Just a regular question that most people ask when they come across a cute, podgy, warm baby.
For nicu mums it’s a hard one.
For a start there are multiple ages to think about. There’s our baby’s chronological age, which is the number of days, weeks or months since our baby was born into this world. And then there is their corrected age which is the number of weeks gestation or weeks past their due date. For the first two years of life development is measured using their corrected age. This means that although Oliver has been alive in the big world for 6 months, he has not met the milestones or developed to the point of a normal 6 month old baby, he will have reached this point when he is 6 months corrected, which in chronological age will be 10 months old. Then, once a preemie reaches two years of age, corrected, we can go back to counting their age chronologically because in general most preemies should have caught up on their milestones by this point.
The hardest part however is based around how prepared we are to go into our story with whoever has asked us this question. It’s an emotional story, regardless of your journey and some days we are prepared to stop and talk to someone about it all, to take the time and think about it, and some days it’s all a bit too hard and we don’t feel like we are up for it.
And this is where the two ages come in.
If we say he’s 6 months old we are met with “gosh what a tiny baby”!!!
This can hurt a little because we know how very very tiny he used to be, and how very very far he has come.
If we say he’s 2 months old we get “gosh he’s very alert and mobile for a 2 month old” !! And some of us will still get the tiny baby comment, because a lot of preemies are slow growers…and that’s sometimes even harder to hear because we all work so, so hard at feeding.
If you’re in a good head space and can stomach rehashing the last few months then you take a deep breath and say “he’s 2 months corrected, but he’s also 6 months old, this is where he came from….”.
If you’re tired and emotional and not ready for it today you take a deep breath and say “he’s 2 months old…” And leave it at that.
Today Oliver is 6 months old, 2 months corrected. He’s been out in the world for 24 weeks which is the same number of weeks that he was in my tummy. It feels like the time that he was inside me was minuscule, I had barely a moment to feel their kicks and never got to feel them hiccoughing under my skin. Yet it feels like the time he’s been out here has been huge. Life changing.
We are yet to encounter ‘how old is your baby’ and I’m sure some days we’ll manage it well, and others not so much. But nicu mums, I want you to know that your babies don’t mind if you lie, they don’t mind if you use their corrected age so that you can smile and keep walking without diving deep into your story. And on the days that you do feel strong enough to tell it they are there to smile up at you, cuddle you and be the miracle that we all know they are.