Kirby Corbey’s 4-year-old son, Emmett, still has a scar on the back of his arm. It’s a symbol of his tough journey as a preemie.
Corbey’s uterus ruptured when she was 32 weeks pregnant. She had a C-section, and Emmett was born weighing 4 pounds. Her uterus had squeezed Emmett’s arm so tightly that he was left with a scar.
“His right arm and half of the placenta went through the uterine rupture and the uterus contracted around it, so for five hours he didn’t have blood flow to that arm, but at least those two things blocking the hole prevented internal bleeding,” Corbey told HuffPost.
Emmett was “black and blue all over” when Corbey first saw him. His right arm was also twice the size of his left. It used to hang limp, but Emmett has since gone through physical therapy.
“Amazingly, he is now right-handed,” Corbey said.
Emmett had seizures for the first five days of his life. After a 69-day stay in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), he went home with a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube to help him eat (it was removed a month later). He also spent time in a children’s hospital right before his first birthday because of viral meningitis, which sparked a bout of seizures.
Corbey described her son as a “happy, healthy and smart” kid who loves superhero capes and masks, as well as playing with dogs.
She offered advice to parents watching their premature babies fight in the NICU, noting that it’s a “confusing state to be in.”
“Celebrate the little achievements,” she said. “Your baby is working so hard. Even the smallest improvement means so much work for their little bodies! Be proud of yourself and them for the milestones they reach.”
Fifteen million babies worldwide are born prematurely every year, according to the World Health Organization. November is Prematurity Awareness Month, so we asked HuffPost Parents readers to send in photos of their preemies when they were born, plus more recent pics to show their incredible journeys.
Here are those preemies, then and now:
Meet my 5-year-old son, Luca. He is goofy, wickedly smart, obsessed with trains and so handsome (I’m totally biased!). My son was born at 28 weeks, weighing 3 pounds, 6 ounces.
Out of the clear blue sky, I began to hemorrhage at work. After I was put to sleep, he was taken via C-section and was transported to a different hospital before the anesthesia had worn off. Waking up without a baby next to me was horrible. After five days, I was discharged and made my way to see him. He was perfect in every way. We faced a lot of challenges in our 60 days in the NICU. He had three hernias repaired at 4 months old and extensive physical, occupational and speech therapy until 3 years old.
We are so proud of his journey, of him and his strength. While new challenges have recently surfaced, we are confident that he will overcome them as well.
We will never be able to thank those NICU nurses and doctors enough. Thank you to them, for holding him and loving him when we couldn’t be there.
-- Sarah Kennelty
Here are my two photos of my now 2-and-a-half-year-old son, Trey. He was born two months early, on March 1, 2015, shortly after a visit from New Orleans to Milwaukee for a baby shower. He required a 23-day NICU stay at St. Joseph’s Hospital, and Mom stayed in Milwaukee while Dad returned to work in New Orleans. He was known as "Sweet Baby Eddie" and did not miss a thing in the NICU.
As promised by a NICU nurse, his personality sure did change, and he is now a precocious toddler. Mom looks forward to bedtime at 8 p.m. every day.
-- Emerald Lee
This is our daughter, Quinn. She arrived Sept. 20, 2015, unexpectedly early by emergency C-section at 31 weeks gestation. She weighed 1,800 grams and spent just over three weeks in the special care nursery before she was discharged to come home. Now she is 2 years old and thriving at the 85th percentile!
-- Jennifer Samojlenko
My daughter, Aliyah, was born at 31 weeks and six days. My due date was Jan. 13, and she was born Nov. 17, weighing less than 5 pounds. She spent about three weeks in the NICU. This week, she'll be 1. If you've seen her, you wouldn't know she was a preemie. She's mommy's big girl.
-- Rykeila Campbell
My son, Ryleigh, was born at 32 weeks gestation due to complications with my pregnancy. When he was born he weighed 2 pounds, 6.8 ounces. He was barely as long as my arm. He spent two long months in the NICU in Elmira, New York, and then was transferred to the Janet Weis Children's Hospital at the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania, due to what was then thought to be biliary artesia. He ended up having surgery on his liver to have it cleaned out and a biopsy done. He is a carrier of antitrypsin deficency. He was there for just under a month. He is now a very happy, very healthy 3-year-old.
He loves reading books and making up his own songs. His favorite things consist of "Paw Patrol," fire trucks and trains. There are not enough words to describe how much I appreciate everything both NICUs have done for this sweet boy.
-- Melanie K.
This is my daughter, Khloe. She was born 24 weeks premature and weighed only 1 pound. Today she is a healthy and incredibly smart 8-year-old, and although she is still tiny, she doesn't let that slow her down one bit.
