First-time mother Emily McCardle remembers the moment her new daughter Paizlee Rose was placed on her chest.
Two nurses had to delicately manoeuvre around the tiny baby's many tubes and wires and gently lift her out of her incubator in the neonatal intensive care unit of the IWK Hospital in Halifax.
McCardle had to wait a week to hold her daughter, but as soon as the baby was settled in her mother's arms, she seemed to sense she was home. Her heartbeat slowed to match the steady rhythm of her mother's.
Paizlee Rose Adams was born at the IWK on April 25, 2018, when she was only 23 weeks old. She weighed just one pound. It was a dramatic birth for McCardle and Andy Adams of Summerside, P.E.I.
Friends and family in P.E.I. soon started reaching out, anxious for news of the tiny baby. Knowing people had the best of intentions, the young couple appreciated the outpouring of support.
But they soon became overwhelmed trying to respond to each message. So McCardle decided to start a Facebook page as a way to share information with family and friends.
She called it The Powerful Journey of Miss Paizlee Rose, and it didn't take long to take off.
"It's just so amazing that people are captivated by it and it definitely does help us every day to get through the day."
McCardle began sharing pictures and videos of the tiny baby. She wrote the Facebook posts in Paizlee Rose's own voice, as if the little girl was telling her story herself. It became a way for McCardle to feel closer to her daughter.
"I love giving her a little personality, it just seems to give her more life. It's enjoyable for me, too. It really helps me get through everything, it's almost like therapy for me," she said.
Humour and humanity
"Keeping everything on track and understanding everything, going over it in my own head, it's just like a journal for me, but I'm just sharing it with everybody else."
McCardle injects humour and humanity in every post, like a day in the life of a micro preemie. The Facebook page has spread beyond their own circle of family and friends. Now more than 1,000 people are following their journey.
McCardle says she draws strength from reading people's messages.
"We read every single comment that goes on there, and it's just so amazing," she said.
"We sit here at night and we think there's no way she can't make it with all the prayers people are saying for her and all the love people are sending, and the positive vibes."
McCardle has also been touched by the outpouring of financial help they have received. The Summerside exercise group Keeping Fit recently donated some money to the family after holding a fundraising race.
One of the teams in the race called themselves Paizlee Power and made T-shirts up the event. Along with the financial donation, they passed along their shirts as well. McCardle now wears hers proudly.
"If it was somebody else we wouldn't even hesitate to give, or to do whatever we had to do, that's what we do. But you never expect yourself to be in the position that you get all this help," she said.
"It's amazing, it's so humbling and it's not something you ever get used to.…When we're in a different situation, we will be the very first to be repaying it forward for somebody else that's for sure."
The road ahead
Paizlee Rose and her parents have been at the IWK for four weeks and have many more months ahead of them. Adams is going back to work in Summerside four days a week and will spend the other three days at the hospital.
The family will stay at the hospital until at least Aug. 22, their original due date. They may have to stay beyond that if Paizlee Rose needs more time to grow stronger.
For now, visits from grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends from P.E.I. are keeping the young family positive. The two biggest issues facing Paizlee Rose are the continued development of her heart and her lungs.
There is a small hole in her heart. Doctors are hopeful it will close on its own, so surgery isn't required.
Doctors are monitoring the baby closely, and she is making steady progress. Recently she was able to come off her breathing tube for 12 hours, raising hope that she will continue to make gains.
"Her strength is unbelievable and you just have no doubt that this little baby is going to be totally fine. There's no question about it. You can just tell she's going to be OK," McCardle said.
Small steps are what life is all about right now for Paizlee Rose and her parents, steps they are chronicling every day on her Facebook page.
They hope to share the page one day with their daughter, showing her the amazing start she had in life and the love and support she received.
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