I, like most parents, question everything when it comes to my kids.
Are they eating enough? Why aren’t they talking yet? Am I teaching them enough? Should they be doing this yet, or that yet? Is it normal if they’re doing this or that when most kids aren’t?
For most of us, we wait for their pediatrician to tell us what is or isn’t “normal”. Others of us use the internet as a resource to ask a question in a forum or we look up articles or parenting websites for the “norm”. Others yet will ask their parenting friends what they have experienced with their kid or we silently compare the kids and see if they’re keeping up with their peers.
We can’t help it. We just want what’s best for our kids. We don’t want to miss anything and let a preventable problem turn into something life-altering or life-threatening.
And this is why I’m so grateful for the Neonatal Developmental Follow-up Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Because my girls are NICU grads, they both got a referral to the Neonatal follow-up clinic. (Neonatology is a subspecialty of pediatrics that consists of the medical care of newborn infants, especially the ill or premature newborn infant. – wikipedia) We have gone once every six months and put the girls through different tests to screen for developmental handicaps in early childhood.
This is a way to catch preventable problems before they get bad.
And let me tell you, they’re thorough. They go through tests with each NICU grad with a fine toothed comb. The great thing is that they do it through fun and games, so the kids don’t even know they’re being screened. Speech therapists talk about the pictures in a book and let the kids passively repeat the words they’re saying. Physical therapists make games of running, jumping and throwing and watch how they handle it. Occupational therapists play with puzzles, blocks and other fine-motor toys to see if there’s any delays.
After all of the “testing”, or what I would probably just call a free-for-all, the neonatologist comes in and talks to me about how they were scored. They score the kids on the level of difficulty that they’re able to perform for the tests. (ex: Peanut’s gross motor skills are at 8 months because she can’t crawl, stand or walk. Her score is the equivalent of how far she has developed in that area.)
Here’s the results of their actual age (21 months) vs. their developmental results:
Cognitive (play) skills: 25 months
Fine Motor (hand) Skills: 26 months
Gross Motor (large motor) Skills: 18 months (refused to finish her test. Little snot.)
Receptive Language (understanding): 26 months
Expressive Language (talking): 23 months
Cognitive (play) skills: 23 months
Fine Motor (hand) Skills: 28 months
Gross Motor (large motor) Skills: 8 months (due to paralysis)
Receptive Language (understanding): 24 months
Expressive Language (talking): 19 months (too soft spoken)
Normally the neonatologist would talk to me about what needed improvement and make suggestions and/or referrals to other clinics and specialists in Children’s. (another reason why I love this post-NICU program is because they’re so great at giving you every resource you need for your special needs child.) But the problem, which I wouldn’t call a problem at all, was that the girls had absolutely blown nearly every test out of the water. And honestly what they didn’t do well on, is still well within the normal range of development.
So basically – What started out as a premature birth and concern for both girl’s health and future, turned into thriving, intelligent and very capable little ladies. We really didn’t know how things would turn out, and they surprised everyone by simply exceeding.
And, I’ll admit, I was floored. I had no idea they could do all of the things that they had the girls doing. They were figuring out puzzles far more advanced than I usually give them. They were attempting every word that the speech therapist threw at them. (speech is something that really throws me because Buddy didn’t really have an interest in talking until after he was 2 1/2. The girls are leaps and bounds ahead of where he was at this age.) They were fine-motor machines with stacking, stringing and twisting toys. I just wish I could express to you all how amazing it was to see this. I just… couldn’t believe it. I still don’t really believe it to be honest with you.
The therapists couldn’t believe how well the girls did, either. They ended up making their screening into a “let’s see how far we can take this” game. They started giving the girls tests that they normally don’t give kids their age. And the girls passed most of them. It’s just… wow.
I tried really hard not to let it get to me. Really hard. But… well let’s just say my pride may have swelled up like a blowfish over my beautiful, wonderful and so SO very smart and capable little ladies!
And… my ego kind of exploded as well as the therapists laid the praise on thick. And I just sat there preening myself under the praise. I know, I know. I shouldn’t have let it get to my head like that. And I tried not to and I laughed it off at first. I told them I really don’t do anything different from most parents. I tried to tell the that I rarely get out of my pajamas and leave PBS on all day long and they should probably be praising Big Bird and Sid the Science Kid instead of me. But they insisted that it’s me, and went on to tell me to just keep on doing what I’m doing.
“Well,” I sighed with a giggle, “alriiiiiight.” *giggle giggle giggle*
When the neonatologist came in, she continued with the praise and proceeded to tell me that she thought the girls were doing so well that she doesn’t need to see them again. They were being discharged and pronounced “well and healthy” to the world.
I was so excited and proud and full of hot air!
After being dismissed, I barely squeezed my inflated head through the door to the waiting room, checked out and dressed all of us back up into our winter coats, hats and gloves. Because dang was it cold outside! But I didn’t even care. I not only had made it through an entire Children’s visit with no bad incidents from all three of the kids (Buddy came along and watched), but my twins tested like rockstars and got discharged. I was ego-mommy extraordinaire!
And I almost made it to the van that way. I was so close. The van was literally in sight and I was this close to getting home without incident.
But then reality smacked me in the face.
Or rather… Buddy’s face.
He tripped and fell over in the middle of the road in the parking garage. He started to whimper and get up, but I was in a hurry to get across the way and out of the driving area. So I grabbed him by the back of his coat and hiked him up one-handed to get him back on his feet.
But that wasn’t what happened.
Between his slippery coat and my cotton gloves, he slipped out of my grip and crashed back down onto the paved road. On his FACE. It sounded like a bowling ball dropped. I’m really not kidding. His head sounded like a bowling ball crashing into the ground with a deep *thud*.
OH MY GOD. Do you want to know what a deflating head sounds like? It sounds like a child’s head crashing into the pavement face first. It sounds like a gasping mother and a series of curse words that I simply can not repeat. It sounds like a string of warbling apologies. It sounds like the indecipherable wailing of a two-year-old that, even though you know they aren’t saying it, sounds like, “I HATE YOU I HATE YOU I HATE YOU!”
I have never felt so terrified and so terrible as I did in that moment. I was absolutely positive that the *thud* was his nose. I was absolutely certain that I’d pick up my son and blood would be gushing from his broken little nose. His little nose that had finally healed after his epic fight with a coffee table.
Oh, good god. I am a terrible mother.
So, after I finally wrenched his hands from his face, I was immensely relieved to find that I had only smashed his forehead into the pavement. Little bits of I-don’t-even-want-to-know-what were stuck in his forehead from the pavement and his face was smeared and streaked with dirt and tears. He, once again, had a giant swelling face within a month of the last incident.
I am a terrible mother.
I loaded the kids up and did my best to clean up Buddy’s face. He stopped crying pretty quickly, but it didn’t matter. the sound of his head thudding into the ground was cemented into my memory. I was now guilt-ridden mom extraordinaire. We drove home in silence and I spoiled all of the kids for their respective excellence or injury. My ego was firmly sunken to normal levels and the world was righted again.
I’m still not sure whether to call it a good day, a bad day or just a normal day. I feel a little guilty being so excited for the girls after what I did to Buddy, but then I feel a little guilty if I don’t acknowledge the girls and dwell on Buddy. I hope this is the last time I feel torn like this. *snickers* Yeah, right…