celebrate those babies who fought for their lives. We asked our HuffPost Parents readers to send in photos of their preemies when they were born and photos of them now to show just how far they have come. 

Here are those resilient preemies, then and now:

  • 1
    "This is Edwin, our little preemie. He was born at 35 weeks, three days. We had a traumatic birth with him stuck in the birth
    Ashley Kinder
    "This is Edwin, our little preemie. He was born at 35 weeks, three days. We had a traumatic birth with him stuck in the birth canal, losing his dropping heart rate on the monitors and an emergency C-section. I wasn't able to see him for 24 hours due to me being too sick from the drugs and he was having breathing problems.  He wasn't the smallest baby in the NICU, but it was very hard and so very sad. Edwin will be 2 in March, he is so very smart and 100 percent for height. And as you can see, quite the hoot!"
  • 2
    "My daughter's name is Emily Mya. Emily was born on January 20, 2014 at 23 weeks gestation weighing in at 1 pound, 3 oun
    Marilyn Rivera
    "My daughter's name is Emily Mya. Emily was born on January 20, 2014 at 23 weeks gestation weighing in at 1 pound, 3 ounces. Eyes still fused shut and with only a 3 percent survival rate, Emily came into this world. She spent the first 102 days of her life in the NICU. Like a roller-coaster, some days we thought she'd pull through, others we'd almost lose her and she had to be resuscitated to bring her back. Nonetheless Little Miss Emily is nothing short of a miracle baby. Today she is thriving and she will be turning 3 in January and we are catching up with all of our milestones. She is an incredible little girl full of fire and charisma! Although we have some medical issues, we are very thankful she is alive and well today."
  • 3
    "This is my son, Jack. He was supposed to be born May 6, 2013, in England. When we were on a 'babymoon' in Florida in March o
    Jessica Bolle
    "This is my son, Jack. He was supposed to be born May 6, 2013, in England. When we were on a 'babymoon' in Florida in March of that year, he decided instead to make his grand appearance -- almost 7 weeks early! You'd never know now that Jack was born so early on March 20th, 2013. He's the loveliest, kindest, most energetic and clever little man you could ever imagine. We are truly blessed."
  • 4
    "This is a picture of my daughter, Rylee Hopper who was born at 28 weeks. I went into premature labor and this beautiful litt
    Christa Hopper
    "This is a picture of my daughter, Rylee Hopper who was born at 28 weeks. I went into premature labor and this beautiful little 2-pound, 12-ounce fighter was brought into this world on my birthday! What a wonderful, yet uncertain gift to receive. She stayed in the NICU for 16 weeks and since then has grown into a happy, healthy, fun, loving, smart, and talented little 6-year-old."
  • 5
    "Twins, Miles and Embry, born at 29 weeks are now 9 months. They were born at 2 pounds, 7 ounces and 2 pounds, 5 ounces and s
    Megan Harbison
    "Twins, Miles and Embry, born at 29 weeks are now 9 months. They were born at 2 pounds, 7 ounces and 2 pounds, 5 ounces and spent 41 days in the NICU."
  • 6
    "I would like to share with you my son, Atlas. He was born at 25 weeks weighing 1 pound, 7 ounces. He was in the NICU for 93
    Alicia Weaver
    "I would like to share with you my son, Atlas. He was born at 25 weeks weighing 1 pound, 7 ounces. He was in the NICU for 93 days before he could come home. He will be 2 in April, and is doing great!"
  • 7
    "I had my son Brayden at 27 weeks in 2014. He was 2 pounds, 13 ounces. He was in the NICU for four months and is now thriving
    Alesha Gartner
    "I had my son Brayden at 27 weeks in 2014. He was 2 pounds, 13 ounces. He was in the NICU for four months and is now thriving at 33 pounds."
