The Power of Baby Steps
Monday, April 26, 2010

On Saturday, I met up with a little friend of mine and her parents.

She is, by far, my smallest friend, but the might that lies within her tiny, strong heart is extraordinary.

If you are not familiar with Hailey's entrance into the world, an entrance that came far too soon, you can read her story here.  

And here you will find the story of a battle waged, where the first 89 days of Hailey's life were spent in the neonatal intensive care unit, struggling to breathe and to live. 

She came out the champion—Miss Hailey Rose. She is now a smiley-faced, mohawk-growing, chubby-thighed, pinkalicious, gorgeous, about-to-be 6-month-old healthy, thriving baby.  

Team Hailey Rose took to the streets on Saturday in the annual March of Dimes March for Babies. 

Hailey's best friend joined us. Annaleigh Faith and Hailey were incubator partners in the NICU. Annaleigh was born at 27 weeks, weighing 2 pounds, 6.5 ounces. She spent 62 days in the NICU.

Just look at the two of them now. How far we have come. 

We set off down the streets of our fair city. And I know that I look like I'm talking to myself in this next pic, with my hands in the air because talking just isn't talking without the use of your hands. But, I am not. I only do that at home.

I am either singing to embarrass my Tori or I'm talking to Chris, the guy right behind me in the baseball hat, whom I met on Saturday. Such a nice guy, that Chris. Hi Chris! Thanks for walking with me and my Type A fast walking. Also, please note my mid-section is not that thick. (I just can't let this one go, for the sake of everything superficial that lives inside of me.) I was wearing a new pair of sweat pants. You know, the Body Armor ones with the little roll-down waist. The entire day I felt like that roll-down was super bulky. It wasn't until I got home and changed that I realized there was a large piece of cardboard stuffed in that roll-down, clearly for display purposes, not for wearing purposes. I guess the Body Armor folks thought most people would have enough sense to take the cardboard out before wearing. But, that would be MOST people. So, what you're seeing there is a big old slab of cardboard around my waist. Just had to put that on the record because, yeah, I'm that vain. 

We walked in celebration of Hailey and the beautiful, healthy life that stretches out before her, just waiting for her tiny little feet to tread its path.

We walked in celebration of Annaleigh and all the other babies born before their time who fought their way through the darkest of days, to emerge onto the other side, to a healthy life full of light and promise.

We walked in memory of those tiny ones who were unable to stay. Far too many. I was brought to tears by all the t-shirts bearing sad messages of commemoration, marking the dates of a little one's brief life, sometimes only one day into the next. A day or two of life. A life always cherished. A life always remembered. A life always mourned. 

We walked in gratitude for all the incredible doctors and nurses who dedicate their lives to these babies in the eternal fight to help save the tiniest of souls. 

We walked in gratefulness for the incredible strides in medical advances that have saved millions of premature lives thanks to organizations like The March of Dimes. 

We walked to ensure that this noble cause continues its fine work. 

The day was glorious with a light breeze and blue skies, perfect for the thousands of folks who walked the good walk. 

A fantastic time was had by all and our pink t-shirts were the schizz. It was such a flattering color. Even the men looked great. And props to those men! Only real men wear pink.

I was thrilled to meet up with one of my favorite bloggers of all time. I've been reading Maria of Mommy Melee from the day I first opened the door of this big blog world. As a writer, she always inspires me. I feel like I am opening a treasure box every time I visit her blog. She is one of the most gifted writers in the Blog World. Her posts are filled with such luminescence and truth and grace. She takes my breath away with her words.

And once again, for the record of my vanity, Maria looked fantastic. My hair, on the other hand, looked horrific. We should have taken the picture before the walk because I am one of those people who sweats through her head. Gallons of sweat pour out of my head the minute I walk outside while everyone around me has dry, perfect-looking hair. And when my head sweats, my hair freaks out in these limpy little waves. They're not even good waves because my hair has the consistency of angel hair pasta. I just wanted to show you the lovely Maria. This is not my best look.

Just for the record.

Notice how close I am standing to Maria. I was hoping some of her brilliant writing mojo might rub off on me. 

Maria and her group were walking in memory of the beautiful Maddie. You can read Maddie's story, here at her mommy's blog, The Spohrs Are Multiplying.  Maddie's parents turned the devastating loss of their child into a celebration of purpose by creating a foundation that supports parents and premature babies in their time of need called Friends Of Maddie.

