Epilogue (Written in 1997)
Tommy's CyberNursery Preemie Web has been in existence now
for two years.
As I write this, Tommy is just shy of 2 years and 11 months old-and a little over 2-1/2
years corrected (although we only rarely consider his corrected age at this point). In
about a month, Tommy will become a big brother.
Although small for his age, Tommy seems very much the normal 2-1/2 year old. Last
month, he started sleeping in his "big boy bed". He is constantly surprising me
with his speech which is becoming more and more conversational. "I can do it" is
replacing "no" as a frequent uttering, even when his parents would prefer he
didn't do it!
When Tommy was born, I had very little hope that we would ever get to this point. The
NICU is such an unreal place, and the information on micro-preemies is so grim, that I
just couldn't see beyond the horror of Tommy's early birth --15 weeks early at 1 pound 10
I've learned a lot since then. Micro-preemies can have positive outcomes. Some of these
babies will have little to no problems, a greater percentage than anyone likes will have
minor disabilities, and some will have serious problems. However, even a child with
disabilities can have a full life and can be considered a positive outcome!
I've also learned that babies born just 1 or 2 months early, or even at term, can have
serious problems -- although the problems of these babies are wrongly dismissed, just as
much as the negative outcomes of the micro-preemies are overly amplified.
The horror of an early birth is not just a matter of outcomes. It's a
matter of a tiny baby who has lost the benefit of the ideal growing environment and will
face challenges that most babies don't. It's a matter of losing a portion of the
pregnancy, as well as that perfect television birth where the doctor asks for one last
push, announces it's a boy or girl, and the camera fades out on mother, father and baby
bonding for the first time. The fantasy moment is lost regardless of whether the baby is
15 weeks early, 10 weeks early, or even 4 weeks early.
It's difficult to understand the feeling of loss if you haven't been there. It's
typical for well meaning acquaintances to tell the mother of the preemie how "they
are lucky they didn't get so big and have to go through those last few months of
pregnancy" or that "they are lucky they didn't have to deliver vaginally as it
hurt like hell'.
Well, my wife is loving the third trimester of her current pregnancy. Although we are
parents, she has never been this pregnant before and cherishes every day of it. She also
cry's when she sees the television moment I described earlier, because she knows that's
not what we had with Tommy, and that she will never deliver vaginally because the
emergency that was his birth necessitated a classic c-section.
I'm seeing more resources appear for parents of preemies than I found when Tommy was
born. There is a ton of information and support available on the Internet these
days--which is great. When Tommy's Web site was started, there was next to nothing on
preemies on the Internet and it was very difficult to find. These days, a subscription to
the "preemie-l" e-mail discussion group gets you over 100 brand new messages a
week from parents who either are there, or have been there!
Clark T. King
Tommy's Sister Alyssa Mary King was born July 11, 1997
at term. More information on Alyssa, including her birth story, is available on her
very own Web pages.