Most of the patients I work with have negative ages.
They are premature, born months before they were “supposed” to be. Thrust from the safe, warm, dark, cozy wombs, they are ill-prepared for the world. Developmentally, I must think of them and work on skills that are fitting for a baby at 6-9 months gestational age. Even though they’ve been born, they must pick up strength, flexion, midline orientation and state regulation outside of the womb since they missed that chance inside the womb.
I often describe to parents that the womb is the first baby gym saying, “When your baby kicks, and strains, and plays with your kidneys, he is getting stronger, building muscle tone and strength, experiencing good proprioception and preparing for the world. But most of my patients check out of the baby gym early. And we have to fill in the gap.”
This month’s Time Magazine cover article discusses the trials, research and care for preterm infants. It follows one family through their NICU stay and discusses the many and varied disciplines who help their son grow and flourish.
The article ends with these sentences, “In some ways, the work of the NICU will always seem like an exercise in disproportion — an army of people and a mountain of infrastructure caring for a pound of life. But it’s a disproportion that speaks very well of us.”
That shocked me. But in a good way. I know that I do what I do because life is valuable. No matter how early or ill the infant, their life is important and worth fighting for. I believe this because I believe all humans are made in the image of God and endowed with dignity because of this fact. (Genesis 1:26-28) I am happy to be a part of that disproportion. I am happy to research, learn, and fight for a pound of life. I am happy that Time Magazine recognizes and applauds the disproportion. I too believe that this disproportion speaks well of us.
Life is valuable. Life is worth fighting for.