As Team Hailey Rose was standing in a pink huddled clump waiting for the walk to begin, our local Fox news station set up their cameras right next to our huddle. My spotlight-loving Tori girl couldn't believe her luck. Between racing from table to table to snatch up all the free goods she could find to lingering at the news cameras filming around every corner, Tori was in her element. Tori and I were the only members of our family able to walk on Saturday. Everyone else in our family unfortunately had other places to go, people to see.

As we were just hanging out, I noticed Kelly Ring, one of our most popular local anchors heading our way. Kelly came over to say hello to Hailey and her parents Julia and Rob. As she stood there admiring sweet, little slumbering Hailey and asking about her story, Tori, suddenly appeared there in between Julia and Rob, interjecting every chance she could get. 

I can see why Kelly is such a popular celebrity. Not only is she beautiful, she was kind and gracious, too. As my Tori Girl blabbered away, Kelly asked her who she was, perhaps a niece? I mean, why wouldn't she think Tori was a close family member the way she commandeered the conversation. When it was explained to Kelly that Tori was one of Julia's soccer players, the talk segued into girls and soccer and Kelly's soccer playing daughter, that is until Tori veered the subject right back onto her. 

Kelly spoke to us for a few minutes, (too few minutes in Tori's eye) and then bid us goodbye and well wishes. 

Tori was crushed. She thought the conversation would naturally turn into her TV debut. 

But, a few minutes later, I looked up to see Kelly and the camera crew headed our way. 

Kelly asked Julia if she could tell Hailey's story for the cameras. 

Julia, Rob and Princess Hailey were positioned in place as the news team set up. The rest of us stood off camera, excited for Hailey and her first TV interview. Just before the camera light flicked on, Tori exclaimed, "Oh, I can't stand this!" And before I could say a word, she was there, wedging herself into their little family as if she rightfully belonged there. 

As Julia spoke of Hailey's 89 days in the NICU and the medical team who guarded her precious life and the March of Dimes, Tori stood there beaming . . . and running her fingers through her auburn locks as if she were the star of the show. Marilyn Monroe, herself. 

I tried my best, hissing at her to get the hell out of the interview, but I knew by the way she was fixated on that lens, pulling her hair out to its ends as she vamped for the camera that the only way I was getting her out of that interview was by grabbing her by that glossy ponytail and yanking. 

And I'm pretty sure that would have distracted from Hailey. 

The best I could do was motion wildly to her to stop with the hair. There is a time and place for dazzling beguilement. During an interview about premature babies is not one of them. 

Tori DVR'd every newscast for that day. Later, my daughter Julia and I watched the 7:00 evening news and unfortunately the interview didn't make the cut for the March of Dimes segment. 

It wasn't until early the next morning when Tori burst into our bedroom as we slept, that we discovered they had made the 10:00 news. 

She came in shrieking, "I'M ON TV! I'M ON TV!!"

And there she was, all a-beaming and a-hair-vamping as Julia spoke so eloquently about Hailey's days in the NICU. 

This daughter of mine. 

I hope that Hailey gives her parents moments like this. In fact, I have a feeling she will. 

Life began for Hailey, a featherweight 1 pound, 10 ounce ounce baby girl. 

Her first days so fraught with the worry and danger of keeping such a small being alive.

Days crept by. Days where the only thing in the world that mattered was survival.

Hailey, with the help of her wondrous medical team, the incredible advances in the fight against prematurity and organizations like The March of Dimes, did so much more than survive. She fought her way into the featherweight champion of the NICU.

She ruled that NICU until her 89th day of life. The day her parents had been holding their breath for. The day she left her little world for home.

And in a moment's whisper, she grew into a scrumptious pudge of love, a little girl who is the light of her parents' lives. 

Of all of our lives. 

If you have any cents to spare, please consider donating to The March of Dimes, Friends of Maddie or any other of the other noble organizations aiding in the fight against premature births. 

We'll be doing it all again, next year. We'll be pulling Hailey in a wagon decorated to the ninth degree in pink. Tori will be searching fruitlessly for cameras. And we're thinking about wearing pink tutus—that is, if the men will man up enough to wear them. 

Join us if you can.

Today's Do It Download: Bob Dylan's "Forever Young." For Hailey.

