I wasn’t the typical worried first time mother. I feared very little and seldom questioned the decisions I made for Abby. When I thought she was ready for food, I confidently fed her, starting with vegetables before introducing fruits. When Abby had a fever or a cold, I wouldn’t hesitate to administer the proper medications. At 10 months she contracted rotovirus (the next year they approved a vaccine) and we spent a week in the hospital. I never feared losing her, was never skeptical of her strength. There was no doubt I had everything under control. I could handle anything!
She was an extraordinary baby. Most of her milestones were met far ahead of schedule. Abby’s first tooth came just before she turned three months old. She pulled herself up and sat unassisted at 5 months. At ten months she took her first steps and by a year she ran without hesitation. She said Mama, Dada, milk, cup, yes, no, stop, baba, baby, and go at one year old and her baby book proudly boasts this.
Avery’s baby book has the first few pages filled in. You know, Mommy and Daddy’s information and the birth information. After that lays blank pages. I remember very well the day Arick got it for me to work on. Avery was around 2 months old and 2 pounds. I eagerly sat down with it at the table in the motel room we lived out of for 16 weeks, piqued to fill it in. I worked feverishly on those first few pages and then I came to a standstill: baby shower, coming home, first pediatrician visit. Discouraged, I closed it and pulled out the small baby book I’d received from the NICU. “First day off the vent” “First time eating Mommy’s milk,” “Off caffeine”. Ahh, this was more like it. I completed that book.
Abby’s baby book is full. Her birth announcement from the local newspaper is in there. I wrote inside the back cover the story of how we terrifyingly found out she had a peanut allergy. Her first through fifth birthdays and pictures. The dental and immunization charts. There’s newspaper clippings and artwork.
I hadn’t thought about Avery’s book- the one for “termies” whose mothers won’t be traumatized by it’s questions- until very recently. I saw it when we moved but I placed it back in the box and it’s there…15 feet from me in his room where it can haunt me.
For all of the confidence I had being Abby’s mom, I am double that in terrified micro preemie mom with Avery. Before I fed him food for the first time, I had to approve it by 3 different doctors. If he has a fever- in fact, the ONLY time he’s ever had one- it lands him in the PICU. I find myself regularly wondering if what I am doing is the right thing. Is he breathing strangely? Does he sound congested? Does he feel hot to you? It’s constant, and there is probably nothing anyone can do to change that. We watched him fight for his very existence. But there’s times I’m not confident that I’m the best mother I could be for him.
We knew that his milestones may be few and far between. We prepared ourselves not to expect too much of him. He’s 13 months old and he cannot sit unassisted, crawl or walk. He can’t pick up food and feed himself or hold his own bottle. He can’t yet drink from a cup.
But he can smile. Gosh, can he smile. He can laugh so hard that no sound comes out and he turns red and forgets he has to keep breathing. He can recognize his name, who we are and who his sister is. He will now reach out his arms toward someone to be picked up. If he’s done with you, he’ll let you know.
Yesterday, he said Dada. He SPOKE. This is a big deal for so many reasons. It means that his hearing continues to be good, and that he will have a voice. It means that he, however slowly, is meeting milestones. It means that we have every indication to believe that he will be social and develop language skills. But most of all, it means that I can stop worrying so much. I can let go of a little of my fear and embrace my son’s capabilities. And you know what else it means?
I can get that freaking baby book out.
*just after writing this, I found his first tooth sticking through his gums. Imagine that!*