My son was born about 4 weeks early. I remember him lying in the little incubator with a tube in his nose and little monitors on his chest. He was so tiny, only 4 lbs 7 oz. In our eyes, a miracle. All the nurses in the NICU told us that he was their favorite. We knew that they probably said this to all the parents, but in our hearts we felt that they really meant it. He was a little ball of personality from he minute he was born.
Our nephew was born 11 days before Isaac. We were so excited that our children were so close in age. How fun it would be to watch them grow up together. They would always have a friend their age in the family, which is not always the case for the first grandchildren.
Our nephew was born about a week after his due date. He was in good health and plump. the picture of a healthy baby. They were born only 11 days apart, but in reality, Isaac was conceived about 6 weeks after my nephew, which makes a big difference in that stage of life. Seeing them side by side only seemed to emphasize how tiny Isaac was. Isaac was completely healthy, but compared to a baby about midway on the national average scale for weight, he looked so fragile. Still, it was fun for me to see them together.
When they started hitting those baby milestones, our nephew always hit them first. I was not jealous. I was happy for him. I knew these things would come for Isaac and that he would learn and progress just as he should.
What really bothered me though is when someone would comment on our nephew's latest achievement and then look at me with a sad expression, head tilted to the side and say, "Isaac will catch up." I know they felt that they were helping but there was nothing to help. Although it sometimes made me mad, I tried to be polite and say things like, "I'm not worried." or "I'm sure he will." But the fact is I never felt like Isaac was behind. I was always told that premature babies were always a little behind in their development. I tried to stay positive but after a while I wondered if I were in denial. Maybe the head tilt was everyone's way of expressing their concern and they didn't quite know how to say, "Your baby is retarded."
However, I soon realized that Isaac was usually only a week or two "behind." As I think back I realize that Isaac achieved every milestone that babies reach within the normal time frame. I feel guilty for letting others' comments make me feel like my son was somehow inferior.
Isaac wasn't born premature he was born preterm. The reason he had an extended hospital stay was not because he was underdeveloped, it was because he was underweight. It was my body that could no longer tolerate the pregnancy, not his. For that reason alone, my little man missed out on the last month inside the womb, which is generally the time babies put on most of their weight before birth.
Now I have this healthy, although still underweight, 3-year old ball of charisma who is in no way behind. He is very intelligent and bright and I love him so much. I've learned a lot pondering the early months of Isaac's life. I've decided that every expert in the world can tell me what my kids should be doing but I am their mother. And I know best.