  • 8
    "I was emergency induced at 36 weeks because I had severe undiagnosed (no symptoms before!) preeclampsia which caus
    Sarah Rath
    "I was emergency induced at 36 weeks because I had severe undiagnosed (no symptoms before!) preeclampsia which caused him to be growth restricted. Brixton was 4.9 pounds when he was born. We took him home after a week in the NICU. He was 4.6 pounds and on a heart monitor. It was terrifying, especially for first-time parents! But now he is a super energetic and smart 3-and-a-half-year-old! You would never know he was so tiny. Thankfully his lungs were matured enough that he didn't need oxygen. He did have a difficult time feeding and maintaining his body temperature."
  • 9
    "Here is Scarlet. The first photo is her on August 21, 2014, born at 33 weeks, six days, weighing 4 pounds, 10 ounces. She sp
    Nohemi Hernandez
    "Here is Scarlet. The first photo is her on August 21, 2014, born at 33 weeks, six days, weighing 4 pounds, 10 ounces. She spent the first 18 days of her life in the NICU. The second pic is her at her photo shoot just days away from her second birthday. She’s the strongest babe."
  • 10
    "This is Emersyn Grace, born at 34 weeks and 4 pounds. Premature due to placenta accreta."
    "This is Emersyn Grace, born at 34 weeks and 4 pounds. Premature due to placenta accreta."
  • 11
    "These are pictures of my son, born at 26 weeks gestation at 1 pound, 13 ounces (yes, that is a real-sized ketchup packet!) i
    Tiara Law
    "These are pictures of my son, born at 26 weeks gestation at 1 pound, 13 ounces (yes, that is a real-sized ketchup packet!) in 2009, and now at 7 years old on his first day of first grade this fall.

    He was born via emergency C-section due to severe preeclampsia and spent 103 days in the NICU with complications along the way. He is now a healthy, happy, thriving hockey player with no lasting health issues. I wouldn't be able to say that previous statement without acknowledging the incredible work of NICU staff -- physicians, support services, and most of all, the nurses!"
  • 12
    "My twins were born unexpectedly at 23 weeks, six days, weighing just 1 pound and 6 ounces. My son Tobias passed away two day
    Autumn Barbero
    "My twins were born unexpectedly at 23 weeks, six days, weighing just 1 pound and 6 ounces. My son Tobias passed away two days later from complications related to extreme prematurity. My daughter Joella spent 107 days in the NICU where she underwent heart surgery as well as countless other medications, interventions and procedures. Our family was told that she would most likely not survive and if she did, she would almost certainly have debilitating disabilities. Joella just celebrated her second birthday and today she is a happy, healthy, and developmentally normal toddler. She can run, jump, and keep up with her older sister. She is learning how to put words together and she is social and affectionate. She is truly a miracle and her strength, determination, and bravery inspire me every single day."
  • 13
    "Deaglan was born at 29 weeks on December 23, 2012. He weighed 3 pounds and was in the NICU for six weeks. He is baby brother
    Kerri Mackay
    "Deaglan was born at 29 weeks on December 23, 2012. He weighed 3 pounds and was in the NICU for six weeks. He is baby brother to Fiona, Finbar and Mairead and is a constant source of laughter in our house!"
  • 14
    "Jake was born on January 11 of this year at 32 weeks, 8 weeks early. He weighed in at 3 pounds, 15.8 ounces and spent 29 day
    Kylee Freimuth
    "Jake was born on January 11 of this year at 32 weeks, 8 weeks early. He weighed in at 3 pounds, 15.8 ounces and spent 29 days in the NICU. He is 10 months old and, aside from some pretty severe reflux issues, is a happy and healthy (and very busy) little boy!"
  • 15
    "Cooper, born at 31 weeks, is now 4. He was born weighing 3 pounds, 9 ounces and spent 28 days in the NICU."
    Megan Harbison
    "Cooper, born at 31 weeks, is now 4. He was born weighing 3 pounds, 9 ounces and spent 28 days in the NICU."
