Correcting Her Age

by Amber Stiles on April 30, 2010

Today is the one year anniversary of my original due date.  Alexa was supposed to be a year old today.  I thought I would be having more of a mini panic attack about it since it’s still a scar on my psyche.

Last year we celebrated the day with a One Monty Party/Due Date Party to introduce Alexa to our friends and some family who hadn’t met her yet.  I was a mess.  Even though she was a little over 2 months old already, she had only been home with us for a month (hence the 30 Day Party portion).  It was bizarre to have known her for 10 weeks already, when I should have been pushing her out sometime that weekend.

This year there will be no party.  There will be no publicized celebration.  People are tired of hearing me talk about her corrected age.  Family members have commented that she’s the baby with “5 birthdays” (though I guess it’s 3…real, day she came home from NICU, due date).  We don’t try to include people in on those days…other than a mention on FB or Twitter.  We try to keep things low key, because even though the dates are meaningful to us…most others think it’s annoying to keep drawing attention to the fact that she was a preemie.

I guess the annoyance comes from the fact that she’s never been sick.  Yes, she was born too early, but she never suffered.  She wasn’t hooked to a million machines.  She didn’t struggle for her first breath.  She didn’t have to undergo painful procedures….only to come home with lingering, sometimes lifelong, issues from the preterm birth.  She’s always been healthy…just small.  She’s always hovered somewhere between her real and corrected age when we speak in terms of her development.  There have been no delays.  We have been truly lucky.  She has been amazing.

The thing is, I’m still hurting.  I lost something, and no one wants to hear about that.  People want me to “just get over it”.  People want me to accept her real birthday (I have), and to stop explaining how old she is.

Now that Alexa is one year – adjusted – I will no longer talk about her real vs corrected age.  Not in public anyway.  Not on here, either, most likely.  I just don’t feel like anyone wants to hear about it.

I’ve spent the last year (real AND adjusted) at home with an amazing little girl who brightens my day with her smile and makes me believe that life really is worth living.  I am lucky, she is perfect, I will “get over it”, or at least I’ll pretend to.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

emily bilbrey April 30, 2010 at 2:26 pm

aww hun – i would imagine it must be painful for you to have people imply (or apparently directly tell you!) than alexa’s prematurity is something you should “get over”. her early arrival was a HUGE deal – i’m surprised that anyone would try and rush you into desensitizing the whole situation. yes, you are indeed very lucky that she was never a sick child due to being premature, but that doesn’t make her early birth any less intense for you and peter.

whenever i meet/hear about babies who were born early, i am always so curious about the whole situation – how big they’ve grown, milestones they’ve reached, etc. i think it is actually really special that little ones can be born SO early and still do SO well. and as they grow, i think that being born early is still a part of who they are, for the parents at least. sure, alexa will never know about those scary early weeks (other than what you tell her) but it will always be a massive landmark in your life. i personally don’t see anything wrong with acknowledging & paying homage to the entire process of who alexa came to be – being an early girl is just as much a part of her little life history as her heritage (at least in this mama’s opinion!)

if you ever do want to share more about alexa’s development/milestones INCLUDING details specific to her prematurity, shoot me an email! i personally find it totally interesting & enthralling – it’s a little celebration of the fact she is a wonderful, smart, beautiful kiddo who never let starting out tiny stand in her way!

much love to your whole family. hugs!

~em

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Amber May 5, 2010 at 5:51 pm

I guess most people just don’t get how hard it is for me to wrap my head around the fact that she came so early. I mean, yeah…I get it…I’ve dealt with it for the most part…but it still lingers.

I love how you put it though, that it’s part of who she is…indeed a very important part. And a HUGE part of who I am as a mother. I mean, I learned how to take care of her as a preemie in the hospital. The nurses became our family. I feel closer to our head nurse than I do most of my family.

Thank you for your amazing support. It looks like everyone here is telling me to keep writing if I need to. So happy that all my bloggy friends seem to understand. I am truly lucky I found you!

