Kelley Benham French, her husband Tom, and Tom’s two sons were already big fans of the Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling before baby girl Juniper was born 16 weeks early and the family wasn’t sure if she would survive. Weighing just one pound and living in an incubator with machines keeping her alive, the little girl was struggling when her father pulled out the first book and began to read. French recounts the story in an article for Upworthy:
‘Chapter One: The Boy Who Lived.’
He needed to say those words. I thought it was strange that he’d chosen the first book in a seven-volume series, a series that totals more than 4,000 pages, for a little girl who might not survive the night.
But it turns out, it was the perfect story to choose for the little girl born at just 23 weeks gestation. Just barely old enough to be considered viable, yet a full week younger than the abortion cut off for healthy preborn babies and mothers in many states, Juniper needed to hear the story of a baby who survived evil because his mother protected him with her own life.
French writes that as her husband continued to read to Juniper, there were remarkable signs that Juniper was listening.
“When Tom read to her, she breathed better, held her temperature better, seemed generally more content,” she writes. “Tom read every paragraph in a soothing, sing-song voice, and when he stopped, her oxygen levels would plummet and the alarms would blare.”
The nurses urged him to keep reading, and Juniper, despite scary nights and the fear that she would die, fought on. She would spend six months in the hospital before finally going home with her family, and her parents have written their own book about that journey.
Juniper is now five years old. When J.K. Rowling heard that Harry Potter had helped save Juniper’s life, she was moved to tears. She sent a message to French on Twitter saying that she wanted to send them something. Soon, a box arrived with the Harry Potter series, personally signed to Juniper, “The Girl Who Lived” from J.K. Rowling.
“When Juniper arrived and Tom started reading, those stories helped me see that being a parent wasn’t something I might get to do someday, it was something I could do right now, for however long it lasted,” writes French. “They helped Tom and I write the story of our own lives – of who we were in those long, wrenching months.”
At 23 weeks gestation, many preborn children suffer the fate of abortion, but they are living human beings, capable of surviving outside the womb. Harry Potter helped save Juniper, now perhaps Juniper can help save other babies.