  • 16
    "Our daughters were born at 24 weeks. The first of the twins weighed only 15 ounces and was stillborn. The second weighed in
    Tami Vigesaa
    "Our daughters were born at 24 weeks. The first of the twins weighed only 15 ounces and was stillborn. The second weighed in at 1 pound, 14.2 ounces and spent 90 days in the NICU before coming home. Eden went through many obstacles during her stay there including heart surgery, eye surgery, and too many line insertions to count. However, she left with almost zero signs of being born far too soon. She was in one of the highest risk categories, more so because she shared a womb with a deceased twin, and she made it out with no lingering effects! It was truly astounding. She is now a petite, but perfectly healthy 7-year-old who excels in school and loves animals and dance. We are so thankful for the amazing care team we had at Mayo Clinic!"
  • 17
    "Ila Marie Friederich, born at 34 weeks. 28 days in NICU. Just turned 4 and full of sugar and spice!"
    Gina Friederich
    "Ila Marie Friederich, born at 34 weeks. 28 days in NICU. Just turned 4 and full of sugar and spice!"
  • 18
    "I have four beautiful children and three of them were preemies. My son Logan was born at 30 weeks due to kidney disease that
    Eileen Borowiec
    "I have four beautiful children and three of them were preemies. My son Logan was born at 30 weeks due to kidney disease that was detected in utero." (continued below)
  • 19
    "My twin daughters, Emilia and Isabelle, were born at 32 weeks due to twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. Although my preemies
    Eileen Borowiec
    "My twin daughters, Emilia and Isabelle, were born at 32 weeks due to twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. Although my preemies were not as early as others, they were very sick and spent a lot of time in the NICU. My babies are fighters and I'm so blessed."
  • 20
    "My son Leo was born at 32 weeks, due to me getting preeclampsia. He weighed 3 pounds, 5 ounces and stayed in the NICU for si
    Lauren Leonard and Dan Petronis
    "My son Leo was born at 32 weeks, due to me getting preeclampsia. He weighed 3 pounds, 5 ounces and stayed in the NICU for six weeks. When he came home he only weighed a little over 5 pounds. We were very lucky with his health; he never needed oxygen and never had any major health concerns. It was still the most difficult thing we have dealt with. Our son is a thriving 19-month-old who is more independent and strong than most adults I know. He loves music, dancing, and playing outside. We are so very grateful every day and continue to spread awareness on the increasing rate of premature births."
  • 21
    "18 weeks pregnant with my daughter, I found myself on hospitalized bed rest due to a botched emergency cerclage placement. B
    Lana H
    "18 weeks pregnant with my daughter, I found myself on hospitalized bed rest due to a botched emergency cerclage placement. Because she and her sac were already descending during the procedure, the doctor accidentally broke her sac and we lost all fluid. For the next five dangerous and terrifying weeks until she was born at 23 weeks gestation, I talked to her and told her that we were a team and going to make it out of this together. I was told if she tried to come a day before 23 weeks the hospital and doctors would not try to intervene to save her because 'she would have so many problems it wouldn't be worth it.' A nurse (and my daughter's guardian angel) went against that policy the night she was born at 1.5 pounds and 11.5 inches and called transport to a NICU three hours away. She was flown there. I arrived three days later and sat by her side for four months through ventilators, blood transfusions, chest tubes, infections, eye surgery, and a never-ending emotional roller-coaster. It would be six weeks before I would get to hold her or even touch her without gloves on. She came home one week past her due date weighing just over 7 pounds with oxygen. Kicked that within a year and is now the healthiest, sassiest, most rambunctious 3-year-old ever. She has no lasting issues from her prematurity thus far. This kid is a fighter, my best friend and absolutely my hero. Because 'though she be but little, she is fierce.'"