-- Crystal Gonzales
Here are pictures of my youngest, Emmett. He was born right at 30 weeks, weighing 3.5 pounds. His lung collapsed shortly after birth, so he intubated and required a chest tube for a week or so. He was in the hospital for about two months. Now he's 3 years old, and there's nothing preemie about him anymore! He is quite the character and has such as infectious laugh!
-- Haley Lundsten
This is my daughter, Norah, who was born on Jan. 15, 2017, at 35 weeks old. She stopped breathing on her own when she was born five weeks early and was on CPAP, and then intubated until she could do it herself. She is now 10 months old and doing great!
-- Meighan Zieske
Evelyn was born at 31 weeks. She stayed in the NICU for 54 days. Come December, she will be turning 2 years old and is a fun, rambunctious, loving little girl.
-- Stephanie May
Kash was born at 35.5 weeks. I had to be induced due to preeclampsia. He weighed 4 pounds, 8 ounces and had to spend two and a half weeks in the NICU. Kash was also born with a cleft lip and cleft palate. He is now 1 and doing amazing!
-- Haley Larson
Sirius Wayne was born six weeks early via emergency C-section because of my preeclampsia. He was 4 pounds, 1 ounce and 18.5 inches long, which the doctors said was pretty good. He spent three weeks in the NICU and only needed support breathing for 24 hours, but wasn't gaining weight. He had a feeding tube almost the whole time, which was hard for me since I was nursing and wanted so badly to get him home.
Everyone told me that one day it would all just click and he would feed better on his own when he was ready. They also said that eventually you would never be able to tell he was a preemie. It was hard to believe at the time when but they were so right!
-- Kim Blackburn
Calvin was born prematurely at 26 weeks, four days, weighing 1 pound, 1 ounce, on Oct. 29, 2016. After a 79-day NICU stay, he came home weighing 3 pounds, 3 ounces. The second picture is of him now at 10 months, weighing 13 pounds, 9 ounces.
He has taught us about strength and grit. We celebrate Prematurity Awareness Day each year (last year and then this year) at the hospital where he was born.
-- Brenna Flannery
Sydney was born on April 21, 2013, weighing 3 pounds, 3 ounces. She is a natural leader, smart, intuitive, inquisitive, loving, kind, spunky and hilarious. I can't imagine our family without her. She loves her older sisters and her friends and family. She's one of the best people I've ever encountered in my whole life, and she is thriving!
-- Heather Asunskis
Eli was born June 25, 2011, at 34 weeks because of preeclampsia complications. He weighed 4 pounds and 8 ounces. He fought hard and only spent nine days in the NICU. He is now 6 years old and in the first grade. He loves science, "Star Wars" and being a big brother.
-- Mary Peyton Grissett
Elliot Tighe at one day old, born eight weeks early (left), and recently, 3 years old, on his first day of preschool (right).
-- Gabriele Ogoley
I was admitted at 22 weeks, 3 centimeters dilated with a bulging amniotic sac. I was on labor and delivery for eight days where I received steroids and magnesium that were supposed to help my baby develop. Two days later, at 24 weeks, I delivered a baby girl weighing only 1 pound, 5 ounces, and just shy of 12 inches. She fought for about four months and came home weighing 7 pounds, 8 ounces.
I thank God for our wonderful NICU and medical team. We have a special bond with them and my daughter's NICU nurse even attended our wedding. She will be 6 next month. She's in first grade and thriving, small but mighty. She is about 32 pounds and 38.5 inches. We get sick of hearing how small she is, but thank God for blessing us.
-- Jennifer Short
This is Danny. He was born at 33 weeks at 3 pounds and 3 ounces. He spent a month in the NICU. Those were the worst and most emotionally draining days of my life. He is now almost 4 years old and thriving. He is the sweetest, most spirited, sensitive ball of energy in my world. He surpasses our expectations every day and makes us laugh on a daily basis. He's a survivor.
-- Gloria Guzman
My daughter, Ellie, was born six weeks early in 2010. We had problems breastfeeding and even bottle-feeding because she was not strong enough and so she had to have a feeding tube, which was so scary and heartbreaking to have put in. She was also jaundiced. We made it through and got to go home about three weeks after she was born and she is now a thriving 7-year-old!
She is top of her class in reading and math, one of the tallest girls her age, plays soccer and softball and loves to cook and help with her baby brother. We tell her that she came out early because she just couldn't wait to meet everyone and see the world. She is very social, curious and definitely beats to her own drum still.
-- Danielle McClintock
This is my son, Jace. He was born at 31 weeks, weighing 2 pounds, 15 ounces. I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia at 30 weeks.The doctors were able to get it under control with medication and hospital-supervised strict bed rest. At 31 weeks, an ultrasound showed absent systolic blood flow to him, and he was quickly going downhill. I was taken in for an emergency C-section and suffered from placental abruption during surgery. We are both lucky to be alive.
