A Shining Average *

I am not more gifted than the average human being. If you know anything about history, you would know that is so–what hard times I had in studying and the fact that I do not have a memory like some other people do… I am just more curious than the average person and I will not give up on a problem until I have found the proper solution. This is one of my greatest satisfactions in life–solving problems–and the harder they are, the more satisfaction do I get out of them. Maybe you could consider me a bit more patient in continuing with my problem than is the average human being. Now, if you understand what I have just told you, you see that it is not a matter of being more gifted but a matter of being more curious and maybe more patient until you solve a problem.

~ Albert Einstein

Shine- John Legend

According to Dictionary.com the word average is defined as a quantity, rating, or the like that represents or approximates an arithmetic mean.

To us, the definition means that preemies become the outliers in birth statistics because someone has to anchor the bottom. The interesting thing about statistics is that you can always manipulate them to support your argument. Gracie is now classified as average within her group.  We can now officially begin the road to recovery towards becoming a “normal” baby. An asterisk will now be with Gracie’s name in our eyes. As hard as we attempt to ignore the asterisk, it will be impossible to not address it developmentally.

Today, we were given the news that Gracie was now average in her group by the speech therapist. The greatest challenge of a preemie’s life is the ability to get to the state of being average.  I prepared myself to not reach this level until the age of two as this is when babies truly start to separate from each other developmentally.  However, with every good news comes a hint of bad news. Gracie still is having issues feeding, which could cause complications later on resulting in her failing to thrive. Although we have tried different bottles, one of the biggest remaining fears is her having formula entering her lungs during feeding which would build up and eventually lead to pneumonia; this coupled with her chronic lung disease could lead to hospitalization and possibly a g-tube insertion.   The speech therapist is not a negative individual, but it seems that she is the greatest illustrator of what can go horribly wrong when an infant  “fails to thrive.”

To this day, I have never regarded feeding as such a rewarding and bonding experience for both parent and child. To watch Gracie satisfied after a full meal is one for the books, because it seems that all babies get into a food induced coma where the eyelids become heavy and a slight and subtle smirk appears out of nowhere. This is followed by  snoring and occasional drooling. It is too early to tell if Gracie dreams now, if so I can only imagine what she dreams about as she continues to have phantom movements during her deep somber.

Other parents, such as tiger moms and dads, may look down on the classification of “average” and see that as being sub par for their child.  It just means that we are on our way to overcome some of the obstacles which have been presented to us. Watching our daughter growing and developing in an incubator is about as unfair as watching a pet grow in a cage for the rest of its life. Gracie should be enjoyed by her parents, family and friends because so many people are waiting to be a part of her life as she will be in theirs.

Prior to this experience, Ashleigh and I heard from multiple parents who would continuously share with us that their children were born prematurely. It seemed as if parents were using it as an explanation as to why their kids weren’t performing like their peers even at a young adult level. Gracie’s development will be addressed and carefully crafted by research, resources and patience that were never afforded to me as a child. Life is too short to settle for mediocrity. The grand question is how do I let Gracie shine while making sure she never loses her luster in life? This is the one time in which I hope that she completely embodies her mother’s persistence towards problem solving and her father’s curiosity.

We couldn’t completely understand why parents would bring up their children’s birth status until we had one of our own. Now we understand that being average is not an easy task when you are born this premature. Being average is not something we pride ourselves in, but I just have this feeling that Gracie will live an extraordinary life with what we will teach her as a family. We will mutually benefit from one another as parent to child as we continue to teach Gracie, while learning about ourselves after each lesson.  As a parent, I will probably struggle with the contingencies of her birth, but I can not let her accept it as a crutch.  How do we prioritize gross motor skills development, emotional bonding, communication, and learning with her in a day? Will we ever be capable as individuals or as a couple of rising up to this monumental task?  I have always felt that the strongest of all relationships and families resemble balanced equations, but will ours be balanced enough for Gracie? Duets and great parenting share the exact same blueprint for success. They both have to be executed perfectly and the partners have to be in complete unison with one another.

Being human entitles us to make mistakes and although she will make multiple mistakes on her own,  I wonder if I would ever attribute these mistakes to her prematurity.  We will be faced with the difficult task of juggling the confluence between teaching and executing sound judgement during “teachable moments” to an individual who will see the world differently than her peers.  Then again, the greatest satisfaction comes from solving life’s most difficult challenges.


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