It may seem strange, on a website about premature birth, that I’m writing a blog post about a baby born on his due date, weighing an even eight pounds. But that’s exactly the case with my son, Tucker. His sister? Not so much. She arrived traumatically and unexpectedly, four months prior to her due date. Two-year old Tucker was there in the hospital, held in his Daddy’s arms, when we first learned I was three centimeters dilated. Tucker was also there when I was held down by nurses administering shots and attempting to comfort my screams of distress. And Tucker was there as those same nurses wheeled me down that long corridor, taking his frantic, sobbing mother away from him.
But Tucker was not there when his baby sister was born. Nor would he be for most of the precarious months that followed. Instead, he was at home with a range of unfamiliar babysitters or at his first daycare, carrying around a big chubby-cheeked doll he’d named after the new baby sister he’d never met.
As you know, it was an unbelievably rough time. And things didn’t get much easier once his sister came home; so medically fragile that a common cold could land her back in the hospital.
And just as I was constantly on the lookout for developmental delays with his sister, I was always studying and watching Tucker for signs of emotional suffering due to unexpected upheaval of his sister’s birth.
Well, tomorrow, my boy turns 15. And as I study my once little guy who is now taller than me, I thought, why not ask him what that time was like? What does he remember and what sort of long-lasting impact does he feel his sister’s premature birth has had on his life?
I wrote out a list of interview questions and imagined that with my teenage boy I’d have to find quiet moments here and there; over pancakes, on the car ride to soccer, or while walking the dog, to ask him these questions, but in fact, we simply sat down together on a rainy afternoon and I asked and he answered.
So with Tucker’s permission, here’s our interview.
What do you remember most about Andie’s birth?
I don’t really remember much. I was too young. I think I remember staying with a lot of different people. I think if I’d been older I could have remembered more. And I didn’t really know what was going on.
What one word would you use to describe that time in your life?
Do you, or did you ever feel like we favored Andie because of her premature birth?
Well you wrote a whole book about her.
What if I hadn’t written the book?
No, not really. I don’t know, maybe. Like if I was ever rough, you would get extremely upset with me, and you wouldn’t have gotten that upset if she’d been normal.
Is there anything you wish Mommy and Daddy had done differently?
Not really. Besides buy me more stuff. I’m joking.
What was your relationship like with Andie when you were younger?
Sometimes she’d annoy me. But sometimes it was good she was there because I’d get bored.
What’s your relationship like now?
It’s not really different now, except that when she was a kid she had to be kept away from germs. I do remember having to wash my hands all the time, and I couldn’t have friends over to our house.
Did you ever think of Andie as fragile or treat her differently because she was a preemie?
Did you ever see other people treat her differently?
Yes. You. You were always so protective and stuff.
Based on your own experience, what advice would you give to preemie parents who have another child or children at home?
Make sure they feel loved. Make sure you give them a lot of attention. Like if you go to visit the baby, go out for lunch or something fun with the other kid. Like the playground or an arcade or whatever they like to do.
Did you feel loved?
(Next post, an interview from my 12-year old Preemie’s perspective)
How about you? Does your preemie have a sibling(s)? What questions would you ask them?