Have you ever heard the phrase: "Once a preemie, always a preemie"? I used to say this statement. I was convinced that it was a true -- but now, I am not so sure.
It has been more than three years since the birth of my daughter, Emily. Although she was born at 28 weeks gestation -- weighing just one pound, eight ounces, I no longer view her as a preemie or micro-preemie. I see her as an amazing little girl, full of love and laughter.
Even though Emily still weighs less than she should (24 pounds on a good day), has behavioral issues to work on (what three year old doesn't?), and a few motor issues -- I feel like we have "moved on" on from being a preemie and preemie parents in some respects.
Don't get me wrong -- I understand the textbook definitions for the words "preemie" and "prematurity." I know that Emily came early. And, I recognize that her premature birth changed our lives forever.
I often talk about Emily's early birth and three-month stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), but I no longer obsess over it. I have framed pictures around our home of Emily's hospital stay, as well as photos of her hooked to monitors, using a CPAP, kangaroo-ing, and finally coming home -- because that's the beginning of her life story. And, "Bentley's Preemie Blessing" (now dubbed "Emily in the Hospital") is often a must-read at bedtime.
I still freak out when another child coughs on Emily and whip out the hand sanitizer and Lysol spray. I rush home like a bullet train when we get a call from preschool about an accident on the playground. I panic when I hear phrases like "sweat test" and "lab work" from the GI. I get anxious when we are told to increase high calorie foods and schedule more frequent weight checks. I get nervous about continuous toe-walking. I fret, worry, and pray A LOT -- just like other moms of preemies and non-preemies.
After a 24-month hiatus at home caring for Emily, I returned to work and Emily entered school. Going back to work was a difficult decision for me, especially from an emotional standpoint, but it is a financial necessity in an expensive metropolitan area like Washington, DC. I am working full-time and commuting a very long distance -- and Emily is a full-time student.
Although I hate not being able to spend as much time with Emily as I would like, I am enjoying watching her grow into an independent little lady, full of imagination and wonder. She is an artist, a writer learning to scribble her name (the first letter of it -anyway), and a helper -- always eager to feed the dog or throw trash into the garbage. Emily counts, sings songs, and talks up a storm -- just like a typical three-year-old.
She even talks about her future careers. Some days, Emily plans to be "dog doctor." Other days, she wants to be a snow plow driver. She has even talked about becoming a nurse. If Emily decides that a career in nursing is her path forward, I wonder if she will take care of babies in the NICU.
I am not trying to stir up controversy or advocate for Emily to be called an "ex preemie" or a "former preemie." I know that she is a preemie based on birth, but I believe that a transformation is taking place -- and we are entering a new phase of life. She's growing up.
Hello, out there. I have an incredible three-year old girl!
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