Being “normal” as a preemie

breaking the normal mold

I was not expecting to have a preemie. It was not part of my plan, but it was medically necessary. After I got home from the hospital, I started reading up on preemies, and it was pretty scary stuff – there were so many articles and books about the challenges that are common for premature babies, and I was feeling so sad for my little princess. It was hard enough to see her so very tiny, filled with tubes and sensors in the NICU, but the idea that her struggle would continue long after she was home… it just broke my heart.

When she was still in the hospital, I remember a physiotherapist came in the one day and started chatting to me. She explained that premature babies do eventually catch up, but that you need to adjust for their age – instead of sitting by six months it would be six months from the due date, etc. That wasn’t so bad, and that’s how I thought of Harley for a while – as her real age and her “adjusted age”. But I’m not sure I need to keep doing that.

It’s so funny being a parent of baby – we just want our kids to be “normal”. There are milestones that we want our kids to reach, and those are the big concern – can she hold her head up? Is she eating well? Can she turn over or sit up? There are tons of apps out there to give the guidelines of milestones kids should be hitting, and failure to do so immediately makes parents worry their kid is broken. But Harley isn’t normal, and that’s an amazing thing.

When she first came home, she struggled to nurse, which meant I had to pump and bottle feed her. She couldn’t really do much of anything. A “normal” baby starts smiling around 6 weeks, but of course Harley was premature so the timing scale was all out of whack. Now at 4 months, she’s smiling, she has amazing head control, she has rolled over a few times, and she seems determined to learn how to sit on her own ASAP. She makes babbling noises at me, her eyes are focusing better every day, and she is learning to grasp things (as practiced on my hair and Dean’s beard). Plus, she is fitting into all the adorable 3-6 month sized onesies.

If I were still adjusting for her age, I’d be thinking of her as a 2 month old, but in fact she seems to have already “caught up”, acting like a 4 month old. But I’m really tired of the milestones anyway, and have decided to pretty much ignore them. Apparently, I didn’t sit up at the right time. My mom even got worried that I was broken or something, but then one day I sat up and then proceeded to stand up. My brother didn’t talk when he should have, but when he started to verbalize he did so in complete sentences.

Every baby is different, and while milestones can be important to check for major developmental issues, they aren’t set in stone. Also not set in stone is the advice about Harley’s real age. She is so strong and such a tough cookie, she seems determined to do everything at her own speed, a speed which might be fast for a preemie but is just right for her.

I have never been one to strive for normalcy. I love being different – I play games for work, I color my hair, I have tattoos, I dress however I like and it makes me so happy to put Harley in adorable  and geeky outfits, too. I know I’m not like everybody else, and it’s something that I enjoy. Dean and I are alternative, and it’s awesome and makes me happy, so why would I put normal requirements on my little princess? She is absolutely perfect, and doing things her own way – she’s already everything I could have asked for, and more.


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