At the end of this past summer, I sat down with my 15-year-old boy and interviewed him about being the sibling of a preemie. After that interview, it seemed only natural to interview the preemie herself. So my daughter, Andie and I recently sat down across a table from each other at a Panera Bread. She slurped her chicken noodle soup, and I pretended to put on my journalist persona.
Nice to meet you, Andie. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to meet me.
No problem, Mom!
So, tell me, do you think of yourself as a preemie?
Not really. Well I mean, sometimes, like when I’m not good in math, or something else, like if I drink my water weirdly, like Tucker says I do, I wonder if other preemies do that? That’s how my mind works…I compare myself to other people and wonder about how other people do things.
Do you ever tell people you were a preemie?
If it comes up. Sometimes I want people to know. I mean, like, I don’t say, “Look at these scars on my tummy,” but I want people to know if they’re wondering. Like at the soccer party, when we went in the hot tub, and I was in a bikini and one of the girls asked what happened to my stomach.
What’d you tell her?
I told her that when I was born, I had to get surgery.
What do you say about your scars?
I don’t like to say that I had to get surgery on the tube where my poop comes out. It depends on who I’m talking to. Like if it’s my best friend, than it’s no big deal, but if it’s someone I don’t know well, it’s sort of embarrassing. I know there is another scar on my back, but I don’t know what it was for. (I explain the PDA valve surgery and the scar under her shoulder blade.) Oh, I call that my angel wing.
So you’re ok with your scars?
I used to not really like them. I mean, like, this may sound weird, but, like, if I were a model, the people would want to Photoshop or get rid of the scars because they don’t like to show people’s real bodies, which I think is really stupid. Yeah, I guess I don’t really care about the scars.
What’s it like when you hear other people talk about you as a preemie? Like when Mom and Dad tell your story?
It’s sort of embarrassing, and I like to talk about my own news. I guess it doesn’t really bother me, but if I’m talking to my friends, I want to tell them. So if you’re talking to your friends, it’s different. I guess I don’t really like it when you tell other adults, but I know you can’t help it.
You’re turning 13 next month. What are some of your favorite things to do these days?
Well, this is a recent one – shop at Express in the mall. I also like to watch TV. I sort of like the Disney Channel, but I’m kinda growing out of that. There are a lot of movies I’d like to see, but some are rated R, so I can’t. I like comedy movies and I love British accents. I love Dunkin Donuts plain bagels toasted with butter and cream cheese, and I also like plain Lay’s chips and regular Doritos. I like Nike and Adidas and Alex Morgan, so obviously I like soccer. I love to play soccer outside with Daddy. And my favorite song is Royals by Lorde.
Have you ever thought you wouldn’t be able to do something because you were a preemie?
No. I’ve never thought of that before.
Have you ever wished you weren’t a preemie?
No. For me, the preemie thing hasn’t had as big an effect on my life. (She points across the table at me.)
So you think it’s had a big effect on Mom and Dad’s lives?
Uh huh. I mean, like, you guys were worrying your heads off, and I was just there. I mean, sometimes it feels like it wasn’t even really me, because I don’t really remember any of it. It’s like when someone has amnesia and they only see pictures to remember the past.
What was it like when you recently went back to visit the NICU?
It never really settled in, like, how small I was. At this point in my life, it’s just starting to settle in. It’s crazy that I was so small.
Is there anything you’d like to tell other preemies out in the world, especially those younger than you?
(She takes a big bite of her pumpkin cookie.) I know you say things to preemie parents and stuff, but I mean, I just feel, like, normal, except for teenage stuff, like not wanting to grow up and sort of wanting to grow up. So I don’t know what to say.
You hear Mom and Dad offer advice to other preemie parents. Is there any advice you would offer?
I wouldn’t say they’re gonna be fine, because that might not be true. But I wasn’t a preemie parent, so I don’t really know what to say. But if I was on the spot, I’d probably freak out and just say, “Don’t worry.” But they should try not to worry like crazy.
Ok, last question. Is there any part of you that likes that you were a preemie?
Yeah. I kinda like the attention.
Oh how I wish I had interviewed my kiddos when they were younger! Hopefully this will inspire you to interview your preemie and see how the answers change over the years! Maybe each year as they dress in their Halloween costumes, ask a few questions and record their answers in a nearby notebook!
Happy Halloween! And if you’re looking for that perfect Halloween costume for your preemie, check out this Preemie Babies 101 post from a couple years ago! Preemie Halloween Costumes