He stayed in the NICU for 42 days. He is a healthy 4-year-old now, full of life. He has autism, along with a lot of developmental delays (he’s just now starting to talk), and has a VSD, a hole in the wall of the heart that separates the ventricle from the atrium. He has definitely taught me to never give up!
-- Kim Blasengame
This is my Miles. He was born at 34 weeks. I went to a regular doctor appointment and had severe preeclampsia. I was told I needed a C-section to deliver him immediately. I had been on bed rest since 19 weeks, and we knew he would likely be early, but it was really scary. He was born two days later on my wedding anniversary at 4 pounds, 15 ounces, 16 inches long. He spent 17 days in the NICU.
His first couple of years were tough. He had a misshapen head from being stuck in my pelvis, so he had a DOC band for awhile. He was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism and went into remission at 2 years old. Now at 4, he is incredibly healthy and thriving. He loves preschool and has the biggest heart.
-- Tiffany Deniz
My preemies were born at 31 weeks, five days in 2009 -- triplet boys. Today, they are healthy, very active 8-year-olds. We were very blessed!
-- Laura Westman
Rosemary was born at 32 weeks, 4.2 pounds, and now 16 months old!
-- Lindsay Cole
My son, Blake, was born on Oct. 18, 2014. He was born nine weeks early. He weighed 3 pounds, 1 ounce, and was 14.5 inches long. I had Blake via emergency C-section due to preeclampsia. He spent seven weeks in the NICU at Sacred Heart in Pensacola, Florida. The nurses there were incredible. Blake is now 3 years old and is doing great.
-- Lauren Jackson
My twins, Elliot and Camryn, were born on Sept. 8, 2015, at 32 weeks, two days gestation. They were in the NICU for 57 days. They are happy and healthy kids!
Adam Robert Diehl was born at 34 weeks due to preterm labor. He weighed 6 pounds, 7 ounces. During his stay in the NICU he developed RDS and required intubation for three days. After 19 days, we were able to bring him home. Today he is a smart, sweet, healthy 5-year-old.
-- Crystal Diehl
Audrey Jean Diehl was born at 25 weeks, weighing 12 ounces (350 grams). She had severe IUGR, and I had severe preeclampsia. After 93 days in the NICU, she came home a perfect, healthy baby girl. Today she is a healthy 7-year-old. She is in second grade and excelling in everything she does. We are so very blessed.
-- Crystal Diehl
This is my son, Taylor. He was born at 27 weeks weighing 1 pound, 12 ounces. I was extremely sick with HELLP syndrome. We were taken care of in the NICU for four months (with lots of obstacles). He is thriving at 10 years old. We have been extremely lucky!
He’s in the top of his class, he plays A1 hockey, takes part in running club and student council and is a wonderful big brother to his little sister. I hope this can help someone who currently has a micro preemie in the NICU. I felt so much comfort in seeing the photos and hearing the success stories of the babies graduating the NICU before Taylor.
Oliver was born six weeks early, and we were very fortunate that his NICU stay was shorter than expected. Today, he is a happy, healthy, sweet and energetic 4-year-old boy who never stops moving!
I am the proud parent of Chantal, a baby who weighed 1 pound, 3.5 ounces, at birth. We were allowed to take her home weighing only 3.5 pounds because there was nothing wrong with her other than she needed to gain weight. She developed a staph infection in her eye and it was determined that she would be better off at home.
She had no vision challenges although we did monitor her vision frequently. She did have challenges rolling over and sitting up, but with physical therapy she was able to overcome that challenge.
Since then she has thrived and I could not be more proud of her. She is a junior in college, participates in several campus activities and is an avid reader, reading an average of one book per day.
-- Jacqueline Smith
After trying with no luck, my husband and I did IVF and it worked. At our first ultrasound, three words changed everything: "There they are!" They?! I knew it was a possibility, but to hear it was crazy.
For no reason I went into labor at 24 weeks and three days. They were born that night. My daughter, Lauren, was 1.6 pounds and my son, John, was 1.3 pounds. They spent 91 days in the NICU at Baystate Hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts. They got the best care there. They are great now. My son is a little behind, but considering where they started and the issues they could have had, we are pretty lucky.
-- Cassandra Onorato
This is Landon, and he's holding a picture of himself from the day he was born. He was born more than eight weeks premature and spent the first 31 days of his life in the NICU. My younger brother was born six weeks early and my uncle was born eight weeks early back in the 1950s and he did not survive. Every generation in our family has had a preemie. Landon is our little miracle and we can't thank the wonderful NICU nurses and doctors enough for saving his life! He is now 8 years old and perfectly healthy.
