An oak with great spreading roots, trunk and branches in Avebury, United Kingdom, decorated with ribbons hanging from its branches

“Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.”

This classic proverb could well express the magic of a former preemie baby’s life: from something small comes growth, a miracle, majesty, fullness.

And yet — 

The acorn is in the oak.

We don’t entirely outgrow prematurity. It’s traces remain in the lives of former preemies, from the stories we tell of being born early, to scars on the body, to subtle reminders in the psyche.

I’m a former 28-weeker, meaning a preemie born twelve weeks early; and I’m a mom to two preemie daughters, born born at 34 weeks and 6 days, and 33 weeks and 5 days, respectively.

This blog is my effort to explore how that history of being “born too soon” lingers in the lives of the formerly premature — of how the acorn gives birth to the oak, but how the acorn is never far away; it’s still there, shaping the oak and giving its breadth, its shade, its stateliness.

I’m particularly interested in how preterm birth effects the personality of those born premature. My family always assumed that being born so early — I spent ten weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit, or NICU — had an effect on my personality. I’ve always been quiet, shy, not really a go-getter, prone to anxiety, more comfortable finding the answers myself than asking for help.

We never explored it more than that. Maybe my parents didn’t want to explore it more than that. They’d lost my fraternal twin sister in the NICU; it would be years before they laid her ashes to rest.

As I became a mom, though, and noticed certain tendencies in my Older Daughter, I started to wonder if there was more to the prematurity-personality hypothesis than met the eye. Maybe there is something about being born premature that predisposes one to introversion or anxiety? Could prematurity be responsible for the deep, aching awe that’s haunted and inspired me throughout my life?

This blog is an attempt to answer and explore those questions — and to find others born early, and their families, who may be wondering how prematurity connects to personality, and ultimately, to a portrait of humanity that emphasizes neurodiversity.

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