this week i went to see my friend and her prematurely born baby boy in hospital – he was born 10 weeks early and was still in the incubator when i saw him: tiny and fragile, dependent entirely on the nurses and doctors around him regulating his feeding and the environmental temperature & humidity in the incubator. he was awake when i was there – a very rare moment according to my friend and i felt strangely flattered as i stood and watched his tiny eye lids fluttering open and close like butterfly wings. he had just reached the celebratory mark of 1kg body weight (from 840g the previous week) and yet didn’t have any of a baby’s puffiness looking strangely adult and newborn at the same time.
it struck me how he had spend the first 2 weeks of his new born life almost entirely in this glass womb set to a tropical climate and with no natural light and struggled to put on 160g body weight. the week before i had been to the butterfly house at the Natural History Museum which is a very airy and bright place also set to a tropical climate with the added sound effects where hundreds of tropical butterflies and moths flutter about. i stood in front of a much more basic version of an incubator there where i could watch butterflies hatching out of their chrysalis – though ‘popping out’ is a much better description of what it looks like! they literally hang on to their chrysalis for a couple of hours in which they slowly unfold their wings (how so much wings can fit onto so little chrysalis is definitely one of nature’s mysteries to me), dry them and gain enough body heat to be ready to fly off – into an intense life lasting about the same time that it took my friends baby to reach the 1kg mark.