Wednesday, July 27, 2005

How to Tell a Preemie Birth Announcement When You See One

We've been handed a succession of beautiful days recently, and since my heavy-lifting work has largely ended for the semester, I've been out to see some of it. The Park Powers That Be have turned on the water fountains for the summer, which means that the boy spends much of his outside time attempting to get wet and then pulling at his soaked shirt and shorts, wanting them off, saying "Wet! Wet! I'm all wet!"

The newest fountains in the area sit in the park at the back of our building, rising at the touch of a big black button. Our son can sit at our table and spot his friends dousing themselves, calling out their names through his macaroni and cheese. There's Marcus, and Alexander, Ishan with his basketball, the twins Hannah and Emma with their big matching buckets, and Sophia, his best friend, who lives exactly one floor above us, "All Wet" as usual and unable to contain her joy (as usual). This fact about the relative location of Sophia's house has proved to be a tantalizing bit of new knowledge for the boy; he points up to the ceiling before naps and lights out and confirms "Sophia's up stairs." She is indeed, probably pointing to the floor at exactly the same time.

Despite now having a second child, and despite what everyone says about how the second child always "gets the shaft," we've managed to send out a birth announcement for her. The mailings seem like a little bit of left-over ceremony in these e-mail days, but we like the feel of folded paper, the old geometries of envelopes, and we were determined to give them both something like the same public debut. Besides, we had a rough template for the boy's announcement that we liked, which made the craftwork go smoothly. So out it went within, no less, one month of her birth.

The template was a preemie template, however. What made it preemie? Here's a secret: Most birth announcements that meet you in your mailbox provide size specifics--usually length and weight. Those sent by preemie parents tend to avoid these numbers, instead (as we did) remaining satisfied to broadcast the date and place of birth. At the time, we were proud of our son's just existing. Moreover, his birth length and weight tended to remind us of how early he was and of the challenges we most likely had to face because he could fit in my hand. For us, it was enough that he was.

Simply because we didn't publish an answer to the question about his weight and height didn't mean, of course, that it went away. Now it's a curiosity, even if he still hangs low on the growth charts, but then we bristled when someone asked how big he was. I remember once pushing him through a grocery store around the corner from our West Village apartment and being accosted by what must have been a mid-twenties male, who scolded, "What is he, 24 hours old?" He was, in fact, over a month, then, perfectly capable of surviving amongst the bags of flour and cuts of meat. On another occasion not too much later, some middle-aged woman waiting with us for a light to change asked (again with more than a little scold in her voice) "How old and how much does he weigh?" Tired of dealing with blunt, wounding smalltalk, my wife asked her the same--namely, "How old are you, and how much do you weigh?" She seemed to be as happy to hear the question--and as willing to answer it--as we were.

And but our daughter's announcement also went out stating only that she was born in New York on a particular April day and that that was enough to be extremely proud of. Size changes, after all. Our delight at our children's starting their time with us--of being here--is the constant we always come back to.

More later perhaps.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Big Girl Gets Bigger

Another visit to the pediatrician for our daughter. The scale confirms our smarting arms--she's gained another pound in less than a month. After last visit, she was 10 pounds 7 ounces. My wife and I always have a friendly wager on the new numbers. This time around I won, guessing 11 lb. 9 oz. to my wife's 11 lb. 4 oz. Our smiling daughter came in at 11 lb. 10 oz.

She's already good to her father.