The protagonists of this story are very small. Sometimes they only weigh a few hundred grams. Like Alice, she weighed 660 grams at birth a month ago. Like Ousmane, who came into the world in July weighing 700 grams. The place they should be is his mother’s womb, but instead they remain in a heated, covered crib, where they try to grow and in some cases survive.
And to achieve this, they (also) need a lot of love. So there is Chiara approaching Ousmane’s crib, who is crying. She whispers sweet words to him, takes his little hand and caresses it. Then, again, she takes him in her arms and sings him a little song. And Ousmane is calming down. He opens his eyes and looks at her enthralled. They already know each other. They understand each other. Chiara is one of 80 volunteers of the Cucciolo di Bologna association who, in their free time, dedicate themselves to lovingly caring for premature babies hospitalized in the neonatal intensive care wards of the Sant’Orsola polyclinic.
Everybody has over 18 years and some are already grandparents. Chiara is 25 years old and became a volunteer by vocation after passing a strict selection process that has to take into account the motivation and emotionality of the applicant. “I studied Primary Education, now I study Nursing. This is my place,” she says. Chiara is in charge of cuddling ten premature babies. The youngest she has ever cared for was only 24 weeks old. “It fit in my hand and then I went to her baptism. When I saw it again it was already that high,” she says, pointing to the height of the table with bright eyes.
Virginia, 35, is the mother of two children, the first of whom was born prematurely. “This is a place of suffering for mothers and fathers,” she says, “that’s what it was for me and that’s why I wanted to come back, to help other parents.” While Salvatore, 49, came to Cucciolo through acquaintances and has never left.
“At first you are afraid, you feel incapable, you have to hold tiny beings, do delicate maneuvers. But then the children help you learn. And then the relationship becomes magical,” he explains. But they are not responsible for loving all premature babies, only a few. Most of them have their parents -especially his mother- by his side every day. For weeks, sometimes months.