Every day, I watch the strong, gentle hands of nurses adjusting wires, checking vitals. They help the nervous hands of parents hold and feed tiny new ones, becoming more confident as the days pass.
But always, it is the tiniest hands that amaze me. Wiggling in the air, tucked under cheeks, moving in what would have been an in-utero flutter. Their bodies are not developed enough to leave the hospital, but their hands can already get them into trouble as they pull at feeding tubes or try to “help” change a diaper.
Premature babies look fragile and sometimes their hands are covered with IV tubes. I once asked my father, a pediatrician, if it was depressing to work with these smallest of patients who are connected to wires and tubes to help them reach developmental benchmarks that will allow them to thrive. He told me what every nurse and doctor has repeated to me since: No! Babies are stronger than you think, even (maybe especially) premature babies. They don’t know how to do anything but grow and live, so that is what they try to do. Watching their hands, you know it is true. These hands are forever reaching out to grasp childhood.