The Day the Preemie Went to Kindergarten

The preemie started kindergarten this week.

He did beautifully. I, however, had a slightly rougher time.

While the world sees this…

first day_3279

I couldn’t forget this…Luke_post surgery1or this…

Luke_sisters, blog

or about 8 billion other moments that led us to the kindergarten door.

You see, back in September 2009 I begged God for a miracle. Like, begged. I remember the moment, crystal clear, as if it happened just yesterday. The night before Luke had stopped breathing in the neonatal intensive care unit at just eight days old. The nurses and doctors resuscitated him and emergency transported him to the local children’s hospital. Following that ambulance did not seem real. But it was. Miraculously he made it through the night and then quickly started deteriorating after lunch. Scott and I had to make a decision about surgery, like hours ago. The surgeon and neonatologists were tap, tap, tapping their feet outside the door and Scott and I stood over Luke’s tiny incubator.

“I cannot let him go,” I whisper-cried to Scott, gently laying my head near Luke’s beating heart. “God cannot ask this of me. I am too weak,” I reiterated.

With tears filling Scott’s eyes, he looked at me and said, “We have to let him go, Kathryn. We have to trust that God is going to give him back.” And then we sobbed.

The coming hours, days, weeks, months and years have been filled with countless specialists visits (at one time Luke had 12), therapy appointments for speech, physical and feeding, more surgeries (7 total) and hospital visits (I lost count). The dream of “normal” seemed like not just a far away place, but an unattainable one. One that every other family enjoyed, but us. Of course that’s not true, I know now, but back five years ago? It was our reality.

It’s impossible for me to describe the intense amount of fear and worry I carried deep in the recesses of my heart where only God could see the truth. The tests I hoped he would pass, but he failed. The procedures that had us both in tears. The nurses I hugged, probably a little too hard, because the news was just so sucky. The doctors whose hands I squeezed because I was once again trusting them with my son’s life. The marriage that nearly fell apart and found itself in counseling. The kids who cried because mommy was leaving, again, for the hospital. The PTSD that reared its ugly head at the most inopportune times.

No one fully understands, yet my greatest hope is that another mother will never have to endure what we did.

No one wishes for prematurity to happen to them. No one.

The days leading up to Luke’s first day of school had their ups and downs. I mostly pushed my feelings of worry and concern to the side and busied myself with getting everyone ready – backpacks lined up, lunches packed, supplies bought. It’s easy to bury yourself in the busyness of a household of six children.

But the night before school, while Scott and I were praying nightly prayer, the floodgates opened. It was ugly. But necessary. If I had done that to Luke on the first day of school, the straightjackets would’ve been at the ready in a flash. Not even kidding. Scott reassured me that all would be well. That we would walk in those doors together, just like we’d done the last five years.

On that bright, sunny, warm morning in August 2015 when we walked to Luke’s classroom, every memory of Luke’s journey bubbled to the surface. Every hurdle. Every accomplishment. Every late night and every early morning. The throwing up, the feeding setbacks, the sensory challenges, the first steps, first words, the first everything – even though it was almost always delayed. There it was. And as I looked at him, so confidently hanging his backpack and then sitting at his table to write his name, I was amazed at God’s love.

first day_3307Every last bit of the grace and mercy He poured into our family was smiling right back at me.

Y’all, it was beautiful. And hard.

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To every preemie and NICU mom who wonders if she’ll get her miracle? Let this be proof that it happens. Not always, but it happens.

And to those of you who wonder when you pray for a medically fragile child and his family if your prayers matter? They do, they soooo do.

Happy first day of school, Luke. It’s time for your great new adventure.





  1. Lynn A. on August 19, 2015 at 8:02 am

    A true miracle! I can’t wait for you to share all of his great adventures this year in school. Luke is going to surprise you in the best ways yet!

  2. DPugh on August 19, 2015 at 8:09 am

    Go ROCK kindergarten, Luke! Kathyrn, what a great momma you are. What great taste you had (with God’s help) in picking Scott! I read every blog and am always so proud of you, your faith, your words, your family, your sassiness, etc. So, Kathryn, rock kindergarten with him!

  3. Nicole on August 19, 2015 at 8:26 am

    So beautiful. I had chills reading this. I can’t imagine but so glad you got to experience the first day of school with Luke. Hoping it is a wonderful year for him.

  4. Holly on August 19, 2015 at 8:26 am

    What an absolutely beautiful story, and a total tear-jerker! You have created a beautiful family, and what a beautiful miracle this story is! Hope Luke has a wonderful year!