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Allison April 30, 2010 at 8:52 pm

I have to say that as a reader, it doesn’t annoy me at all to hear you talk about her corrected age. If my baby were born way early, I’d be doing the same thing.

And how fantastic that she never suffered like so many premies do. I love that she’s been fairly on target with babies born on their normal due dates for milestones. We knew people in L.A. who were adjusting for their daughter who was nearly 2 and still struggling to walk because she was so developmentally delayed. It’s awesome that Alexa has been kicking ass since day one.
.-= Allison´s last blog ..two months =-.

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Amber May 5, 2010 at 5:54 pm

I’m so happy to hear you say that. Sometimes you just never know if everyone is rolling their eyes when they start to scroll down the page. I mean, yes this blog is for me, but if I truly wanted to write “just for me” I would make it private.

We will most likely be adjusting for Alexa until she’s 18 months to 2 years. That’s when they tell me most “catch up”.

I’m sorry your friends are still dealing with delays. I hope they have a strong support system and a good team of doctors to rely on. We’ll be going for assessments until she’s at least 2 from what I’m told. Do you know if your friends have a similar program? Ours is called ITAP, infant toddler assessment program.

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jennifer foust May 1, 2010 at 4:58 pm

hi, i found your blog through allison the meeps blog. my name is jennifer.

i was confused, at first, as to why her due date vs. the actual date she was born, would make a difference. i didn’t think of it, until i read more about it, where you wrote in another post, that she wouldn’t be able to do all the “tricks” that most one year olds normally do. i understand, now, how it could make a difference.

i was born two months early. i can’t remember the original due date anymore, but it was in october. i was born on august 29th. my mom tells me that if i were born any earlier, i probably wouldn’t have made it. i had to stay in the hospital for a while, in an incubator. i think i was there for two weeks total, if i can remember what i have been told.

i was so small. they didn’t think i would ever grow. i weighed four pounds when i was born. they dressed me in doll clothes, baby clothes were too big. i have a picture of my mother holding me, and her finger is the same width as my leg.

i know that i didn’t start to get teeth in until a late age. i don’t remember the age, but i remember being told about it. i don’t know when i caught up to the other kids, because i never knew there was catching up to do, but by the time i was in fifth grade, i weighed 100 pounds. thinking of a hundred pound ten year old seems crazy to me, but i wasn’t chubby at all. i was bigger than the other girls, more athletic and active. i went through puberty at a normal age. my legs got really long, and then my parents thought i might end up being very tall. i ended up growing to 5′ 5″, which is average, you know?

i haven’t struggled with anything. i was always equal to people my age. i started reading when i was four. i started school when i was five, along with everyone else. i graduated when i was seventeen.

i am really sorry that it’s hard on you. i understand how it could be, after reading some of your posts. it makes sense.

i just wanted to tell you about myself, having been born two months early. i was small to begin with, and i might not have been able to do all the tricks that the other babies could do, but i caught up quickly.

i know it doesn’t change your experience, or make anything different, i just wanted to tell you.
everything might just be okay.
.-= jennifer foust´s last blog ..IMG_2121 =-.

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Amber May 5, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Wow, thank you for sharing this with me. I think this is the first time I’ve ever heard from an adult who was a preemie themselves.

Alexa was only 3.5 lbs when she was born…but we couldn’t dress her until she was bigger (she was kept in just a diaper in her incubator because it’s warmer that way. Though we just put her in regular preemie clothes and blankets when we held her. I bet she would have fit in dolls clothes had we tried!

I’m fairly certain, at this point, that Alexa will grow up normally. It’s more me that’s suffering still…a lot of things were lost that day (for me, not her).

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jennifer foust May 1, 2010 at 5:22 pm

p.s.

holy cow! i didn’t see any of your photos here, before i wrote that last comment. i just have to say, alexa is gorgeous!

good luck, you know? good luck.
.-= jennifer foust´s last blog ..IMG_2121 =-.

