Any family who’s had a baby in the NICU will tell you that those days, weeks, or months of intensive care can be extremely emotional and often scary. For parents with babies who are very premature or have life-threatening health conditions, they also have to live with the knowledge that their baby may not make it; and the reality of that is heartbreaking.
Such was the case for the Potter family of Alabama, when they learned earlier this year that their son would need to be delivered at just 22 weeks. After finding out that their local hospital couldn’t care for a baby under 24 weeks, the Potters’ contacted USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Mobile, and were assured that their facility was more than equipped to care for a baby as young as Cullen.
Cullen, who experienced medical issues even in the womb, was delivered via emergency C-section on March 14, and weighed just 13.9 ounces — which is just as itty-bitty as it sounds.
“That’s barely bigger than a [can of] Coke,” Cullen’s father, Robert Potter, told Alabama Living.
According to the magazine, Cullen’s parents, Molli and Robert, were initially told that their son had only a 2% chance of survival, and that even if he did survive, he might be left with life-long disabilities. But little Cullen proved to be a fighter, and the incredible staff at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital believed he could make it, with a little extra love and care.
It turns out, they were right.
Little Cullen was finally discharged on August 21, after a 160-day stay at the hospital. By then, he weighed in at a healthy 5 pounds, 11 ounces — and, according to his mom, isn’t expected to endure any long-term conditions from his early delivery.
Needless to say, a rockstar like this needed to be sent home with at least a little bit of fanfare, and his parents — along with the fantastic hospital staff at USA Children’s and Women’s — were up for the task.
Dressed in a tiny graduation cap and gown (which were doll clothes from a nearby Build-A-Bear store!), the hospital staff gave Cullen a preemie graduation ceremony, complete with graduation music and a ceremonial walk.
The video of the sweet ceremony was later shared on the hospital’s Facebook page, where it has quickly gone viral (for obvious reasons).
Can you even handle how incredibly moving this is? If you ask me, every single NICU grad deserves a send-off like that!
The video has since garnered a whopping 12 million views, and been shared thousands of times. But it’s popularity isn’t just due to how stinking cute it is; it’s also giving hope to parents of NICU babies everywhere.
Molli tells Babble that’s precisely why she decided to share Cullen’s story. She wanted others to know that hope is out there, and to always look for a second opinion if you feel you need one.
“I pray his story helps parents know they have options,” she says, adding that she’s now had many moms contact her to share their own incredible stories, and to tell her that Cullen’s story gave them much-needed hope.
Molli also wants other NICU parents to know they are not alone in their struggles, and that they will get through these difficult times, whatever the outcome.
“Nothing about a NICU journey is easy, but it’s so worth it,” she tells Babble. “To know your baby beat the odds.”
As Robert shared with Alabama Living, the couple — who also have a 7-year-old son named Kayden — had already been through two miscarriages prior to Molli’s pregnancy with Cullen. This was part of why they refused to give up hope, even when the odds were stacked against their son.
“If he was fighting, we were going to fight no matter what,” Robert said.
And fight he did. I have a feeling this is only the beginning for this superhero boy, and I wish the Potter family many happy years ahead with their miracle baby.