Milestones are exciting but I’ve never been someone who gets weepy about them. Ok, I may have cried a little during pre-k graduation but I have never gotten verklempt about first steps or pooping in the potty. I tend more towards, That’s done. Check it off the list. What’s next?
Today, I left Rowan’s Special Infant Care Clinic (SICC) appointment at Duke and started crying. The only one more surprised than me was my mascara.
I was fully unprepared for the amount of emotion I would feel when the doctor informed me that she was “graduating” Rowan from the SICC. It was not quite 100% relief though certainly that made up the bulk. There was also the weird disconnect between Rowan now and three-pound Rowan. It’s a difficult thing to explain, though I know I have heard other preemie moms say they have had similar feelings.
It’s like he has left all of that behind him — but I haven’t, not entirely. I still have dreams about the NICU, though only occasionally. There’s still this empty clawing feeling of pure sadness that pops up from time to time.
But you know what? This post isn’t about that.
The Special Infant Care Clinic
Duke’s Special Infant Care Clinic follows children born very prematurely, very sick, or who are otherwise at risk for altered or delayed development. Some infants and toddlers are seen more frequently. Rowan has only had a few visits, usually to confirm that he is doing fantastic. We also went to a couple of physical therapy appointments in the interim.
Today’s visit could not have been better. Rowan was being his happiest, most flirtatious self. Big grins and excited calls of “Fish! Wadda! Wadda!” (water) as he stared at the colorful fish tank and made everyone in the lobby smile.
He is now 25 pounds, 12 ounces (16%), ~34 inches tall (35%), and his head circumference is 19.25 inches (52%). Those percentiles are all for his actual age, not his adjusted age!
After checking vitals we were put in a room to wait for the doctors. The nurse left the door open and was sitting in the vitals room across the hall. Rowan ran to the doorway and started dancing for her. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him this enthusiastic about impressing a stranger before.
I filled out a bunch of developmental assessment questionnaires. These are difficult because some of the “does your child ___” questions are so specific that they are impossible to answer. I don’t actually know off the top of my head what Rowan would do if I put a tiny crumb in a clear jar. I assume he would turn it over to try to get the crumb back out but having never had any reason to try this I can’t say with any certainty.
Still, his developmental screenings all came back within the realm of normal. His gross motor and problem-solving skills were the lowest, in the mediocre area. The doctor guessed it was just that some of the skills were unassessed (I need to remember to ask daycare if he can kick a ball with one foot, he usually just throws them at us at home).
He can’t quite jump with both feet leaving the ground. It’s actually something he has been trying to master lately, including desperate attempts to pull himself up by his shorts. He tried for her and can almost get it. One foot comes up and the other stays down. So we’re not concerned — he’ll get it soon.
Problem-solving skills mostly revolved around my being unsure how he would react to the crumb in the jar scenario. But while we sat there he took a piece of paper from me that had a checklist on it and proceeded to go through and carefully mark each check box. She was like, “Yeah, I think his problem-solving skills are fine. And great fine motor work, Rowan!”
They were happy with his speech development. Yes, it’s still behind his peers and definitely behind where Lorelei’s was at this age but the important thing is that he is making steady progress. He had a big leap around the time he hit two years adjusted (two weeks ago) — he has suddenly realized he can put words together to make them mean things.
The other day he sat on my lap, grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “With me! With me!” and then took me to the door and said “O’side! O’side!” It was approximately the same temperature as hell, so I declined, but at least he asked! He seems so much less frustrated now that he can mostly figure out ways to ask for what he wants.
The doctor did offer to hook us up with their OT who specializes in feeding, if we want some help with the picky eating. I am thinking that once the summer schedule settles down a bit that I may take her up on it. Lorelei is also extremely picky, so I don’t think it’s a preemie thing, but they are offering these services and I might as well make use of them. We can see the SICC doctors until Rowan turns three.
The key is that we no longer have to. There are no more appointments scheduled. No more follow ups about developmental concerns. Rowan has graduated from preemiehood. Though the specter will linger, it defines him less and less.
What defines Rowan now? Recently he has become so amazingly sweet and snuggly. Running up to my friend Charlotte to give her a big hug, instead of taking forever to warm up to her. Attacking his sister with hugs. Climbing on my lap and saying “Hug Mommy?” and giving me a big sloppy, snotty kiss on the lips. He will rest his head on my shoulder and just snuggle down and let me breathe in his toddler smell (for better or worse).
With these newfound ways to seek comfort, I have decided to cut back to nursing him just twice a day. He still gets some of his beloved “Milp? Milp?” and I get a bit of a break. Plus, I know the havoc weaning causes on my hormones, so the slower the better. Twice a day is sustainable for a while.
His sense of humor and attitude is growing by leaps and bounds as well. This is what I call his dudebro look.
Yeah, I’m not one to get teary about regular milestones. But my three-pound baby graduating from preemiehood is something different.
So… what next?