  5. Kimberly on August 19, 2015 at 8:53 am

    Oh Katheryn. Your momma’s heart is so beautiful. Thank you for laying it bare and sharing it with all of us. I hope Luke had a great first day of school. I cried with you!

  6. Verdina on August 19, 2015 at 9:45 am

    You’ve done it again, Kathryn… my eyes are leaking all over my cheeks. Having followed Luke’s journey with you and Scott, I feel the triumph and see it in his beautiful, confident smile!

    God’s love is here!


  7. mary on August 19, 2015 at 9:51 am

    can’t really speak right now but know that God is faithful in ALL things. Luke is here to do something awesome and you are here to pray and nurture him through it all. Love you friend. So damn proud of you <3

    • Kathryn on August 19, 2015 at 10:26 pm

      Equally damn proud of you. No words on my end to convey my gratitude for the gift of you in my life, Mary!

  8. Cathy K. on August 19, 2015 at 9:54 am

    Beautiful! I’m sitting here at work with misty eyes. God bless you!

  9. Susan on August 19, 2015 at 12:10 pm

    St. Catherine: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire”. I think God has big plans for your little man. Thanks for sharing this happy ending (really a beginning). Signed a peds nurse.

    • Kathryn on August 19, 2015 at 10:26 pm

      I have no doubt He does. It will be a joy to watch it unfold.

  10. Bonnie on August 19, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    Praise God.

    And thank you for sharing your heart and your story, Kathryn. It is good for others.

  11. Colleen Templin Heubaum on August 19, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    From one preemie mom to another, Good Job!! God bless you and your beautiful family.

    • Kathryn on August 19, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      Preemie moms unite! Thank you 😉

  12. Stacey on August 19, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    What beautiful testament to the faith you have in God as a mother!! This is inspiring and gives renewed energy and hope to those who are traveling through a rough part of their life’s journey. Thank you for sharing. God bless your family!

    • Kathryn on August 19, 2015 at 10:25 pm

      Thank you for such sweet and kind words.

  13. Laura on August 19, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    I had tears reading this!! As a fellow premie parent and fellow NICU mother…I too am so overwhelmed with emotions as my twins enter pre-k. congrats to Luke for all of his accomplishments and many many more to come!!

  14. Holly on August 19, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing, Kathryn! You have prepared him well. He’ll do awesome and so will you!

  15. Terri on August 19, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    I hope you don’t mind that i shared this today in the NICU with some of the staff. We have had a rough week and you spoke to our hearts and let us cry in celebration for all the miracle babies we send home. Congratulations to Luke and the entire Whitaker family….

    • Kathryn on August 19, 2015 at 10:24 pm

      Of course not, Terri! I am so sorry y’all have had a rough NICU week. We adore our nurses.

  16. Alysha on August 20, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    As a fellow Aggie (class of ’95) and NICU mom to my sweet 11 year old who entered the world at 26 weeks 2 days, I just wanted to tell you that I so appreciate the words you have written. I’ve done the first day of school for 7 years now with him and my heart feels just like you wrote every single time. Through God’s grace, we have truly been blessed to watch His work in action within the walls of our home. Not always easy, but always worth it … though I have to admit I sometimes still catch myself wishing that I could have given my son a life without prematurity ever rearing its wicked head. These sweet preemies are a beautiful reminder that the best presents come in small packages. Truly my heroes, always. Many thanks for sharing your heart and your family.

    • Kathryn on August 20, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      Our preemies sound like fighters and thanks for validating those tears. Good to know another preemie momma truly understands!

  17. Nikki on August 20, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Crying here!!! So beautiful, so honest. Thank you for this.

  18. Chantal on August 20, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    This is beautiful, thank you for sharing. Our family just had our second preemie (a sweet 29-week little girl) and we are still in the thick of the NICU life. I’ve learned the importance of staying mindfully present and not looking in the future, but I appreciated reading about your hope-filled journey to this happy milestone.

  19. Caitlin on August 21, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Those totally made me cry thinking about my own sweet NICU baby, now three. Thank you!

  20. Fara on August 24, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    I should have known better than to read this at work. My oldest was not a preemie, but we had many of the same struggles. We felt confident that we knew most of what was coming before she was born, but had some complicated curve balls. I’m sure I have some PTSD, as I completely lose composure in some circumstances. I know all those emotions in your face as you squeeze sweet Luke. I’m sure I will be an ugly blubbering mess on her first day of Kindergarten in 2 years. Thank you for this beautiful post.

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    Just reading this now linked from your year review. Thank you for fighting for Luke and showing us that miracles do happen. If I have friends who deliver early, I know just where to send them for solidarity and a little hope in the midst of something so hard!

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