May God bless you and keep you always.
May your wishes all come true.
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung.
May you stay forever young.
Forever Young. Forever Young.
May you stay Forever Young.


LisaPie said...

Oh Joann! You made me cry! Again. So beautiful.

And that photo of the two mamas and their girls? Perfection. Both those babes look just like their respective mamas, too. Same noses. Love it!

And I love how you have raised your girls to be such confident women that they KNOW they will be included. Good job!

Katie's Dailies said...

Oh, that is such a beautiful post! I first started reading you when you wrote about Hailey's 89 days in the NICU. She has GROWN so MUCH and what a cutie! It's amazing what medicine and love and faith and prayer can do. I mean, just look at her wondering why she's being poked in the belly in that last picture. To look at her, you'd never know all the heartbreak and worry that happened nearly 7 months ago. GO HAILEY!

Ducky said...

You've moved me to tears and totally killed the nice smooth shaved leg thing I had going on. Goosebumps head to toe negates a close shave...justsaying.

What a fantastic story and beautiful little baby! Life is so so SO very precious.

Anonymous said...

Yay Hailey! She's just gorgeous.

Tori is cracking me up with her attention loving self!

You owe the blog world 10 things you love about yourself for the two rediculous self-depricating comments you made about yourself.

Seriously, let's hear 'em.

Unknown said...

What a special post. I am so glad you could go on this walk! What a beautiful baby. She is darling. : ) I will pray for her continued strength.

Buggys said...

What a wonderful, heart warming story and told by you so eloquently. I was lost while reading this. In my family we have had 2 NICU babies born far too early. These tiny little beings are miracles!

Judie said...

Well, that's my last Kleenex! So I had better make this quick before I start using my sleeve:

My youngest son, Keil, was born with hypothyroidism--he has no thyroid gland. Before the test for his condition was made part of the series of tests (mandated by state law) all newborns have, we would have been looking at a pretty bleak future for him. Even so, the doctors gave him a 50/50 chance of having an I.Q. of 90, and being no taller than 5'3" at the most. Thanks to early
intervention, he has an I.Q. of 120, and is 6 feet tall. He does suffer from some mild neurological issues, and because he is so loving, and trusting of others, he is easily taken advantage of. He is 31 now, and last November he lost the job he had held for 10 years when the company went bankrupt. He was heartbroken. We encouraged him to come to Arizona and live with us until he got back on his feet.

He found a job that he really wanted, and was hired. It is not a high-paying job, but it allows him time to study for the A+ exam to be certified in computers.

He loves playing golf, and he and I go out in the afternoons together and chase the little white ball.

He is such a fine young man, honest and hardworking and loving. I am really blessed.

Mom vs. the boys said...

what a beautiful little miracle! you made me cry! and you do look fab in that colour of pink!

One Photo said...

What a beautiful post and tribute to that little girl and all others like her. It is truly amazing that a baby born so early and being so tiny can six months later look such a picture of health and beauty.

Christine Macdonald said...

You have such a wonderful gift. Your writing is beautiful, just like your heart - and hair.

PS: I'm welling with tears or joy and sorrow. Here's to all those families. This is what life is all about.

Pam said...

What a beautiful post. You did a wonderful job raising awareness for the March of Dimes.

Rita Templeton said...

Oh, that takes my breath away! I'm so so SO blessed that my babies were all born full-term ... I can't imagine the agony of taking your baby's survival day by day. These parents are so strong. And so are the babies - perhaps stronger than anyone else!

You guys looked great. I love the pink shirts. And I also love your hair! It looks fantastic, whether you think so or not! :)

Judie said...

Oh, jeez! I forgot to tell you how great you look in your pink shirt with the cardboard in it. Let's make cardboard a new fashion statement!!

Lisa said...

Joann - that was so beautiful! You were rocking the pink t-shirts (gorgeous shade of pink, too!!)

Judie - your comment was beautiful too. I'm so glad you and your son are so close, and that ya'll are able to spend so much time together now. I love a happy ending!

Tracie said...

Yes, Maria is a wonderful blogger but I don't think you need any of her mojo to rub off on you, friend.

This was a beautiful piece. Now excuse me, I have a little something in my eye. *sniff*

Anonymous said...