-- Melissa and Aric Straub
This is my son, Bodhi. He was born at 25 weeks in January 2015 and spent nearly three months in the NICU. He’s now a happy, healthy 2-year-old who loves drawing, dancing, singing and being outside.
-- Rachel Rose
Here is a photo of my son who was born premature at 36 weeks in 2010, and him last October with his new baby brother.
-- Piper L. Hall
This is Maverick. My water broke at 26 weeks. I was then put on hospital bed rest until he was born. At 31 weeks, he made his debut. He spent three weeks in the NICU and is now 2 months old. He was 4.5 pounds when he was born, and now at 2 months, he is 9 pounds and 7 ounces and meeting all the milestones expected for the age.
My daughter is my miracle. I was extremely high-risk and spent my entire pregnancy on bed rest. I had anywhere from two to four appointments weekly. We were under the care of four doctors. I'm not sure if anyone truly believed she'd make it. I'm certain nobody thought she'd be remotely healthy. I was given a huge stack of papers with information on everything that would probably be wrong with her. We knew she'd be premature. Our goal was to just prolong my pregnancy as long as possible. I was so sick, but I managed to hit our ultimate goal of 30 weeks. I even made it to 33 weeks, which was never deemed possible. She was 4 pounds, 12 ounces of perfection.
At her birth, the room was full of specialists. She was rushed over to them, while my doctor worked to stabilize me. One by one, her specialists left, giving her a clean bill of health. She was tiny but mighty. She proved everyone wrong. She's now 4 and amazing. Smart, funny, stubborn, strong, resilient. She wants to be an astronaut doctor, with a hospital in space. I learned to never underestimate her, so I wouldn't be surprised if she does just that. Her name is Whitlee, and she was born premature in June 2013.
-- Jules B. of The Bergham Chronicles
This is our Miss Molly Reagan! She was born at 34 weeks via emergency C-section due to severe preeclampsia. She was 4 pounds, 3 ounces, at birth and spent a very long 23 days in the NICU. She is now a thriving 2-year-old who loves being outside and playing in the dirt. She loves Disney movies and is obsessed with taking care of her baby dolls. She is excited to be a big sister come May 2018. Our girl is so special, and we love her beyond words!
-- Kayla Rivard
After more than two years of trying to get pregnant and many fertility treatments, my husband and I, along with my doctor, decided IVF was our best option. My pregnancy was confirmed with my doctor’s office and less than two weeks after my embryo transfer. During my first ultrasound, after much silence, my doctor said the four words I will never forget: "I think there’s three." I cried, and my heart felt like it exploded. We were asked to come back in a week for a second ultrasound to confirm triplets!
At 29 weeks and five days, Jase was born first. He was 2 pounds, 6 ounces, and 15 inches long. Seconds later, Henley was born at 2 pounds, 3 ounces, and just over 12 inches long. Sadie came last at 2 pounds, 2 ounces, and 13 inches long. After 76, 103, and 108 days in the NICU -- and the emotional rollercoaster that is the NICU -- I brought my babies home. More than four and a half years later, we are all here, our family of five, surviving and thriving. Some days I'm still in shock that we have triplets. Those words, "I think there's three," will forever replay in my mind.
-- Angela Fry
My perfect little miracle, 35 weeks and [intrauterine growth restriction]. He weighed 3 pounds, 14 ounces. He’s now 1 and weighs 23 pounds.
-- Mandie Anderson Tippets
Paisley Faith, born at 33 weeks! She was a fighter from the beginning and now is 5 and such a smart and beautiful blessing.
-- Debbie Simmons
We tried for nearly four years to get pregnant unsuccessfully. After some failed attempts, even with medical intervention, we ultimately got pregnant with twins through IVF. On New Year's Day I knew something wasn't right and was admitted, and the girls were delivered on Jan. 16, 2015, at 31 weeks.
Violet, the bigger twin at 3 pounds, 5 ounces, had a rough start to her life. She suffered a collapsed lung (pneumothorax) at birth and had several chest tubes and was on the ventilator. About a week after she was born, during a routine brain ultrasound, we learned that she had a grade-3 brain bleed along with periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), or death of brain tissue. We were told she would have developmental delays and likely cerebral palsy, characterized by spasticity in her limbs. At almost 3, she was discharged by the pediatric neurologist and is absolutely thriving. She's one of the most talkative little girls and is so full of life. Every day she amazes us!
Her twin sister, Cora, was only 2 pounds, 7 ounces, and fought her way through their entire nine-week NICU stay without many hiccups, other than a lot of sass! The nurses told me she would keep me on my toes. It's safe to say they both do.
-- Casey Ball
Some submissions have been edited and condensed for style and clarity.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.