This post was originally published on Madeleine & Reid’s blog. Thanks so much to mom Alana for sharing it with us!
One aspect of parenting I had never considered prior to having kids is how preoccupied I would become with their development. When I was pregnant, I thought (hoped?) that I would have this wonderful relaxed attitude towards the twins’ growth, that I would just trust the idea that all babies have their own schedule and that they would eventually get there in their own time. And then I gave birth at twenty-five weeks. (Funny how that changes things.)
When you go into labour that early, one of the first things you are told during that scary blur of time before your babies arrive, is that premature babies are often developmentally delayed, even if nothing else happens to them. It’s a consequence of missing all of that extra time in utero, and it’s totally reasonable. Then, your babies come out, and everyone reminds you about the chance of delays, and you say, yes, yes, of course, delays, no big deal. But in your head, you think….I really, really hope we will be the exception.
Eventually, the other women in your life with due dates around yours give birth to full-term babies, and you are happy for them, but also sad for you. It’s a reminder of what you never had, a reminder of all the awful stuff you had to go through because you never made it that far, and you start to become a little bit obsessed with the milestones. Her little boy is making lots of cooing noises, why isn’t Reid? Her little girl is rolling over already, why isn’t Madeleine? You ask lots and lots of questions. How much does your little one weigh now? How much does she take at her feedings? Is your baby doing lots of tummy time? Is he smiling or giggling? Does she reach for her toys?
It is of course, completely relevant and irrelevant at the exact same time. Every baby is different, and every baby will approach these tasks in their own way. Reaching a developmental marker late does not mean your baby has a problem. Except when it does. Whenever Madeleine sleeps a lot more than Reid (which is most of the time), or vomits, or is grumpy and cries, I worry that her shunt is malfunctioning (and never that she maybe just likes sleep/ate too much/is just grumpy). When other babies show more progress with motor development, my brain automatically screams CEREBRAL PALSY. When Reid fails to coo or make noise when he tries to giggle, I wonder if maybe his vocal cords were damaged by his ventilator.
And then, just like that, Reid will start gooing and gahhing when you are talking to him like he’s been doing it all along. Madeleine will easily roll onto her side on her play mat like it was nothing, even though she never expressed any interest in doing it the day before. And, just when you least expect it, Reid will let out a big, enthusiastic laugh on the change table before he is put down for bed, and your heart will skip a beat. It is a reminder that, while I did get premature babies, while they had to come out into the world before they were ready, they are still fully-formed, capable little people who have managed to make it through things that even adults would struggle with. Even though I’ll probably never stop worrying, I owe it to them to be patient and trust their own abilities. They are really, really good at showing us what they are made of.
The opposite happened to me. My 26 weeker was amazing in the NICU: Minimal IVH, she dodged NEC, and she was never on a vent (CPAP only). Her 88 days were spent growing and maturing. While she was in the NICU, I was told stories of all the other micropreemies that are “fine” now. I was connected with the parents of a 26 weeker that “caught up” during her first year. At the conclusion of our baby’s NICU stay we were sent home prepared to carry on with the “regular” baby experience.
Imagine my confusion, saddness, and shock when my baby had problems with movement, senory issues, and feeding. No one prepared us for the possibility. I felt like I had to mourn all over again.
Just in case woodra01 sees this – so sorry to hear about your experience! If your baby was born at Sunnybrook, I hope you’re getting help from the follow up clinic. If not, or if you’re interested in additional resources, please feel free to contact me at kate.robson(at)sunnybrook.ca.