One family's struggle inspired them to help others

Pride of the Nation Photographers Teri and Michael Milner have good reasons to support the Bonnie Babes Foundation; their miracle babies, Melissa five and Hannah nine, were born premature.

The Bonnie Babes Foundation, a volunteer-run charity that counsels families affected by loss, raises funds for vital medical research and purchases machinery for hospitals that saves prematurely born babies lives.

Today, the pair participates in the nationwide Pride of the Nation project, where families who donate to the charity have their children professionally photographed for the 2008 Pride of the Nation book for free. It's an important fundraiser for the Foundation: last year over three thousand children were involved.

Teri, co-founder of Milner Studios, says 'Pride of the Nation allows us to combine our passion for photography with a cause that is close to our hearts'.

As a Pride of the Nation studio, Milner Studios mans awareness stands, forfeits the cost of the sitting fees and the initial consultation.

'Often,' says Teri, 'families take part in Pride of the Nation because of their own experiences. They're here because they're grateful.'

Michael and Teri can relate. Looking to start their own family, the pair ran into troubles and was eventually knocked back for IVF treatment, due to a condition that confined Teri to a chair.

'We almost resigned ourselves that we wouldn't have children. But then just out of the blue, I fell pregnant with Hannah and three years later again with Melissa.'

In spite of the risks, Teri was determined to become a mother. The pregnancies placed her petite frame under stress. Surviving on oxygen treatment, Teri carried Melissa to 27 weeks before being taken in for an emergency C- section. Her lung capacity had plummeted to 15 percent.

'It was quite scary, in the end I would wake up every hour on the hour - I could not breathe. My specialist told Michael that they had trouble reviving me. We decided then that it was more important for our girls to have a mother."

The Milner family received treatment at the Monash Medical Centre. Teri watched her babies struggle on life support and be administered drugs to strengthen their lungs, a therapy relatively new when Hannah was born.

"It was hard, you could not hold them, but you knew that they were in good care. In each room there were eight babies. They were connected to their pulse monitors that were constantly going off. You did not know when to panic; you would hear a noise and ask yourself "Is that my baby's monitor?" The nurses were very supportive.'

Today Teri's girls are fighting fit.

"They are sweet girls, very adventurous. Melissa loves to dance and sing, and Hannah is into Netball and the outdoors.'

Since photographing for Pride of the Nation, families have shared with Teri their own experiences with the Bonnie Babes Foundation.

'Some have had counselling, some have benefited through the technology like us. It's all quite inspiring; it makes you want to get behind it'.

If you want to support the Bonnie Babes Foundation visit: