Another inside look from a Preemie Mom
How Preemie Moms Are Chosen
by Erma Bombeck
Did you ever wonder how the mothers of premature babies are chosen?
Somehow, I visualize God hovering Earth, selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, he instructs his angels to take notes in a giant ledger.
“Armstrong, Beth, son. Patron Saint…give her Gerard. He’s used to profanity.”
Finally, he passes a name to an angel and smiles. “Give her a preemie.”
The angel is curious. “Why this one God? She’s so happy.” “Exactly,” smiles God. “Could I give a premature baby a mother who knows no laughter? That would be cruel.”
“But does she have the patience?” asks the angel.
“I don’t want her to have too much patience, or she’ll drown in a sea of self-pity and despair.
Once the shock and resentment wear off, she’ll handle it.
I watched her today. She has that sense of self and independence so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I am going to give her has a world of it’s own. She has to make it live in her world, and that’s not going to be easy.”
God smiles. “This one is perfect. She has just the right amount of selfishness. “
The angel gasps, “Selfishness! Is that a virtue?”
God nods. “If she can’t separate herself from the child occasionally, she will never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect.
She doesn’t know it yet, but she is to be envied.
She will never take for granted a spoken word. She will never consider a step ordinary.
When her child says “momma” for the first time, she will be witness to a miracle and know it.
I will permit her to see clear the things that I see – ignorance, cruelty, prejudice – and allow her to rise above them.
She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side.”
“But what about her Patron Saint?” asks the angel, his pen poised in the air. God smiles.
“A mirror will suffice.”
I’m not religious in any way. I do, however, think that everything happens for a reason. Events happen to change us, just like people come, and go, to teach us. What everything means is not always immediately evident, but at some point we realize the lessons.
The poem has God giving mothers their children…”normal,” and precious all the same. He stops and smiles to give one particular mother a preemie. Us preemie moms often wonder during the hard times, “why me?” but we really should think “why NOT me?” A preemie is not like any other baby. A child that was once a preemie is unlike every other. It is not that they are more special, but they they have endured such pain unknowingly, that they are stronger than even we parents can fathom. There is no bias, and there are no questions: these kids know something about us, and the world, that we have yet to discover, and need their guidance. Wether religious or not, preemies are brought to their families for a reason unbeknownst to us.
The mother of a preemie cherishes each milestone…even the tiny ones…because we have almost lost them…we know that not everything comes easy, and us moms work just as hard for those first steps as our babies do! PT, AFOs, OT, ortho…what else does it take to get a kid to walk?
The first time our babies call us momma, its the second sweetest sound….the first being their first cry that seemed to take forever. Both that initial cry and the first time they look us in the face and call us momma with excitement are sounds of calm, of love, and them telling us they will be okay…one syllable at a time.
Being able to separate ourselves from our children, as the poem says God wants us to, is much harder than it sounds. I know I never left Aeva’s side. She needed, and needs me, just like I need her. We are partners in crime, and have been since day one. Rather than physically, it is more a mental separation that we have, where I fight fights for her, and not for me. It is not for my own satisfaction that I endlessly research and battle, but my own selflessness that drives myself crazy advocating for her best interest. That ability to fight for her tirelessly makes us neglect ourselves, as there is no one before our tiny babies.
The poem suggests that preemie moms see the “ignorance, cruelty, prejudice” that God sees. This is an understatement. We see the pain of the innocent preemies struggling for life; we see our own pain, and we watch those around us struggle for words to say. We also see the judgement from others, the criticism, the pity, the arrogant and the ignorant. Why is she so small? What did you do to make her come early? Ten weeks isn’t all that early, she’s fine! I don’t know how you do it, I never could. Is she okay? Will she be okay? Is that because she was premature? Are you allowed to have more children? You would not be that protective had she not been premature.
Yes, people are just that stupid and tactless.
While my tiny princess continues to amaze me and teach me invaluable lessons, I can tell you this:
She taught me not to judge others, nor to assume. See that skinny kid walking down the street? She may have a thyroid issue. What about that kid with a walker, or glasses? They make have CP or vision issues. That adult who stutters? He may not be nervous, he may actually have a speech issue. What about that overprotective mother on the bench at the park with three kids? She just gave birth to a stillborn.
Aeva has taught me patience. Time is a preemie’s best friend, and a mothers worst enemy. Time will allow a preemie to catch up, and it will drive a mother insane. She’ll do it in her own time. Every child is different. Let her do it her way. I know. I got the memo, and I am waiting. My mom always told me that patience was a virtue. Aeva reinforced it.
But what about my patron saint? Her name is Aeva, and she is the patron saint of life. She is vivacious, energetic, has a huge personality, and a contagious laugh and smile. She is a constant reminder of the preciousness and miracle of life, and a poster child for strength.