When I worked in the NICU it was par for course to take care of extremely premature babies - those born at less than 28 weeks gestation. Some of them were as early as 23 weeks. You never know what you're going to end up with with those babies; their chances of survival is marginal at best, and beyond that it's anyone's guess what the result will be. Just start with the head down: brain hemorrhages, blindness, feeding and speech delays, chronic respiratory issues, liver failure, kidney damage, a whole slew of digestive issues, delayed motor development, sensory integration issues...the list is endless.
And then there are the ones who just pull through it all somehow, and actually end up, well....WELL. They learn how to eat and they go home on minimal to no oxygen and you pack those parents up and bid them farewell, and as soon as they leave we all look at each other and say, "Who'd have thought??"
It never occurs to me that I might encounter a 20-something weeker a few years later, doing little kid things that we all take for granted in other little kids. Four and a half years ago a set of sextuplets (yes, six) was born at the facility in Grand Rapids. Those babies were born around 25 weeks and dealt with the issues that all 25 weekers deal with. The family goes to our church here in Holland, and a handful of the sextuplets are in the preschool crowd with whom I'm helping out at AWANA (thank you, Sara Sibble, for clueing me in on what it stands for: Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed!). Can I just TELL you how humbled my heart was, when, last week, I was at a table coloring with a few of these little people, and I started asking them if they knew how to spell their names. One of the sextuplets blurted out without missing a beat: "K-E-N-N-E-D-Y! Kennedy!" Ventilators, heart surgeries, medications, huge infections, treatments we would never endure as adults, and then they MAKE it. And then they become kids who actually color and learn how to spell their names and go to Wednesday night Bible club. I never allow myself to consider the long-range picture with these babies because I just don't know if many of them HAVE a long-range picture.
Yet, in spite of our feeble human attempts, they do so much more than we expect. Praise God!