Preterm birth is the leading cause of infant death, so it goes without saying that having a baby too soon can be a scary experience for parents.
When newborns are too small for the big world that awaits them they're often placed in the capable hands of neonatologists.
But this can be tough for parents who just want to hold that baby in their arms.
"At first you don't even realize how small they are. She practically fit my hand," says Doug Ligget of his daughter Olivia. Olivia, now three, was born eight weeks early.
"I was borderline with high blood pressure before I got pregnant, and it just kind of increased and they put me on medicine to control it and it just--as the pregnancy continued with Olivia it continued to get worse," recalls Stephanie Ligget.
After a week of hospitalization for Stephanie at Union Hospital, little Olivia came early.
"I don't think it sinks in with you until after the fact; that I almost died, you know, I almost lost my life and possibly their's too so it just doesn't settle with you that it's that bad until after the fact," says Stephanie.
According to the Institute of Medicine, preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn death. Union's neonatal intensive care unit staff sees these babies each day. "Babies certainly that were so premature that the first week or two of their life you're not sure that they're going to live or not," says NICU nurse Michelle Gutish.
Olivia spent 32 days in Union's NICU; fighting to maintain her temperature and get stronger.
The Liggets say the hardest part about having a newborn in the NICU is returning home without their little one in their arms.
“You don't think about it until they're here, and you really don't think about it until it's time to go home and then you come home and you just had a baby, but there's no baby," says Stephanie.
"I think it's just a very difficult time to miss out. They miss out on that normal experience of having a baby and getting to take the baby home with them," says Gutish.
That pain was twofold for the Liggets whose second baby, Parker, was also born premature just a few weeks ago. At almost 36 weeks Parker wasn't as early as his big sister, but he still spent two weeks in the NICU.
Both Olivia and Parker are happy and healthy and, most importantly, home now, but even after making it out of the NICU premature babies aren't necessarily out of the clear.
"When a baby is born premature, their development lags behind, we know that it's going to. So when they get home from the hospital you have to think of them as when their due date was supposed to be, not actually how many days old they are," says Gutish.
With the help of the NICU staff, family and the local chapter of the March of Dimes the Liggets say their little ones seem to be right on track. But that doesn't stop a mother from worrying.
“Are they going to grow up and be strong kids? Are they going to grow up and be successful adults? You don't know . . . so you just pray; you just pray that will be okay and you just hope that everything's going to be a success. And so far it has!” says Stephanie.
The Liggets say they're involved with the March of Dimes now because the organization was supportive during their time shuttling to and from Union Hospital.
They also give kudos to Terre Haute North and South's Volleyball for the Small match for raising awareness and money for Union's NICU.
You can watch Miracle Babies Part II by clicking here.