Our son, Gabriel, has a reputation that precedes him. Allow me to give an example. At our church, we had a visiting priest whom I had not seen in a couple of years. I went to his service with Gabriel and introduced him at the beginning of coffee hour. Father Vadim gave his usual priestly “what a wonderful new baby!” face and we chatted for a little while. Later, another adult asked me how Gabriel’s preemie issues were going, and I provided an update. Father Vadim listened as I explained: “Babies learn to suck at 33-35 weeks in the womb, but he wasn’t in the womb for that… we are concerned about his lungs but so far nothing has shown up… his brain development seems to be normal, but you never know, when you spend 17 weeks out of the womb that other babies get in the womb, everything’s different.”
Fr. Vadim listened to this with a furrowed brow, until he finally exclaimed, “Oh, THAT Gabriel!”
You see, Gabriel had been on the prayer list for our churches on the West Coast for quite a while, and people had heard about him as a record-breaking child, but finally meeting him is quite another event. On Tuesday, I am flying to a church conference, and I am sure that I’ll hear this several times more — “Oh, THAT Gabriel!” when I show pictures and explain about his care.
As he gets older, he will continue to be known as a miracle baby, I think, so this brings me to a question for some of the preemie parents on this list…
How does one explain this to a child who doesn’t know where babies come from? Or, how do I avoid giving my son some kind of complex by talking about this too much?
A 7-year-old friend of Gabriel’s asked what it meant to be premature, and I said, “You know how babies are supposed to take nine months? Well, Gabriel cheated and took five months and now all his birthdays are at the wrong time.”
I’ve sometimes joked that when Gabriel does ask where babies come from, I’ll answer, “Plastic spaceships, and I can prove it,” and show him a picture of him in his incubator. Or, maybe I’ll show him the pictures and say “This is your Darth Baby phase.”
And, then, there will be the temptation, when he is 5 years old and another mother in church goes in to pre-term labor, to haul him to the hospital to show him off… as an exhibit.
So, what have other parents done about this?