Babies & Kids
A Premature Baby: A Tale of Two Sisters
Growing up with a sister born prematurely gave me a lot of perspective on what it meant to care and love fiercely.
Not all pregnancies are smooth, especially when moms reach their 40s and up. With all the risks involved, sometimes, babies need to be born prematurely to save both the mother and child. But when babies are born prematurely, there’s a lot of catching up to do via incubator. It’s a rollercoaster ride—not just for the mom but even for her kid. Especially one who just became a teenager and lost her position of “only child” after 14 years.
Premature Baby: No manual for preparation whatsoever
Perhaps it was the accessibility of my mom’s library of pregnancy and parenting books that made it easier for me to wrap my hormonal teenage head around how bad the situation was. All the books said that a baby is born after nine months and none of them really tackled what happens to a baby born two months short of the due date. So, discovering that my sister was born short of two months confused me.
My parents did their best to keep the stress of the hospital’s financial demands and pregnancy risks away—by letting me stay at my grandparents’ house for a while. But I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t angry at one point at my unborn sister if my mom died because of childbirth. After all, that was how her mother died. But video games, books, and the drama of an all-girl high school kept me busy enough.
Growing Up with Her: It looked like favoritism but…
Even with all the books within my grasp and hearing doctors tell my parents that she needed more attention, they only somewhat soothed my envy. Teenage years, as many parents and adults would agree, are the drama that fuels K-Dramas. It was a big change. My parents would freak out if anyone would sneeze in my sister’s direction. At first, I found their reactions quite exaggerated until she would develop 40-degree-fevers. My sister, a baby, could only communicate via crying so waking up in the middle of the night was a thing.
Although that trained me to survive on polyphasic sleeping and power naps in college, it’s not a healthy habit in the long run.
Another effect of my mom’s difficult pregnancy was my sister’s temperament. She would cry at the slightest inconvenience and would even develop hives when the stress got too much for her. So, it became second nature for the family to cater to a lot of her whims. Everything we did, including homework and simple tasks, looked like it was for the sole purpose of making her life easier. At this point, many developmental psychologists would argue that my sister would struggle to function independently because of how my parents still dealt with the existing fear and premise that being a premature baby meant she was fragile.
While they are not wrong, there’s also the reality that a traumatic pregnancy like that, along with many other factors, can make a parent extremely protective because of all the pain and stress their body remembers. They had just accepted the reality that they would have two daughters—not only one. Of course, they were going to fight to protect it.
They were not the best choices but, they worked.
Was it bad timing? Was it the hormones? A lot of things happened at that time but looking back as an adult, the majority of the stress wasn’t just one side. School, growing up, and learning how to be an older sister to a premature sibling don’t have a set curriculum or manual like math or academic subjects. A baby born prematurely — there’s no telling which one they need to speed up on. Most medical professionals would argue the respiratory and immune systems but, other body functions can lag behind as well.
A Tale of Two Sisters
Today, that same premature baby is a 14-year-old with a string of academic achievements under her belt. Our relationship is no longer just accepting that she was premature but going beyond that. She tries to keep up with other children, taking on archery despite premature babies normally having weaker physical builds. She’s shown resilience. And as her sister, it’s surreal to be part of the underdog story.
But one takeaway as a sister of a sibling born prematurely is that while parents are protecting them from everything, sometimes, it’s a sister’s job to safely expose her to things that are a part of every kid’s childhood. Even if it ends up with a few bumps and bruises.