Corrected vs. Actual

If you’re like me, one of the hardest questions you get about your baby is, “how old is he?”

I always hesitate to, internally, consider how much or how little detail I want / have time to give.

If I say Owen’s actual age, my heart will sink a little, when the questioner says, “oh… he’s so tiny” or worse, just says, “oh” as they stare with a look on their face that clearly says, “what’s wrong with him?”

By giving the corrected age, the response is often more accepting, however, I feel a twinge of guilt, like maybe I lied a little.

The other alternative, is what I’ve mostly done – give both answers,  “he’s almost 18 months old, but he was more than 15 weeks early, so he’s medically considered a 14 month old”.  By answering both actual and corrected, I preempt the look of shock and horror if I tell them the actual age and it sometimes leads to great discussions.   But it also, sometimes leads to pity.

In the past weeks, I’ve given a lot of thought to how I want to represent Owen and I’ve started to simply say his actual age.

The fact is, Owen’s delayed and petite for a 14 month old or an 18 month old, so either answer is likely to get questions or looks. At the same time, I don’t want to marginalize his life or all that he’s been through by saying the corrected age.  He was born in April, not August and he did some really amazing things in those 107 days.  Most importantly, the reason that I’ve decided that I don’t want to give both answers anymore is that Owen’s going to hit an age that he understands these discussions.  I don’t want him to feel like he needs to be explained because of his limitations.

I’m more than happy to share our story and want to lend my voice to premature birth awareness, but it’s not an excuse for where Owen is today.  There’s nothing to be excused or pitied.  Just by being here, Owen is defying odds and expectations.  I refuse to diminish those accomplishments by putting an asterisks by his birth date.

My approach to answering the birthday question has evolved and, I’m sure, will continue to evolve, which is why I’m interested in how other preemie parents choose to answer the most dreaded preemie question.

 

© Copyright Tatum, All rights Reserved. Written For: Ain't No Roller Coaster

9 thoughts on “Corrected vs. Actual

  1. Hi I’m still following your journey and that question always makes me stumble too. I often give the corrected age to stop questions as the story and conversation can get very long. Recently they put a nasal gastric tube in so that draws a lot of attention too. Thanks for your realistic blogs on the life of a micro preemie

  2. That’s something we’re still working on too. I usually choose to say actual, because he’s small for 15 months or 12 months, so either way I hear the ”Oh, he’s so tiny” comments. When rich is with, he very rapidly follows the age up with, but he was born at 2, 11. As much as I don’t mind spreading awareness and sharing his story, I don’t feel the need to do so EVERY time i’m asked his age.

  3. Ahhh, the question! I kind of take a stance somewhere in the middle and have learned to tweak it over the last 3 years. Short version is if it’s someone that I will likely not meet again (ex: in line at target), I answer with just the year…”Oh, he’s 1″ or 2 etc. Drew just turned 3 and now he can answer himself (super exciting by the way)! So, he say’s “3!”, then the people look to me for confirmation. I usually just say, Yep, 3! If it’s someone that asks more questions or that I will meet again, may have a relationship with, I usually add, “Yep, 3! He was born very early”. I usally leave it at that unless they ask more. If the conversation keeps going, I involve Drew in the discussion and keep things really positive. “Yep, you spent your first 6 months in the NICU, but are happy, growing and learning new things everyday, right bud?” ” such a rock star!” etc. I find this helps avoid the pity glances somewhat. IF there are more questions, I keep it brief and general in front of Drew and may refer them to his caring bridge site.

    Drew is still extremely small for his age but most of our questions from people center around his vision, glasses, and cane. Our family’s goal is always to have the conversation explain how awesome Drew is and how hard he works, adapts etc. And I always try to end those talks with something “typical”. Like “he LOVES keeping up with his big sister” or “Yep, he’s really good at telling us when he’s upset (during a tantrum)”.

  4. Such a good topic Tatum and one only a preemie mom can understand. There was no question I feared more than “how old are they”? And that is so weird to say as a Mom. I never knew which one I was going to say and what the conversation would lead to (my least favorite response: “oh, I had a preemie to, my daughter/son was 3 weeks early…” Ugh!). I felt the same thing- that I lied a little when I said their corrected age. Sometimes I even just chose an age in between corrected and actual! Anyway, I love how you’ve decided to honor those days and just tell it like it is!!

    • What’s funny is I still find I ask other people how old their child is – I guess, maybe I should stop? It seems like it should be such an easy question.

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