Having a premature baby is so unlike any other journey in parenthood. First there’s the terrifying prospect that this tiny creature pulled from your belly very unexpectedly just might not make it. Then as you absorb and process all the concerns from the medical aspect, you reach the point of asking the question, “will he be alright?” The true question being, “what mental and physical challenges will he face?”
Truth is, early on, no one can answer these questions. Only time will tell.
Ollie and I are entering a No Man’s Land of sorts.
At 13 months old (actual, 10 months adjusted*) he isn’t able to sit independently yet. Up until a few weeks ago, putting him into a sitting position would cause tears of frustration for both him and me. His arms would flail, his hips would thrust upward and out, and he’d straighten out like a board, all accompanied by a soundtrack of yelling so loud I was afraid a neighbor would call Child Protective Services.
He was perfectly content to lie on his back, chew on a toy, and kick his feet ferociously, and I let him. If having him sit was so awful, why make him do it? He’s been through so much just to survive that he’s entitled to a little laziness now, right?
eh, not so much.
He receives weekly Occupational Therapy sessions through a program designed for Premature Babies called Birth-to-Three or Early Intervention. Knowing all they know about preemies and their specific challenges, the goal is to catch delays early and help them work through them before it becomes a bigger obstacle. It’s a great program. Not only do they keep track of Ollie’s progress and help him along, but it’s for us Parents who are the wallflowers at the high school dance. Shuffling our feet, awkward and gawky, avoiding eye contact with the Cute Boy, just because we’re so unsure of what to do next.
His OT lit a fire under my dupa a couple weeks ago, saying that if he doesn’t sit unassisted “soon,” that we’ll have to bump up his sessions to twice weekly. I love you, OT, I really do, but twice a week visits is a little much, don’t you think?
So we’re working on it. We’re working hard on sitting. Stretches and exercises, moving and working out, our play time turns into something more substantial. (Do parents of termies have to do the same?) We started out sitting behind him, with him leaning up against our belly to play with a toy (thanks to everyone who participated in “Project Toys That Help Ollie Sit” for Christmas and birthday!) He would be so excited to play with this new toy that he didn’t realize he hates sitting. But, he would get so excited about this toy, that his second reaction was to see if we were as impressed as he was. He would look at the toy, and look back up at us as if to say, “DO YOU SEE HOW COOL THIS IS????” In his twisting to gauge our response, he would flatten out.
Next came the leaning against the couch surrounded by pillows so he could simultaneously play and determine if our reaction was appropriate. Pull him further out from the couch and take away his leaning back abilities day by day and viola, he sat!
For three seconds. With a Boppy pillow around him.
BUT HE SAT!
I think my applause and cheering for his accomplishment scared his socks off, because he cried.
I don’t think they were the same tears of pride that I had streaming down my face.
Premature parenting is unlike any other parenting journey. Wading through the fears of survival, the health concerns, the doctor appointments, the surgery consults, the OT appointments and feeding challenges. It sure can be lonely. But when he inches closer to reaching a milestone that we’ve been working on for months, it makes things sweeter than sugar.