What a great day for all of you! My SIL walked yesterday too while we were taking care of Tyler's Mother. If only I could blog about her.

Now to what is more important.

LOVED the diclaimers about your looks!! OMG! I can't believe you forgot to take out the cardboard!!! That is too funny!

Also, did you power walk with a Coach bag slung around you? If yes, that is so me. I can not be without my purse!

Ally said...

Good for you, Joann! What a lovely post. So many babies are born with issues it almost seems like there are more of them than "100% healthy babies" ... it saddens me, really. We donate every year. Thanks for reminding everyone!

Maria Melee said...

You are SO sweet, and you're cracking me up.

I'm so happy to read this awesome recap. And I'm blushing.


Ivy and Haley said...

She looks amazing for having such a rough beginning. It must have been terrible.

come visit me.


Bossy Betty said...

Beautiful post! I remember reading your first post about this little miracle!!!

P.S. You look terrific! Yeah You!

Lula Lola said...

How wonderful! I know that felt like a victory march for you all!

I am cracking up at your Tori! Born for the spotlight! Love that confidence!

And love your cardboard bound pants! That is so me! I was as wide as a barn after I had my third child. And had soccer games to attend for my oldest the week after he was born. Nothing fit. So, I went to the Gap and bought some cute(were they smaller)temporary pants. As we were leaving, my husband pulled the sticker proclaiming my mammoth size off of the leg of the pants. It was horrifying!

I think the pink was fabulous and tutus are the logical next step in my opinion! The fellows will just have to cowboy up!

Jen said...

I was expecting to cry so early in the day. What a wonderful thing the March of Dimes is. Hailey is a beautiful little girl and you all look fabulous in pink. Tori cracks me up. Bless you for taking part in this walk.

Hulk said...

The Ol' Hulk works for a company that manufactures uch of the tubing used in NICU, as well as other medical departments. I have produced tubing used to feed and administer medication to these kids. I don't say this to toot my own horn here; but it is stories like this that I think of when I'm thinking, "Oh, why double-check that measurement? Why make sure AGAIN that size of tubing is what the customer ordered?". THIS is why...

Joann Mannix said...


I can't reply to you via your blog, since you DON'T HAVE ONE, but I just wanted to say, I've known all along what a fabulous guy you are. No matter, how hard you try to cover it with the snark. You're the best, Hulkie!

duffylou said...

As always you've captured your day to make me feel like I was there. Love the March of Dimes. Love Hailey Rose's story. So thankful this beautiful family had the happily every after.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post...Miracles do happen!

Aunt Becky said...

She's a hero. She really, really is.

Fawn. Like a deer. said...

Yeah, I knew Hulk was awesome too. :)

And YAY for baby Hailey. What an inspiration. :)

JennyMac said...

I had a feeling from the first photo you were going to make me well up.

What a beautiful thing to share and you are clearly a fabulous friend to have. Biggest of hugs.

Teachinfourth said...

Anybody who runs or walks for such a great cause is a hero in my eyes...

Gigi said...

This is an amazing post, Joann!

You wrote about a very important cause with tenderness and humor. And I truly love the precious. :) Baby Hailey is lucky to have so many wonderful friends and family supporting her!

ProudSister said...

What a beauty little Hailey is...oh & Tori too. My good friend delivered a 10lb, 6oz baby 2 days ago. It's amazing to think babies could be almost 9 lbs apart in birth weight & turn out so well. Here's to many more years of her growth & good health. I hope Julia & Rob are lucky enough to have a beautiful, fun-loving, story-telling, camera hog just like our Tori. Great post!

Alexandra said...

Beautiful and mortifying at the same time.

Oh, the vamping of the hair...while a serious subject is discussed.


Dawn in D.C. said...

What a wonderful story! I had read about Hallie on your blog. What a trooper! And so adorable!

Your Tori cracks me up. Yes, I hope Hallie is the same way!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful baby girl!

Thanks for taking the time to stop by and say hello on my special SITS day.

Kelly said...

Just now getting to read this after my computer mishaps.

The first walkathon I ever did was a 10K for the March of Dimes. Since then I have done many more, mostly for AIDS Walk, but that first one meant the most.

Tori cracks me up. She'll go far, that one.

And I'm sorry but forgetting to remove the cardboard from the waistband of your pants just cracks me up. Who puts cardboard in the waistbands of pants?

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