This next post in our World Prematurity Week series was written by grad dad Andrew, whose lovely daughter just celebrated her first birthday! Thank you for taking the time to write this beautiful post for us, Andrew, and give your sweet girl a birthday hug from us.
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World Prematurity Week falls at an interesting time for us, as it is right around our daughter’s birthday. I found out about it reading a whiteboard last year while walking into the NICU to see our days-old daughter.
In some ways, I view our daughter’s prematurity as an isolated time period of our lives while she was in the hospital. We live near Sunnybrook, so every morning, we would wake up and drive to the hospital; we’d go check in on her, and speak with her caregiver about how her night was. My wife would stay in our daughter’s room, while I would move to the lounge to work. We ate lunch in the lounge together every day, and when I was done work, I’d return to our daughter’s room to spend time with her.
We were there through the big Ice Storm (and subsequent power outage), as well as Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and Valentine’s Day. My sister visited from Ireland, and we celebrated my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. We watched the Canadian Men and Women’s Gold Medal hockey games in the lounge with other parents. We made friends, saw other parents arrive, and saw parents leave; being in the NICU was just part of our lives.
We were prepared to spend my 37th birthday there, but our daughter was discharged 2 days before, which was the perfect gift. But once she was discharged, our NICU routine was over – it felt like we were leaving her prematurity behind.
Of course, the reality is that our daughter’s prematurity is not isolated to those 3.5 months. We bring her back to Sunnybrook for check-ups on a regular basis to see how she’s developing. When we take her to see our paediatrician, she will tell us how she’s doing in general, as well how she’s doing as a “preemie”.
When friends and acquaintances ask how old she is, we tell them both her actual age and corrected age (if this term is new to you, it is based around the baby’s original due date – so when she reached her due date, she was 0 months “corrected”); with strangers, we give her corrected age only, as this will line up with her size (to avoid going into the whole backstory, or explain why she’s 1 year old but the size of an 8-9 month old). There always seems to be “asterisk” when someone asks about her.
We have also been very protective of her, especially with strangers trying to meet her. My wife and I have both had to fend off people attempting to reach into her stroller to touch her (to avoid her catching anything).
However, due to her prematurity and how small she was when she was born, we appreciate her milestones and her development so much, knowing where she started from. She’s a very strong, social, and happy baby, so when she first laughed, crawled, stood up, it made us so happy; we appreciate every accomplishment even more.
Ultimately, I look at my daughter’s prematurity as something that’s a part of our lives, but not something that defines who she is. And we’re very thankful for the friends we made while in the NICU, and still feel a part of that community.