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Under the Christmas lights in the dark hospital room, tiny Autumn Legere looks more like a doll than a nearly four-pound human. Neil Young’s Harvest Moon is playing from a phone in her dad’s hand.

Adam Legere, on his lunch break from the dockyard fire hall, says he plays the song for his daughter every day because he can often get a wiggle out of her.

For a girl who was just sprung from an incubator the day before, rocking out for her parents is pretty impressive.

It’s Christmas time in the IWK Health Centre’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and even though they didn’t expect their child’s first Christmas to be in the hospital, parents like the Legeres are making the best of it.

Adam said his birthday is Dec. 24 and being in the hospital with his daughter at Christmas is just one of those fateful connections.

She was expected to be born Jan. 26 but instead Autumn arrived with no little drama on Nov. 29. The day before, the couple were test driving a CRV when Amanda got out of the car and her water broke. Being so far from the due date, the couple thought it was a pregnancy-related pee accident.
 


They went to the hospital the next morning and discovered her water had broken and also the baby was in breech. An emergency C-section was in order.

Now, looking at their daughter wrapped up in a blanket with the words baby’s first Christmas printed on it, they call her their little Christmas gift.

“We had the car seat and all the big items already, which is super helpful so it’s nice we’re not worrying about all those things right now, but there is still a lot of stress on top of Christmas and this as well,” Amanda said.

They feel very spoiled, Adam said, because their family helps out a lot.

“And we come here and we’re spoiled here with all the staff, nurses and doctors, they’re all incredible,” he said.

Holding his daughter for the first time is something Adam will likely never forget. At the time, she was hooked up to a number of machines.

“It was intimidating,” he said. “She seemed so delicate and she was three pounds.”

Now she’s growing and putting on some weight, but it will still be several weeks until she goes home to Timberlea. Preemies usually stay in the hospital until around their original due dates. That means this young family will be spending Christmas Day in the NICU.

Adam has to work on Christmas Day but they have plans for Christmas Eve.

“At night we’re going to come back (to the NICU) put a Christmas movie on and the three of us will stay here, and in the morning, I’ll go off to work,” he said. “It’s my birthday and there’s no better way to spend my birthday than with our little girl.”

“It is what it is,” Amanda added. “This is our Christmas gift and we’re just happy that she’s healthy and she’s doing good.”

Lisa Strenkowski, who also hails from Timberlea, took it for granted she’d be pregnant at Christmas. She planned to visit family in Ottawa with her husband and daughter but that all changed when her second child, little Sophie Provencher, entered the world on Nov. 16 — 10 weeks early.

“I was a bit scared. I was admitted a few days before that and I was not expecting to go into labour. It just happened, very quickly she came,” she said.

With Christmas only about a week away, Sophie, dressed in a festive sleeper and a red hat with a fuzzy white trim, slept under a Christmas blanket with multi-coloured lights strung around her little bed. With all the decorations, including wrapping paper on the wall and a teddy bear on the shelf, it’s obvious Sophie’s family loves Christmas.

“She’s doing really well. She’s growing and learning how to eat on her own. She’s developing a personality and she’s very calm and laid back.”

Some days are difficult, she said, because when she leaves to go home she can’t take her daughter with her.

“I have to keep reminding myself she’s getting better and we’re going to go soon,” she said.

Christmas is going to be different than what she had planned but it’s still going to be very special.

“We are going to do Christmas morning like a typical morning with my other daughter and then my husband, myself and my daughter are going to come here in our Christmas pyjamas and bring Sophie her Christmas pyjamas,” she said.

“We’re going to make the most of our Christmas and it’s going to be a unique first Christmas.”

Registered nurse Courtney Day said they do their best to make the holidays special for the families who wish they could be home.

In the days leading up to Christmas, Santa visits the babies plus there are decorations and treats for the families. There’s also a room dressed up as Santa’s workshop where the older siblings of NICU babies can pick out a toy.

Then there’s Christmas Eve.

“It’s magical,” Day said. “The nurses get to play Santa.”

They deliver blankets and hats to all the babies, plus gift bags of items that were donated to the IWK.

“Even though (the babies) are not old enough to know what’s going on, they’re still a part of things.”

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