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Amber May 5, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Awwww thanks about the photos. She’s my favorite subject :-)

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Darrah May 5, 2010 at 1:31 pm

I came to your blog via a Twitter RT. My daughter was born 3 months early, so I’ve shared some of what I think you are experiencing.

I had grand hopes of writing a lovely, meaningful response that would be full of insight and wisdom. But honestly, the thing I want to say most is… it sucks. It sucks when you feel robbed and then feel guilty for feeling robbed. It sucks to feel like you can’t talk to anyone about it for fear of boring people with your story. It sucks to simultaneously feel lucky AND to feel guilty for feeling lucky, as if the fact that being happy for your kid’s health somehow means you are diminishing someone else’s fight. It sucks that people simply won’t understand how you feel because they haven’t been there. It sucks to know that the trauma is real, but no one can understand why since everything “turned out so well.”Maybe you don’t have those exact feelings, but I did, and I can still feel them to this day even 3 years removed from the situation. And I still grieve the loss of a full-term pregnancy, “normal” birth experience and “normal” homecoming experience. Those are things I will NEVER “get over.”

I’m rambling, and this is probably getting weird for you. My point is, you’re not alone and I say talk about what you want to talk about. You’ve earned the right to talk about it; your daughter’s earned the right to have her story told. I do hope that eventually, in your own time, you make peace with what happened–not so that you’ll “get over it,” but in hopes that your hurt won’t be as great as it is today.

And, finally, you will always have a friend and sympathetic ear with fellow preemie moms. I think it’s in the contract they make us sign in the NICU. ;)

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Amber May 5, 2010 at 7:37 pm

Exactly! Sometimes it feels like it might be easier had she actually been sick. Not that I would EVER wish for that, but still. I have all of those feelings.

I don’t know that I ever want another child. Sometimes I dream of doing it again so we can “get it right” this time. Sad, I know. There’s no guarantee that it wouldn’t go badly again. God, how hard that would be. Then, I’m terrified that if we do decide to do it again, that my body would fail me again. ARGH!

Thank you for lending me a virtual ear to vent to. I could talk for hours to another preemie mom…wish I had made more long term connections with some of the ones we lived next to during our NICU stay.

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arl1024 May 5, 2010 at 5:40 pm

after not wanting kids originally, then being told i couldn’t have kids, i found myself in a unlikely position quite like you. my twin boys were born on 9/3/2007 instead of the planned 11/22/2007 (yup, you read that right, 12wks early). this was the first time i learned that when it comes to babies and kids, all bets are off. both max & mitch had a rough time at first (both on ventilators & c-paps), but, we see the good in it: if they were full term, the doctors wouldn’t have run some uncommon blood tests and discovered mitch’s underlying condition (turner syndrome) and a milk protein allergy. i can only imagine how many doctors we would have taken him to (and money spent) just trying to figure this out. after 74 days and 89 days respectively, max & mitch were able to join us at home. because they were so early, they were considered delayed in speaking and basic milestones; but, i can tell you they were pretty right on for their adjusted age. i never got into the whole “adjusted vs real” age story with strangers; i had a hard enough time convincing people they were twins with their weight difference. i remember cursing the prematurity and not wishing it on anyone in the world. looking back now, it was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. it put my priorities in order. it made me realize there were greater things to worry about (rsv) rather than silly little ones (binkie vs no binkie). i also found a great support system and quite a few friends during our 3mo stint in the NICU.

sorry this kinda rambled on; i may have had too much caffeine today :)
.-= arl1024´s last blog ..arl1024: I guess it’s possible that I have been a bit distracted and the directions for me are a lot less in demand… =-.

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Amber May 5, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Alexa has a milk protein allergy too…though we didn’t find out about it till a few months ago after a bad reaction to yogurt. She was breastfed and had soy formula if need be, so there was no way to know until we had a horrible scare with hives and a trip to the ER :-(

I find myself, all too often, explaining her age to people that could not care less. I don’t know why…I just can’t help myself.

