Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents


All the chatter the other day on our Facebook page about the scars our babies now carry from their NICU stays got me to thinking. Are we sweating the small stuff by focusing on these physical imperfections?

This is a photo of my son’s scar from his NEC surgeries. If I think about this scar too much, it can break my heart into a million little pieces. This scar reminds me of how we almost lost him.

December 26, 2008 – the day they diagnosed NEC

At 10 days old and less than 3 pounds, Connor contracted NEC. Five days later, he underwent his 1st of 3 surgeries – he had 20cm of his intestines removed and was given 2 ostomies. After surgery, his incision was not healing properly, so they had to put a wound vac on him for 17 days. At 47 days after his 1st surgery, his ostomies were removed and his intestines reattached. (His 3rd surgery was for ROP.)

January 7, 2009 – wound vac 

With the amount and location of the removed intestines, he was at high risk for short gut syndrome and absorption issues, but today he’s totally fine. We are incredibly fortunate. He almost died when he got NEC, but he didn’t. We are amazingly lucky.

His arms, legs, and feet are peppered with little white marks – scars from IVs and PICC lines. The surgery scar is the most significant – this scar of his is roughly 4.5″ across on his 10″ wide abdomen. He will likely carry it with him his entire life. We talk about it when he looks in the mirror and asks questions. We tell him about how it’s a mark that will remind him he’s a very strong boy, and that he fought hard and didn’t give up.

In time, his scars may fade or even disappear completely. But there are other scars I worry might never heal…

As parents of NICU babies, I think we carry the scars of our experience… emotional and mental scars. I’ll never be able to have the birth experience I dreamed about with my son. I’ll never be able to make up for those days I was unable to hold him the way a baby should constantly be held. I’ll never get over the anguish I felt those 120 long days in the NICU.  I’ll never reconcile my sorrow in leaving him behind night after night and not taking him home with me.  I’ll never be able to forget the fear and terror I felt while watching him teeter so close to death.

The physical scars my son carries are meaningless, really… I don’t want to waste any energy focusing on physical imperfections.  In the grand scheme of things, he’s alive and with us today, and in my eyes, he’s absolutely perfect. After all that he’s been through, I can’t really ask for much more than that.

July 8, 2012 – 3.5 years old

Aimee Sprik About Aimee Sprik

Aimee Sprik (IL) is mother to Connor, born unexpectedly early at 26 weeks, in December 2008, due to an infection. Connor, with his parents, survived a complicated 120-day NICU stay, which changed their lives forever. Since bringing her son finally home, she's felt passionately about volunteering her time and resources to supporting fellow NICU parents, both at the hospital where Connor was born, and by co-founding Life after NICU, an online parent support forum now moderated by Hand to Hold. You can follow Aimee on her personal blog, Sprik Space, or send her an email.


  1. I love what you tell your son, Aimee. It is a sign of his strength and also a reminder of how lucky he is. He beat the odds and I really hope those scars will be motivation to keep beating the odds. Great post!

  2. Johanna Marshall says:

    These pics are so familiar to me…our Melanie was born at 24 wks. and two of her surgeries were dealing with NEC. She is now a happy/healthy 4 1/2 yr old with the same scar and when she is asked what they are, she tells people that they are her battle scars from the war she fought and won! They are amazing little people aren’t they?!

  3. Anonymous says:

    This brought me to tears…my sons physical scars from NEC surgery as well as 3 other surgeries and long NICU stay…are truly nothing compared to the figurative scars I live with everyday! He’s stronger than me!

  4. Joseph has deep scars from his PICC lines and on his chest from the electric pads on the sensors. Sometimes people comment on them (he’s now three) asking if they’re insect bites.

    I get choked up talking about them, because most days, now he’s a big happy boy, I forget he was once so small and sick.

    I have mixed feelings about them, because they do look so odd, and so noticeable, but they are a mark of how brave and strong he is. I try to only be positive about them.

    I think our babies scars are truly a reflection of our own.

  5. angle martinez says:

    My baby was a surviving twin sister born at 23 weeks she was one pound three oz she has iv scars nd pic line scars nd a big scare across her back from pda closernd rop nd im going to tell her when she gets older that she had such a good heart that the had to tie it so she would not lose it…

  6. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Anonymous says:

    My daughter has several scars. I tell her it is so special, makes her unique and so many people get tattoos, dye there hair, wear different clothes all to be unique. She automatically has badges of courage, strength and Gods grace on her! How she is not ordinary, she is EXTRA ordinary!! We love her battle scars and am proud she is here to show them. Thank God for surgeries that helped save our babies 😉

  8. My son had 4 surgeries for NEC. The last being on 8/31 and his incision is still healing. I know he will have the scar for life, but I don’t care, bc I will have him for life. He also has a scar on his leg where he got a blister from his IV line, and another scar near his collar bone where he had a central line. I kiss those scars all the time as they remind me what he and we have been through. happy that he will see his scars but will not feel the pain that went with them.

  9. I love my son’s scar. It reminds me of what a miracle he is. It’s my C-section scar that takes me back to the fear of losing him as he fought for his life.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I am like the previous commenter. When I see scars on my son’s body, I look at them as badges of honor. He did it! It’s my C-section scar that I hate seeing. Ordinarily I do well at keeping the “preemie mama guilt” at bay, but seeing that scar does it every time. Makes me feel so sad that he had to go through so much.

  11. My daughter’s ECMO scar on the neck is a daily reminder of how precious she is”, how it saved her life. It is also a reminder that her right carotid artery and jugular vein are tied off. I remember jokingly asking the nurse in the NICU if she would be able to wear bikinis because of the scar from the central line. Like another poster said, I will teach her to tell people that these scars are from the battle that she fought and won”.

  12. Wendy DuFour says:

    As everyone has said, these scars are part of the journey of survival for our babies. My grandson was born at 23 weeks and has much scarring on his stomach, his thighs and the ones that concern me, under his upper arms. Does anyone know if the scar tissue will stretch as these babies grow or do we need to use some product to soften the skin? Thanks.

  13. I myself have the same type of scar and surgery when I was born 23 years ago I still have my scar that goes all the way accross my stumach. I was a miricale baby and was born super early at 1lbs 7oz. I am now healthy and pregnant with my first baby who is already 5lbs I’m 35 weeks(:


  1. […] the NICU has left a permanent impression upon me, and my family.  We have lingering scars – physical, emotional, and mental – that will probably always be….  Some of these scars are badges of honor, that we triumphed over a good fight.  Others I […]

  2. […]  Once I accepted that the NICU was part of our story, I can see past the wires and tubes, past the scars… and all I see is my amazing, beautiful […]

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