It was 12-12-12 and my nurse came in and told me that it was going to be a busy day for them. When I asked her why she said some mom’s had scheduled their C-sections on that day because it was a special date. That’s when I said to her “I pray to God that my baby isn’t born today, it’s too soon.” An hour later I was going into surgery 4 months before my actual due date! It was all sort of a blur from the 5th of December through the 12th of December. I was on a magnesium drip on bed rest for 7 days holding on as much as my body would allow for one more week. The difference between Juliana entering the world at her 23rd week as opposed to her 24th week was huge!

I’d gone into labor two weeks before Christmas but my baby girl wasn’t due until close to Easter. My diagnosis was HELLP syndrome. HELLP syndrome is a life-threatening pregnancy complication usually considered to be a variant of preeclampsia. I’d had high blood pressure for a little while but it was controlled by medicine, or so I thought. I’d gone in for a routine check-up on December 5, 2016 truly not feeling bad at all. No headache, no dizziness, no nausea but my blood pressure was out of control and my doctor told me then and there that it was so high that if my baby was just a little bit further along she would have taken her that very moment.

Juliana Victoria Rugama was born on 12-12-12, weighing only 1lb. I’d never known a baby to be born that tiny (a micro preemie is what she was called) and I was terrified! It was hard to rejoice in my baby’s birth when I didn’t even know if she’d make it through the next few days. It truly was the rollercoaster of a lifetime, with highs and lows and I felt scared and sad that my fairy tale birth story would never happen. I needed someone to relate to.

A few days before Christmas I received a small care package that included a few items that a NICU parent could use and a letter from Mary. Mary was a fellow Micro preemie mom that gave birth to her son Liam the year before at the same hospital and he was only 15 oz. Her note was just what I needed at that very moment, a glimmer of HOPE. I reached out to Mary and soon enough we became friends and she introduced me to other preemie moms in the same position that I was in.

Delivering Hope NOLA was born from these moments, NICU families connecting with other NICU families to deliver hope in the form of Care Packages. A simple way to say “we are here, we know how you feel and we can help you get through it!” I’m happy to say that although Juliana had a few hiccups along the way (eye surgery, vocal cord surgery, infections) she is now a healthy, happy and beautiful 3 ½ year old.