  • 22
    “Our son Landon was born at 32 weeks, weighing 4 pounds and 7 ounces. He spent 31 days in the NICU and now is a healthy
    Melissa and Aric Straub
    “Our son Landon was born at 32 weeks, weighing 4 pounds and 7 ounces. He spent 31 days in the NICU and now is a healthy 6-year-old. My mother had my brother six weeks early and my grandmother had a son eight weeks early who did not survive. I guess you could say premature boys run in our family. So thankful for our little miracle and the amazing NICU staff!”
  • 23
    "Our son Lucas was born at 27 weeks weighing 1 pound, 13 ounces and was 13 inches long. He arrived early after my appendix ru
    Cortney Teller
    "Our son Lucas was born at 27 weeks weighing 1 pound, 13 ounces and was 13 inches long. He arrived early after my appendix ruptured so I had to have a C-section and an open appendectomy at the same time. How's that for a two for one?!?! He is now 2 and is off his home oxygen and no longer needs any maintenance medications."
  • 24
    "This is Sammy. He was born at 34 weeks, and stayed in the NICU for 13 days. I (his mom) had preeclampsia with HELLP Syndrome
    Jane Moore
    "This is Sammy. He was born at 34 weeks, and stayed in the NICU for 13 days. I (his mom) had preeclampsia with HELLP Syndrome and had to deliver early. He is now 2 years old and loves to run, play ball, and is all about cars, buses, lawn mowers, and vacuums."
  • 25
    "David was born 6 weeks premature and is now 5 years old."
    Rebecca McAdam
    "David was born 6 weeks premature and is now 5 years old."
  • 26
    "These are pictures of my daughter Monica. She was born on November 3, 2015, at 24 weeks and three days, weighing 1 pound, 8
    Mari Rodriguez
    "These are pictures of my daughter Monica. She was born on November 3, 2015, at 24 weeks and three days, weighing 1 pound, 8 ounces. She spent 105 days in the NICU. She is as healthy as can be and thriving. The first picture is from 1 day old and the second one is from her first birthday. She now weighs 19 pounds and is the happiest girl in the world."
  • 27
    "My daughter was born at 25 weeks weighing less than a pound. She spent 140 long days in the NICU and came home with an NG tu
    J Carlson
    "My daughter was born at 25 weeks weighing less than a pound. She spent 140 long days in the NICU and came home with an NG tube and on oxygen. She is now a happy, healthy 6-year-old. She is in the gifted program at her school, and loves art, swimming, dancing, and baking."
  • 28
    "Penelope was born at 34 weeks weighing 3 pounds, 9 ounces. I had preeclampsia and was induced. She was in the NICU for three
    Jen Diamond
    "Penelope was born at 34 weeks weighing 3 pounds, 9 ounces. I had preeclampsia and was induced. She was in the NICU for three weeks. Now she's a thriving 5-year-old. She loves kindergarten, the beach, Taylor Swift, and most of all CATS!"
  • 29
    "My 35+3 seeker born at 4 pounds, 5 ounces, spent 19 days in the NICU, now 3 months old."
    Laina D Baina
    "My 35+3 seeker born at 4 pounds, 5 ounces, spent 19 days in the NICU, now 3 months old."
  • 30
    "These are photos of my son, Hill Barrow (now 7). When I was pregnant with Hill in 2009 (and had a 2-year-old daughter at hom
    Heather Barrow
    "These are photos of my son, Hill Barrow (now 7). When I was pregnant with Hill in 2009 (and had a 2-year-old daughter at home), my water broke 24 weeks into my pregnancy and I spent eight weeks on hospital bed rest until he was born at 32 weeks. He spent several weeks in the NICU. Those three months were the most difficult time of my life, but we survived because of the support of our friends and family. When we realized most families did not have that same type of support system, our family founded a nonprofit, High Risk Hope. High Risk Hope provides support and care packages to pregnant women on hospital bed rest and to premature infants in the NICU. Since 2011, High Risk Hope is in four hospitals in two states and has helped 5,000 families and counting!"
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BEFORE YOU GO

PHOTO GALLERY
Former Preemies Pose With Pictures Of Themselves As Babies
CONVERSATIONS