Weirdly enough, I still worried more about the silly little things than the big ones…after all the shit we went through, I guess it’s easier than dreading the real dangers.

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Kami May 5, 2010 at 11:11 am

Amber, my love, you are her mother. You have every right to feel that her early arrival robbed you of two more months. Especially since two more months in pregger/baby time is enormous. Shame on people who are sick of hearing about it. Yes, you are extremely fortunate that Alexa is perfect. But her perfection is not preventing you from mourning what you lost. I feel better when I write. Perhaps if you took some time and wrote about exactly what it is you feel you lost out on, you’d feel better. Like a list. I had an emergency c section with my first baby. I felt totally robbed of the labor and delivery experience I had imagined for myself. I was very angry about it. For a long time. But it wasn’t about me. My son was in danger. I couldn’t birth him myself. So they cut me open. And he’s the most amazing 4 year old ever. Allowing the c section saved his life. And when I think about it that way, well, I’d sure as hell do it again and again and again. Love you.

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Amber May 5, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Two months, that’s what my thoughts are exactly. 2 months of pregnancy missed out on, 2 months of added responsibility in taking care of her, 2 months of explaining away because she’s 2 months smaller than she should be.

I’ve been thinking of the best way to write about my “lost birth” for almost a year now…thank you for giving me the push I need to actually put it on “paper” :-)

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Jennifer @ three pugs & a baby May 5, 2010 at 12:07 pm

I found your blog via workingmomfence on Twitter.

My son was born right before the 37 week mark. Ordinarily, not a biggest deal. It is a big deal, however, when your child’s heart has some holes in it because they didn’t have time to close up in utero.

I still have anger. I came home without my baby. I spent every day of the next 10 days in a NICU, waiting for test results and learning CPR and how to operate a heart monitor. I had a social worker in my home on a regular basis, checking up on that heart monitor (per policy).

That is not how it should be. Not for any mother.

I am so, so, so unbelievably grateful that he is now healthy and free of any ASD. I feel guilty for my anger and my emotions because we were so very lucky, but it’s hard to move on.

Sunday is going to be a hard day for me. It is Mother’s Day, my birthday and the 2 year anniversary of bringing Turtle home. No matter how wonderful that day is, it is still a tough one to go through.

So please, continue to talk about it. Continue to let it out. Alexa is beautiful and she is healthy and she clearly has a family that loves her very much. If people have a problem with that, then that’s too bad for them.

Hugs to you.
.-= Jennifer @ three pugs & a baby´s last blog ..{ child’s play: bubbles, bubbles, everywhere } =-.

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Amber May 5, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Alexa had a hole like that, though…luckily…it didn’t cause any problems. Just some fear on our part when our pedi heard a murmur which led to months of follow up ultrasounds.

I totally agree with your statement…it’s not how it should be. I too feel guilty for downplaying how well things turned out in the end, but when people tell me “at least she’s healthy” I want to smack them.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with me ((hugs))

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LauraC May 5, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I’m also here via twitter, mom to twin preemies who did exhibit delays. Everything about our life the first two years was about those delays. No one really wanted to hear about how hard the NICU was or how exhausted we were, everyone is just joyous over a healthy baby.

My boys were officially labeled “caught up” at their second birthday. To me, that was one of the biggest milestones we’ve ever achieved. I will never forget that moment.

Do not let anyone tell you how to grieve. I grieved for the “normal” birth experience I will never have. I grieved for never getting to hold my newborn without wires and monitors attached. It took a long time for those wounds to heal. Just this past month, I visited a friend in the NICU where my boys were. My boys turn four in less than two weeks and it was still difficult to be there. Still emotional.

Hugs.
.-= LauraC´s last blog ..A time to keep my thoughts to myself =-.

