Tales of prematurity in the media are usually focused on families beating the odds… of the smallest preemies moving on to live the biggest lives without any problem more pressing than a tendency to catch colds. Miracle babies, they’re often called. And we won’t debate that they are indeed miracles, but we’ve also seen how attaching that label – miracle – to only those babies born prematurely who thrive and grow and make it to childhood without health problems can be emotionally detrimental to a pretty big group of preemie parents whose kids don’t fit those criteria.
It’s easy to look at the typical “miracle preemie” and wonder why every preemie parent isn’t a part of the miracle club, but we’d argue that they are. That every preemie is a miracle.
Given the odds, we’d like to see a redefinition of the word miracle as it relates to preemies. Yes, babies and children who thrive after extremely premature birth are miracles. But so are the preemies who beat the odds in other ways! We’d argue that the boy or girl who learns to walk with a walker at 4, overcoming challenges you and I can’t imagine to do so, is every bit as much of a miracle. Every preemie who copes with developmental issues and still squeezes every last drop of joy from life, at age 2 or 12 or 22 is a miracle, too.
And even the premature baby who touches a family’s life deeply but briefly before saying goodbye should be considered a miracle.
In the end, what is typical anyway? According to one British study, half of all extremely infants born prematurely demonstrate learning and physical disabilities by the time they’re school age. And a pretty high percentage of the earliest preemies struggle with difficulties that can last well into childhood and even into adulthood.
It seems to us that the ‘typical’ preemie miracle story isn’t one of perfect health or perfect grades, but rather many stories of odds overcome in many different ways and of babies who thrive or who simply live their lives or make a big impact in the short time they’re here with us.
What do you think of the term “miracle baby” as it tends to be used with regard to prematurity? What’s your atypical miracle story?