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March 22, 2005 |

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I was overjoyed to find your ode to premature infants in a preemie book for new parents. Our son (a former 26 week preemie) will turn two at the end of March. So I'm including the poem in gifts as we celebrate our son's "graduation" from the preemie label. Our struggles continued for a year after release from the NICU in Minneapolis. Our son needed a tracheotomy to breath for the first year and a half of his life. After major throat reconstruction, he is now a walking, talking, one-man demolition crew.

When I first saw you, kid, you were tiny and thin
And slimy and red and your head was mooshed in.
I said to your mother, "He looks kind of sloppy,
And a pound fifteen ounces ain't that big for a crappie."

But something about you, the look in your eyes,
Said you fully intended to grow to full size.
They slapped your backside and you let out a cry,
And I said, "We will keep him, at least we shall try."

Some babies are born in nine months, by the clock,
Some babies are born, and they sit up and talk.
Some babies are born and no doctor is there,
But some babies come in on a wing and a prayer.

Poor little fetus as big as my hand.
Poor little fish thrown up on dry land.
Who came in late March though you had till July,
Too small to live and too precious to die.

They shipped you across to the big Neonatal
Intensive Care Unit's computerized cradle.
And attached you to wires and stuck you with tubes
Monitored closely by digital cubes.

And thanks to the latest neonatal therapeusis
And regular basting with greases from gooses
And your Mama's milk intravenously fed
You did not fade away, you grew up instead.

We'll always remember the months that you spent
With tubes everywhere and hooked up to the vent
And the trach in your neck, the wires attached,
Sweet little baby only half hatched.

I'll always remember each doctor and nurse in
The NICU who helped make you a person.
The kid who crash-landed, was carried away,
Survived, and turns two years old today.

Thanks for writing it.

Nate, hearing a story like yours makes any parent's heart turn flip-flops, imagining the wild emotional ride it took you on. My son had a rough arrival in the world, a forceps delivery, back in 1969 and was shipped to NICU and fed intravenously for a few days through a tube inserted in the top of his skull. To protect it, the nurses taped a Dixie cup to his head, which made him look like a tiny Shriner. When I had my heart operation four years ago, there was a pediatric cardiac surgery ward on my floor, and on my first walk after surgery, I walked down that hallway and had to turn around and walk back. It just was overwhelming to think about the suffering of children. This is why people go into the comedy biz: nobody bleeds.

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