Yesterday I sat in the parents’ area during one of Annie’s classes, chatting with the other moms. Everyone was mostly making small talk when one of the moms mentioned off-hand that the baby in her care that day had been born premature. Suddenly, everyone was telling prematurity stories. Everyone but me.
I listened as the first mom talked about how small her charge had been (four pounds, five ounces). I listened as the mom of twins said how happy she’d been to carry her boys to thirty-five weeks. Someone else had a niece that was born premature. Then one of the moms told us about her daughter that was born at twenty-four weeks, and as she spoke I watched that very daughter tumble and play with my own.
I tried to act like I had something very important on my phone that was taking all of my attention, but I was having an intense battle in my head. When Twenty-Four Weeker Mom said that she’d learned that one in seven babies is born before thirty-seven weeks, I wanted to shout out, “Yes, both of mine were early!” And when Twenty-Four Weeker Mom told us all that she’s expecting again, I wanted to hug her and say I know how scary pregnancy after prematurity is.
But I sat there, silent.
If I’d opened my mouth, I would have gone from one of the moms to That Mom. I didn’t want to give Twenty-Four Weeker Mom survivor guilt. I didn’t want to be any different, so I pretended I wasn’t.
For the rest of the class, I was depressed. Depressed I didn’t acknowledge Madeline. Depressed I didn’t tell the Twenty-Four Weeker Mom that successful pregnancies post-prematurity are possible. Depressed that this was one of the first of what will be many similar situations as Annie gets older.
But mostly depressed that I couldn’t chime in with a success story of my own.