There is an interesting phenomenon that I have become aware of as I have settled into my role as a preemie mom. It happens almost every day that Charlie meets someone new. People who meet Charlie for the first time will dote over her as she shamelessly flirts. I am drawn into the exchange as I am told some variation of how angelic they find her. And then, it happens… They inquire about her age.
For the first few occasions, I was unsure how to answer. Do I say her adjusted age? Her actual age? Should I just make something up? One day, I made the decision to use her actual age of one year at times like these. I have ever since. Seasoned parents always remark how small she looks, ask why her skill set is lagging, or are suspicious that I’m lying. After some practice, these shocked reactions sting much less than before (not at all on a good day). Typically, I will nonchalantly explain how she was early.
This is the moment that the interesting phenomenon occurs. Most people have a knee jerk reaction to say “She will catch up.”, “She will be fine”, or “Everything will be okay”. If I am really unlucky, people will relay a story about some other preemie they know that has superb abilities as an adult. I am curious as to why this is the typical response. How do they know how things will play out for us? Why is she suddenly less than perfect with the disclosure of the information?
Yesterday, this scenario unfolded for about the hundredth time. The girl was babbling about how Charlie will start school and be just like all the other kids. She kept talking, almost nervously, about how Charlie will be “fine”. I gently touched her arm and said, “It will be… We will be okay if it doesn’t happen.” She was silenced as she returned a stunned look.
The thing is… All those days that she was in the NICU, I did not beg for her to make it out perfectly. I simply pleaded for her survival. During that time, I realized that we could handle whatever challenges she faced. We would figure things out as we went along. Charlie is already everything I have ever wanted and more.
I reassured the girl that no matter what the future holds, all will be well for us. She asked if she could hold Charlie. As she reached for Charlie, the girl remarked that things seemed to be already so.