They are shared across parenthood, the milestones. We put our hands together in excitement and encourage them, the first time they roll over, that first laugh, those first wobbly steps across the floor. For these things there are dedicated spaces in baby books, waiting for us to dutifully pen in the date of their first word; “Mama” she said. These are the conversation makers, “Is she walking yet? Is she talking yet?”
Even the most average of things is tinged with prematurity. There she is, sitting up for the first time. She’s eleven months old and it took months of physical therapy but this milestone, she hit it. I write it in the baby book with qualifiers: “Sits Up Unassisted. Eleven Months (But Actually Seven And A Half Months Adjusted)”
And then there are the preemie milestones, the ones that are squeezed into the baby book in a joyful handwritten script: “Eight Months Old- No More Feeding Tube! Ten Months Old- Goodbye Apnea Monitor!”
There are more and different milestones on this particular prematurity journey and yes, that has made it hard. But it has also provided even more cause for celebration.
She’s twenty three months old and she runs up to me and says “Mama, gibberish gibberish gibberish book! Elmo! gibberish!” and then runs off, looking back over her shoulder at me and laughing. I watch her legs carry her away and breathe a silent thank you to the Lord and to her physical therapist, who held her tiny body over a rubber ball and stretched and moved her muscles until they were strong enough to send her running.
This week I wrapped my arms around the neck of her feeding therapist in gratitude and I said goodbye.
And then I did the same with her occupational therapist.
Just like I did with her physical therapist. And then her cardiologist. And her home nurses.
I penciled a new date in the baby book “October 2012- End Of Therapy.”
At her evaluation her therapy team and Jeff and I agreed that we had enough tools to continue working with her at home but that she was ready to phase out of her rigid therapy schedule. She’s made huge progress with her team and I am so thankful for the work they’ve done and how much they’ve helped me to help her.
I’m so proud of her, because these are big accomplishments. And sure, yesterday she spit out every single bite of the pumpkin oatmeal that she normally loves but the thing is she can eat. Now when she won’t it’s not because she can’t. It’s because she’s stubborn. And also because she learned about cookies and has decided she should just try to convince us to let her eat those all day long.
People ask me often when she’ll be “caught up” and I don’t know. Her doctors tell me that most preemies are caught up by age three, meaning that hopefully they’ll no longer use her adjusted age rather than her actual age. There is still therapy happening here, learning to turn our wrists and drink from a straw without gagging but on smaller scale, a family effort rather than a professional one. She turns two next month and it will mark the first time since she was born that we will be alone with her, without therapists and nurses coming often to our house. I am thankful for that time but I am joyfully anticipating this new future.
I remember when our house was full of medical noise, alarms from heart monitors and blood pressure machines, the sound of her heartbeat through a stethoscope each day, the sound of my heartbeat in my ears as I tried to position the feeding tube correctly on the first try. I thought it would always be a deafening roar.
And now it’s quiet except for the sound of her laughter as she names the letters on her alphabet blocks “A, B, C, Q!” and her feet pad across the floor to show me. Making a new joyful noise to the Lord of all the earth.