Saturday, January 24, 2009

You're a Preemie

My dental hygienist told me a story about a woman with a preemie who used her baby's adjusted age as its only age. So when you asked her how old her baby was, she would tell you "9 months" when the baby was really a year old.

Now, I guess this is a personal choice, but I think it is confusing to others and, eventually to the child. At some point, it will have to be explained that, well, you were really born on such and such a date, so you are really three months older. It's like branding the child for life: you're a preemie. It could sound weird, but I do not think of Finn as a preemie. I think of him as Finn. When I look at developmental charts, it is mainly for reference, and as I knew very little about what babies are supposed to do and when they are supposed to do it. I am learning as I go, just like he is, and I do not have unrealistic expectations about his abilities. I want him to continue to progress at a steady rate, and to be happy and healthy.

I do not want to focus too much energy on his early birth. While there are certain restrictions for his first year, and we have to watch out more for issues like upper respiratory infections, I do not feel that his babyhood should be fraught with overprotective behavior that will affect his ability to feel secure and believe that he can accomplish things in life. And though he will not remember his hospital experience, I do not want to deny him his first few months of life, which were not as we expected them to be. He was a strong little guy, and I want him to own that.

When people ask his age and look surprised after I tell them, I explain that he was born at 25 weeks, but I don't dwell on it. Then they tell their preemie story (everyone has one), which is about their uncle, their sister, their baby, themselves, their cousin's husband's first wife's stepson. I don't look back on Finn's first two and a half months with regret or trauma or, perish the thought, shame. I look back and I marvel at how we got through it while working, but we were fortunate, and Finn did not have problems. It was what it was, it can't be changed, and our baby is awesome.

Even if he is a little tyrannosaur.


Brenda Petry said...

Please pardon the rant that I'm about to have . . . .

You reminded me of the ridiculous book someone loaned to me called something like "Your Baby's Development Week by Week." The first bad sign: the book can't seem to figure out how weeks and months work to add up to a year. It states that a child who is 44 weeks old is 11 months old. (Not at the beginning of their 11th month, but 11th months old, which implies they have 11 post-womb months under their belt.) I haven't read ahead to see how the book reconciles that a baby is 12 months old at 52 weeks, not 48 weeks. There have been many other bad signs with this book, but the most recent was the statement that, at 44 or 45 weeks babies will point to the sky when they hear the word Airplane. Really? Maybe the author lives in a warm climate near an airport, and is outside every day with her baby explaining the overwhelming noise bearing down on them. But I can honestly say that, except for when we were ON an airplane, airplanes in the sky are an extremely unimportant part of my baby's life. Now I find out that her development could measured by airplane identification. I guess we're doomed.

Okay, thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

When we get Finn and Azalea together, we'll see that they're both doing great, and they'll get to teach each other all of their best tricks.

Mom/Grandma said...

Well said Karen. Finn is just Finn and he is doing great. Love reading your blog.