Ladybug was born at 29 weeks weighing 2lb 3oz. She spent 67 days in the NICU. She had many of the usual preemie issues: PDA, anemia, trouble gaining weight, and ROP. She had one really bad episode where her heart rate dropped seriously and she stopped breathing and had to be revived, and she had lots of smaller episodes were we watched her turn blue. But in the scheme of the NICU she was always considered a strong stable baby with a bright future.
Preemies are offered many additional evaluations and services, and LB participates in the Infants and Toddlers follow-up program, Early Intervention, and a NICU follow-up clinic, and she also gets physical therapy. I'm really glad that we have access to those programs, and overall I've been happy with the quality of services.
As I said in an earlier post, it is sometimes hard to watch LB hitting her milestones on the slow end of normal, even though overall we think she is doing really well. Upon further reflection, I think part of the difficulty for me is feeling pressure to parent in a way that I don't believe in or want to parent. Almost every professional who LB has seen has sent us away with tasks to "work on." Some of those task, like the ones from our lovely PT, seem very sensible: practice walking on uneven surfaces, or let her climb the stairs as many times as she wants to. Other tasks seem more like teaching to the test: one therapist suggested that we buy or make a pegboard and then have LB practice putting pegs in the board. Now, I understand the concept of encouraging fine motor skills, but their are plenty of ways to do that without drilling the child in pegboard use.
Overall, I'm a fan of holistic learning and I think the things young children need to learn and grow are loving caretakers who include them in everyday life. Badger and I also provide a language rich environment with lots of talk and books, but I'm not even convinced that that is a necessity for cognitive development. Books and talk help with pre-literacy skills and make the transition to school easier, but as long as kids feel safe and are able to interact with the world around them, their brains can grow and develop.
But then I hear the voices of the therapists whispering in my ear, or I read online about a preemie mom who insists that a regime of daily flashcard drills is the reason that her preemie is ahead of the curve (and ahead of LB). And I worry.
I hate the feeling that every game I play with LB is a learning exercise, that we can't simply delight in the joy of playing together. We've tried to make our home the opposite of the harsh lights, beeping sounds, and monochromatic colors of the NICU. I've tried to let LB lead and give her what she tells me she needs. I want her to be her silly self without being a pushed child. I know that her happiness and wonder is more important than putting pegs in a pegboard. But if she would just hurry up and walk and talk that approach would feel much easier.
Ladybug at work.