It happened at the pediatrician’s office.
I had spent the last week up to my elbows in what was apparently a case of viral diarrhea (as if plain ol’ diarrhea wasn’t bad enough). As the PA told me to give the Tagalongs a break from milk and went over the details of the BRAT diet, I expressed concern about the lack of protein my little poopers would be getting.
“Psh,” she said, waving a hand dismissively. “It’s only for a few days. They’ll be fine.”
“I know,” I responded, “But they’re preemies and …”
She held up a hand to stop me and then gestured at my diaper-clad 18-month-olds. Caleb and James were engrossed in some game that involved throwing open a cabinet door, slamming it shut, and laughing hysterically. Danae was very methodically and intently ripping apart an issue of O, The Oprah Magazine (Sorry Oprah!).
The PA laid a hand on my arm. “They’re not preemies anymore, mama.”
Always Be My Preemies
My mom tells me that my babies will always be my babies—even when they’re 32, married, and raising kids of their own. I’ll add that my preemies will always be my preemies. They might be in the “normal” range on the growth charts and be inching closer and closer to the magical preemie age of two, but my mind still holds fast to the images of them at their most vulnerable.
They might poop their birthweight, but in my mind, their diapers are still the size of my credit card.
They might run everywhere, climb onto furniture while beating their chest like King Kong, and traipse up and down the stairs, but in my mind, they’re still tethered down by cardiopulmonary monitors, C-PAP machines, and pulse oximeters.
They might rack up my grocery budget, but in my mind, they’re still taking only 5 mLs of a breastmilk-formula cocktail by gavage feeding.
They might be getting too big for me to hold comfortably, but in my mind, they still fit in the palm of my hand.
They might fight for alpha triplet status, but in my mind, they’re still fighting for their lives.
My babies were born 3 months too soon. That’s 3 months less their tiny bodies and immune systems had to develop. That’s 3 months behind they are cognitively from full-term babies. That’s 3 months at risk they are for lifelong health concerns.
That’s 3 months of worry that niggles my mind.
No Preemies, New Worries
It’s a parent’s prerogative to worry, and that right is mine three times over. But I hope that one day I won’t worry—at least about the influence my kids’ prematurity is having on their lives. I hope that once James, Caleb, and Danae are declared caught up to their peers, I can move from worrying about things like whether their little lungs can handle less oxygen pressure on the C-PAP to “normal” things like how the heck I’m supposed to potty train three kids at once. I hope that once we kick this adjusted age business to the curb, my mind can be present in the here and now and not in the in between.
I hope that my preemies won’t always be my preemies.