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Biography & Autobiography Medical

Micro Miracle

A True Story

by (author) Amy Boyes

Signature Editions
Initial publish date
Nov 2018
Medical, Pregnancy & Childbirth
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2018
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2019
    List Price

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Micro Miracle is the moving account of a first-time mother whose expectations of childbirth and parenting are dramatically altered when she gives birth sixteen weeks prematurely to Madeline. Weighing just over a pound, with eyes fused shut, and thin, fragile skin, Madeline could fit in a hand, but she's too ill to be touched. Unflinchingly honest, Micro Miracle is a true story of a medical triumph.

About the author

Amy Boyes makes her home in Ottawa, Ontario, with her husband, Josh, and their daughter, Madeline. A pianist and an educator, Amy earned music degrees at Brandon University in Manitoba and the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and performance and pedagogy diplomas from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto (RCM) and Trinity College in London, UK. As a music festival adjudicator and examiner for RCM, Amy enjoys connecting with young performers throughout Canada. She is also an active volunteer with the Ontario Registered Music Teachers' Association. When not teaching in her busy piano studio, or chasing after Madeline, Amy carves out a few minutes, every day, for writing. Her work can be found in a variety of sources such as music teacher periodicals or, most recently, the Humber Literary Review.

Amy Boyes' profile page

Excerpt: Micro Miracle: A True Story (by (author) Amy Boyes)

“Do you understand the situation?”

Dr. Fiala, a neonatologist, looks warily at Josh and me. She seems to be waiting for some reaction, so we nod. It feels like the thing to do.

“I’m not sure what more I can tell you,” she continues. “At twenty-four weeks gestation, sixteen weeks premature, Madeline will be lucky to survive this week.”

We look at our hands, at our shoes, at the tiled floor, anywhere but at Dr. Fiala. We don’t want to face the ugly truth presented by the kind and gentle doctor. It’s the combination of message and messenger that jars us. If the dire news had come in a stapled report typeset with serifs, we’d be braced for its severity, but this way—whispered sympathetically by another mother—confuses our expectations. Nice people don’t tell you horrible things. They just don’t.

“Any questions?” the doctor asks.

We shake our heads so she leaves us alone, sitting bolt upright on the sagging couch, like fence posts rammed into shifting clay. We’re hardly aware of each other’s presence, yet we hold hands, my left in Josh’s right. He grips my hand so tightly that my rings dig into my fingers. We feel each other’s anxiety, our stress, but we don’t comfort each other. We just stare numbly into dusty corners as intercoms and alarms sweep over us.

“She looks so fragile,” I murmur.

“I know.” Josh closes his eyes, inhaling deeply, perhaps trying to free himself from the fear that grips his chest. He hasn’t slept decently in a week and looks it. His eyes are smudged dark. His hair is matted and greasy. I know I look the same but I don’t care. In fact, I care about so little it frightens me. All the things that worried me last week have faded away—income tax filing, studio scheduling, meals in the freezer—wisps of smoke, nothing more.

Josh and I finally look at each other—husband, wife; father, mother—but we don’t smile, not even a forced smile of reassuring optimism. It would take too much energy; besides, we understand how the other feels. We’re stunned by what we’ve seen and heard. We’ve glimpsed the dark side of nature, its capability to churn out mistakes, to mangle lives, and it happened too quickly to make sense of it. Yet, we must pull ourselves together. My room in the Maternity Ward must be packed up and my discharge papers signed. Groceries have to be bought and laundry has to be washed. There is a life to return to even if we don’t remember it. We pull ourselves off the couch and tiptoe to Room A for one more look at Madeline.

In an incubator, she lies on her back, a limp bundle of wrinkled flesh, taped and wired to multiple lines. She has no will of her own, no strength. Her survival relies on the platoon of machines that queue around her incubator like sentries on duty, watching over her, tallying up numbers and percentages, pumping oxygen and nutrients into her body through narrow lines.

The incubator’s thick, curved Plexiglas walls bend our perception, like a glass of water confusing the world beyond. Although the incubator protects and warms her, it also keeps us away. We are outsiders, observers. Look, but don’t touch.

A quilt, sewn by a volunteer, covers the incubator, blocking sunshine by day and fluorescent light by night. Lifting the corner of the quilt feels like a sacred ritual, a prayer in action. I lift, look, and breathe, “Oh dear God. She looks so awful. So very, very awful. Save her, I pray. Save her.”

As each hour since birth slides by, I begin to accept her death as inevitable. I hadn’t pictured a loss after birth, but that’s what it will be—a labour-in-vain, a miscarriage, a “not-meant-to-be” as people so infuriatingly say. I always thought if I were to lose a baby, it would happen early on, at twelve weeks maybe, a splash of blood and then—all over. But a birth, followed by a suffering death, might be the cruelest loss of all. I will have to watch her give up. At least if I had miscarried, I wouldn’t have to see her fingers claw when needles are sunk into her veins, or listen to the alarms wail when her oxygenation plummets and heart rate drops down to nothing.

Through the gap in the incubator’s blanket, I memorize Madeline’s face in case she gives up before I return later this evening. It’s an odd face, barely-formed. So impossible. So strange to see.

A ghastly memory flashes and I try to ignore it, but it won’t go away. It keeps coming back to mind, to the mental view that flits away when you really try to look at the details. It’s from when I was a little girl on the farm. I was six or seven maybe, visiting a batch of new baby piglets in the farrowing barn. Outside their pen though, Dad had piled a half-dozen stillborn piglets. Wet and red, awaiting burial, they were a mass of taut, translucent skin. They were haphazardly stacked because, really, they didn’t matter anymore. They were dead.

The resemblance between those pigs and Madeline is uncanny. The wet, red skin. The fused eyes. The half-formed features. I want to gag, yet I can’t turn away from the incubator. How can I? This poor child is mine.