It's been a long time since I really thought about being a "preemie mom". Because I'm able to forget most of the awful stuff that happened at the beginning of my kids' lives, I don't dwell on it. Better to work on the problems than linger on the potential causes for those issues, I say. And, the truth is, I've found that words are wholly inadequate to describe those days. There's no way to convey to someone with no experience just what it was like. None.But every now and then, there's a day that takes me back to some of those really bad times...not necessarily in a bad way, but in a contemplative sort of way. Yesterday was one of those days.
Yesterday, we went for our conference with Mam's preschool teachers. This is the conference where they discuss your child's readiness for kindergarten. "Do you expect any surprises from them?" Daddy asked on our way there. "No," I said. "But then, they wouldn't be surprises if I expected them, would they?"
There have certainly been surprises along our way to this point. Some of them very bad, some of them not so bad, some of them fantastic. At moments like this, where judgement (no matter how kindhearted) is going to be passed on one of my children, I often remind myself how far they've come. It plays out like a movie...with flashbacks in muted colors, but with strong emotions still attached.
Me: (in a hospital room, waiting not-altogether-anxiously for word about my baby girl, whose delivery was so scary, I didn't dare ask about it) What were her Apgar scores?
Disembodied voice: Zero, two and six.
Me: Huh. I didn't know you could be alive with an Apgar of zero.
Dawning realization...She wasn't.
Mam's teacher: She traces and cuts with scissors very well, she knows all her letters, she writes her name...
Neonatologist: She has a small bleed in her brain. There isn't anything we can do about it. We'll do another ultrasound next week to see if it's gotten better or grown. As long as it stays this size, it should be meaningless.
Mam's teacher: She counts very well, both out loud and in her head. We don't do them in class, but I asked her if she'd ever done a dot-to-dot. She was so excited to show me.
Me: (laughing) The byproduct of many children's menus!
Neonatologist: The scan shows a cyst in her brain where the bleed once was. It may be nothing. It may also develop into something we call PVL, which is often linked to severe learning disabilities.
Mam's teacher: And, of course, she can walk, run, jump and skip like nobody's business.
Me: (trying to get the attention of a doctor who had so far avoided me) Did the PT [physical therapist] come to see my baby when she was here last week?
Me: What did she say?
Neo: We're really concerned about her. She had very low muscle tone and didn't respond well. It's not a good sign.
Mam's teacher: We'd really love to keep her, but she's totally ready to go.
Me: Yeah. I know.
But there was always that lingering doubt. That little tiny voice that said..."But she was dead."
I don't know that I believe in miracles. I'm a science-y sort of girl. I think we were exceedingly lucky. I'm very grateful for that, despite the terrifying days that were Mam's beginning.
I'm painfully aware that not all parents, especially those of preemies, but many others as well, get such good news. Some parents never get the chance to hear about kindergarten at all. And the fact that Mam is almost five and perfectly prepared for kindergarten isn't something I can take for granted. It's so much more than we were given reason to hope for.