Real Moms Share: Jennifer Schwertfeger
Jennifer Schwertfeger family
“Grace: a powerful lesson in resilience”…
Jennifer Schwertfeger is a special mother who contributed to this issue’s “Real Moms Share” section. We asked her to give us an insight into herself, as well as into her life raising her daughter Grace who was born at 24 weeks a micro-premmie. We asked her a series of questions; some serious and some “just for fun”. See what she said…
PARENTING SPECIAL NEEDS: Tell us a little bit about yourself and family.
Jennifer Schwertfeger: I live in Mankato, Minnesota, with my husband (who is a professional photographer) and three daughters: Autumn, Grace and Faith.
PSN: Tell us a little bit more about your child’s condition and diagnosis.
JS: Grace, 10, was born a micro preemie at 24 weeks, and has faced many medical surgeries. One of her biggest issues is chronic lung disease which has been the genesis of her other medical complications. When Grace finally came home (after 9 months in the NICU), she needed a lot of medical support like mechanical ventilation, tracheostomy, oxygen and a feeding tube. We had nurses in our home around the clock. In fact, the first 4 years, in general, were very critical. When Grace was about 18 months old, we removed her tracheostomy. But, on the day that we initially scheduled it, the doctors noticed a cyst that would need to be removed first. There are always setbacks, but we overcome them. When she became more mobile, I started noticing some behavior and developmental delays. She would not listen to me, and I found myself repeating things to her over and over again. She was also destructive with toys and things that she played with. In addition, she had impulses and behavior issues that I knew were a part of being born a preemie. Grace needs lots of guidance and reminders throughout her day, both at home and at school. She is doing well, and has made some incredible progress. Through it all, we were able to put our faith in our Lord, and learn how to take it one day at time.
PSN: You’ve written a book about your experience raising a premature baby entitled “Life with Grace”, can you share a brief overview?
JS: “Life with Grace” is a heartfelt memoir and helpful resource for families struggling to navigate the NICU experience. The topics include: the beginning of my high-risk pregnancy; Grace’s birth; living in the NICU/PICU; navigating the NICU; life in the hospital; bringing Grace home for the first time, etc… It also includes starting early intervention and her IEP plan at school as well as the dynamics of raising a child with special needs.
PSN: You have shared many experiences and lessons learned in your book, and I must say that I learned a lot from your book. I especially like how you point out what you learned after each chapter. What is the biggest lesson you want to share with others?
JS: Over the past 10 years, it has been that I couldn’t magically make things better, or change how difficult my life was then! But, what I could do was figure out a way to take my own experiences and learn from each one, in the hopes of helping others. And that’s just what I did; I wrote the book, “Life with Grace”. There is hope today and so much more support offered to families in need. It was my goal to help foster and mission to as many families as I could.
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