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Amber May 5, 2010 at 7:31 pm

You’re so right! No one really wants to hear about it. Too bad I wrote ALL about it on our family website..so if they wanted updates, they got all the details. Though, I did hold back on most of the emotional stuff and shared it on my blog. I wanted to appear “stable” so no one would try to help. Not sure why I wanted to be able to do everything myself.

You know what I’m still pissed about? That I didn’t have anything ready. I really didn’t think I was in labor. I thought they were Braxton Hicks and that I would just be sent home. There are no pictures of my last pregnant moments. No pictures of her delivery. No pictures of anything from that day, well until she was all hooked to monitors and strapped into an incubator. I didn’t even get to hold her for 4 days because she was transfered to a different hospital and I had to stay in after the c-section.

I actually go back and visit the NICU every few months (our quarterly development assessments are in the same hospital). Weirdly enough I miss it there. Thing were easier when I had a ton of help and could go home at night…alone. Does that sound sick?

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CodeNamePapa May 5, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Our 28-month-old kiddo “should” be more like 27 months as he surprised us 3+ weeks early (thanks for the heads-up, kid, we were still debating your name!)

I know how much my wife prepped for the baby (researching diapering, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, getting her nesting/cleaning binge taken care of, etc.) and it was all “aiming” for an end-of-December birth, and he popped out on December 11.

I can appreciate that you felt some angst, or confusion, or “?” regarding your little one coming 10 weeks early – that’s not merely a surprise, that’s a potentially life-changing turn of events.

My advice (or thoughts) is that you should focus just on who your daughter is right now, and what she needs from you daily. If she’s a healthy 10-month-old you should count your lucky stars, and not count days/weeks on a calendar!
.-= CodeNamePapa´s last blog ..Disposable Diapers? Those are so last decade . . . =-.

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Amber May 10, 2010 at 10:43 am

Oh you’re so right, focusing on “right now” is what saves me. Because she was so healthy, it was never a huge scare…well after I finally got to hold her…but it still affected my beliefs about my own body/abilities.

Don’t worry though, Alexa has my “here and now” almost 24/7. I just feel like I need to be allowed to mourn something I lost in the process, even if I did get a perfect little girl in the end.

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Lx @ my mr lugs May 6, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Hey Amber,
OMG..It’s a huge deal having a little preemie… hello people!!! I think people can be so crap and not very thoughtful or understanding sometimes! I wonder how they would feel if it happened to them! It would have been so stressful worrying about her and hoping she was going to be ok! You are so lucky that Alexa has sailed through to be a healthly, gorgeous little girl! I say celebrate everything… why not… life is too short :)
Lots of love
Lx
.-= Lx @ my mr lugs´s last blog ..More spoon in mouth! =-.

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Amber May 10, 2010 at 10:40 am

I think many people want to forget about it because it was so scary. I’m just not good at brushing things under the rug like that. I tend to dwell, which isn’t a great trait, but so be it.
If nothing else, it gives me many more days to make a fuss about :-)

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TravelMom May 13, 2010 at 2:36 am

I want to hear about it! I feel the same way all the time. Aidan just turned 1 in Feb, but his adjusted age, he turns 1 in a few weeks. He is doing great things, but there are so many other challenges, that I find myself complaining. And then people hate me because they think I’m ungrateful.

I know where you are, and I wish I could help! Anytime you need to chat, you know where I am!

Oh, and visiting you on recommendation from the great Kami Lewis (@workingmomfence).
.-= TravelMom´s last blog ..Who in the World is Murray? =-.

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Amber May 14, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Oh thank you! Our babes are the same “real” age so we’re on a similar schedule. Though, Aidan was born even earlier than Alexa! I can’t imagine having to go through and even bigger gap between real and corrected ages.

Do you think I’m crazy for feeling guilty that she wasn’t early, or sick, enough to really be this affected by it. Sometimes when I complain about her prematurity, I feel bad that so many others in the NICU with us were far worse off (even ones born later than she). You just can’t win here :-(

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