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Published on November 17, 2021

Treasuring the Ordinary

NICU “miracle baby” now in third grade

Tiny baby in dark bassinette Eight-year-old Demi and her 5-year-old brother, Ogo, waited until their mom, Ayoola Idowu, was on the phone to need her immediate attention. “Mom, can you open this yogurt?” “Mom, can I have this?” They were doing the things that most kids their ages do when mom’s focus is temporarily elsewhere. But their ordinary childhood behavior is what Ayoola cherishes the most. Especially when it comes to Demi. She didn’t know if this day would come. Demi was born at 24 weeks--nearly four months early.

Babies born before 37 weeks may have more short term and long term health problems than those born around 40, according to the March of Dimes. And the more premature, the more likely the infant will grow up with impaired learning, vision, dental, behavioral or even chronic health problems. While many premature infants face mental and physical problems, Demi has not.

The miracle baby     Mom bending over kissing baby in bassinette

“Nobody can tell Demi was premature,” Ayoola says. “Every once and a while, she will tell people that she’s a miracle baby. Then, she just wants attention, says her grateful mother. But Ayoola knows that even Demi’s birth was a miracle.

Ayoola and Michael, natives of Lagos, Nigeria, were married 11 years before Demi, short for Oluwademilade (God has crowned me), was born. While they had tried to have children, the pregnancies ended in miscarriages. One caused the removal of her right fallopian tube. And while they continued to hope and believe they would have a child, the odds seemed slim.

Way too early

Two months after finding out she was pregnant with Demi, Ayoola underwent a cervical cerclage, which stitched her cervix closed to prevent preterm labor and delivery. Almost 17 weeks into her pregnancy, Ayoola was put on bed rest in the Cone Health Antepartum Unit.

Despite best efforts from the hospital’s care team, including dietetics that prepared meals to help Ayoola gain weight, Demi burst on the scene way too early. About the size of a TV remote, she weighed slightly more than a pound. Demi spent three months and three weeks in Cone Health’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. There. the tiny infant slowly grew and developed. Michael and Ayoola took Demi home right before Christmas 2013. Their story was an encouragement to staff, fellow patients and even the community.

Thriving third grader

Demi Standing looking at cameraNow, Demi is a third grader. She’s an honor-roll student and, like her father, loves math. She’s back to in-person school, after a year of virtual sessions last year. Missing her classmates and teachers was rough for the young lady who loves to talk, Ayoola says.

With few exceptions, Demi is like most 8-year-olds. She’s a picky eater, preferring African foods to American dishes. She stills loves strawberries, a fruit her mother craved when she was pregnant. And she relishes tormenting her younger brother.

Trust your care team

Eight years after her NICU journey, Ayoola is still gracious to thank those who were critical to Demi’s survival. “The nurses, the doctors in the NICU are all great people. Some of us still communicate on social media. And I’m just so thankful for all they did for Demi.”

As for advice to other parents with premature babies, Ayoola says: “Trust your care team. They will take care of your child. You don’t need to worry. They allowed me to keep a positive mind.”