I don't know how they begin, the conversations about prematurity. Sometimes it's with a simple birth story or the knowledge that the person I am talking to has a NICU baby. But somehow it comes up that Georgie was a preemie.
"But, he's fine now, right?" they ask hopefully.
They want me to brush it off, to say, "Pish, of course he's fine! Five weeks early is nothing!" But I can't.
Five weeks early is nothing... compared to six, eight, ten, fifteen weeks early. It's nothing compared to months on a vent, PICC lines, NEC and infections. It's nothing compared to what could be.
But saying it is nothing negates what we all went through. Maybe it is nothing compared to you, your friend, your neighbor... but my son is not you, and he is not someone else's kid. He is my baby and what we go through every day is certainly not nothing.
Yes, Georgie can walk. He can run, he can jump, he can see, he can hear, he can... oh, wait, he can't talk.
Ah, see, there's the rub. Georgie cannot speak and that is not nothing. It is not fine.
It's not something to wait and see if he grows out of. Every day, he grows, his understanding of the world grows and he is fustrated. He's non-verbal, not dumb and he knows everyone but he him can talk. He knows I spend most of my days guessing as to what he wants. He knows I get upset, annoyed (sadly) and angry (but not at him). He knows he's different, he knows the words are there and he can't get them out.
I know when people ask if he's fine they want the chirpy yes, the answer that means we can change the coversation. I won't lie. I can't.
My son is wonderful.
He is unquie.
He is silly, funny, happy, healthy, whole, a toddler, strong willed, stubborn and a delight. He is perfect in the way that every human being is perfect. But is he fine?