Dad shares emotions of preemie son's first months
CNN — Benjamin Scot Miller and his wife, Lyndsey, didn't expect to be parents on July 16, 2012.
The Ohio couple's son wasn't due for another 3½ months. But the cramps that Lyndsey felt that day at work were actually contractions. Doctors could not stop the baby from being born that day.
Ward Miles Miller was a delicate 12 inches long. He weighed 1 pound, 13 ounces, but soon dropped to 1 pound 7 ounces.
"One doctor told us straight up the first night that there was a 50/50 chance that he would be normal," said Benjamin Miller, a professional photographer. "We definitely prayed and prayed."
Miller captured some of the key moments in Ward's journey and stitched them together in a video running almost seven minutes long, now hugely popular on Vimeo.
Miller's footage shows how Lyndsey Miller first held her son, at 4 days old, when Ward was covered in tubes and cords. Hospital staff helped position the baby and the medical equipment so he could nestle against his mother's chest.
In the video, Ward's mother looks straight at the camera and smiles, gently stroking the baby, then suddenly tilts her head down and covers her mouth with her hand in a flood of tearful emotion.
The early birth wasn't Ward's only challenge. At 10 days old, a scan revealed blood in his brain tissue, meaning blood had gotten in there at some point. His father remembers crying and praying the whole way to the hospital that day.
"And then you get there and you see him, and he's laying there. He's still the same old self," he said. "We just felt so bad. He has no control over this. It's not his fault."
Over time, the bleed didn't grow, and the blood was slowly reabsorbed by the brain. The problem has not persisted.
Ward finally got to go home after spending more than 100 days in the NICU at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. "HOME" is displayed in large capital letters in the video.
"When we finally brought him home, it was amazing," Miller said. "That was the day. Everything was leading up to that day, and to have him there was amazing. It was how it was supposed to be from the get-go. We had to wait 107 days before we could experience that, so it was just amazing."
Miller had originally wanted to prepare a video for his son's first birthday, but after that day went by, he found the next best opportunity: October 31, the anniversary of Ward's homecoming and one day before Lyndsey's birthday.
The video found a large audience online; it's been watched more than 3.6 million times.
"It's definitely spreading awareness about NICUs," Ward's dad said. "People have no idea ... that there are these NICUs with these babies holding on and parents scared out of their wits, and it's going on every day all around the nation."
The main comments Miller has been getting on the video are from other fathers who sharing their stories. Miller is struck by how similar their tales are.
"Pretty much everyone is saying, like, 'That was me. This video could have been me. That is exactly what I went through,' " Miller said.
Today, Ward is technically 16 months old, but since he wasn't supposed to be born until October 27, 2012, he seems just over a year old, Miller said.
"All the doctors who meet him and we say he was 15 weeks early, they just can't believe it," Miller said. "He doesn't even look like he was a preemie."
It's possible that the brain bleeding could result in problems later on, Miller said, but so far Ward doesn't need any speech or physical therapy.
"He just had his 15-month developmental assessment, and he's right on track with his age group," he said.
The child has no major health issues except for one: an inflammation in his throat. He sometimes vomits once every two days, which may be related to an allergy, but the family isn't sure. They have "a great doctor" helping, though, Miller said.
Ward has seen the video on his mother's iPad and likes watching himself, Miller said.
"But yeah, he doesn't understand it," Miller said, "and it's not going to be until he's probably 16, 17, 18 that it really sets in, what's happened."