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“She laughed for the first time today. Like, a real laugh. Its hard to pin down the feelings I had while it happened. Of course, her brother would be the first to make her hearty laugh. Recently she has become quite smitten with him. She smiles as he gets close, her eyes start to flutter with an expectation of kisses. I can finally see a bond forming there. So, it was elating, watching her crack up as her brother was being silly. It was not a mimicked emotion, but genuine, from the heart happiness. It was one more box to check off: laughing, not permenantly scarred from the NICU, not emotionally broken because of her grade 4 IVH (brain bleed).
For a preemie, and especially a micropreemie, every milestone is a weight off your shoulders and every day there is a delay is a weight back on.
Alice came home from the NICU free of wires and machines. We are some of the lucky ones. She came home able to eat and breathe on her own, and she has been doing great. Even with what seems like a perfectly healthy baby, (since coming home from the NICU) I worry every day.
The effect of her brain bleed could show up at any time between now and school age (five to six is what they say) or there may be no effects at all. Watching her almost die because of NEC (holes in her intestine caused by dead tissue) makes me question every spit up, every constipated day. Every cough could be RSV, every wheeze might need a trip to the doctor. Or worse, the ER. There is not a day that I don’t worry about something.
So these small moments, the milestones everyone is looking for in their child, are that much bigger. With my 3 year old, who was full term, I looked for these milestones because I wanted him to ‘keep up’ or maybe even be ‘advanced’ for his age. I wanted him to laugh so I could hear him laugh. I never questioned if he would do these things, just when.”
I wrote this on August 7th.
One day shy of 5 months adjusted age. She laughs all of the time now, but it was several weeks before she laughed again after I wrote this.
I had put this down, because I was interrupted, and meant to pick back up where I left off. Then the laughing didn’t come back, and I was worried I jinxed it.
I know that sounds ridiculous, I know medically speaking I can’t “jinx” her development. However, I am a mom and so mom-guilt exists. Which means even if something isn’t my fault -and couldn’t possibly be my fault- in my head that’s exactly what it is. Even if I know it isn’t. I know you other moms understand. If you aren’t a mom, just believe that it’s an illogical thing, but it happens. Don’t try to talk us down, we don’t believe that it’s not our fault. Even though we know that logically it’s not our fault.
So, I didn’t come back to this post because I felt guilty for jinxing her, and didn’t know what to say. Now I can firmly say that I did not impede her emotional development by writing a blog post, as she laughs all the time and it’s amazing. (She’s so stinking happy.)
Now she has started working towards new milestones.
Wobbling on hands and knees trying to propel herself forward. working so hard on perfecting her sounds while she tries to decide what her first word will be. Recognizing grandma when she hasn’t seen her in a week or two. Milestones I looked for with Quinn, but also a bunch I never considered with him because there was never a question if he would meet them.
I’ll be honest, I don’t remember where I was going with my original post. I didn’t want to scratch it though, because it was so “in the moment” with her first laugh. Too real to be lost forever. So I’ve turned it into a musings post. A post about mom-guilt, milestones, and the difference between monitoring full term and preemie development as a parent.