It was a simple email that piqued my interest. Only two words filled the subject line, but those two words would hold a glimpse into my daughter’s life. I opened the email titled “Progress Report” and quickly scanned the message from my child’s preschool teacher.
As I began to read, tears gently fell into my morning coffee. My heart sank as I thought about when my daughter’s prematurity became a problem.
The progress report was actually quite positive. My daughter, Peyton, has compassion for others. Her teacher mentioned what a kind child she is and said she is a good friend to all of her classmates. But one sentence deflated my spirits, like a helium balloon losing air, slowly weaving towards the ground.
“Sometimes we are unsure if Peyton understands what we are asking of her. However, if we wait for a moment and guide her accordingly, she does just fine.”
It may seem like nothing, a silly reason to bring out the tears. But, for parents of premature children, a comment like this can mean so much more. My daughter is our lone surviving triplet. She is a micro-preemie who was born on the edge of viability. At 3 years old, Peyton has dealt with more doctors and therapists than most people do in a lifetime. She just recently graduated from physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy and now attends preschool — something we didn’t know would ever be possible for her.
Even though she has overcome so much, I still see her struggle. Her speech therapists believe she has apraxia, a motor speech disorder. Peyton is very smart and her brain comprehends everything, but she has trouble getting the words out of her mouth.
Just recently, we were talking with a young boy when Peyton began speaking. After repeating herself several times, the boy asked, “What is wrong with her? Why does she keep saying the same thing?” I didn’t nudge my daughter. Instead, I smiled as I waited for her mouth to catch up to her mind.
While a lack of communication skills may be a common issue for toddlers, this preschool progress report was a reminder that we’re not out of the woods. Peyton’s physical complications may be a thing of the past, but she will most likely face future hurdles that are not always visible. Between a brain bleed at birth and an early arrival more than 17 weeks premature, there is a decent chance my daughter will struggle in some way in school. And that breaks my heart.
My daughter didn’t sign up for this. As a preemie parent, some days I feel frustration, and other days I feel guilt. Watching your child struggle in life stings. That “lump in your throat” feeling often appears with no warning.
But as quickly as that pain arrives, it disappears when I think of all that my daughter has conquered. My husband and I had no idea what type of life our 1-pound triplet would lead. With a less than 10% chance of survival, Peyton’s future didn’t look bright. It’s safe to say our miracle is proving every statistic wrong.
Our daughter is perfect in her own special way. Each little challenge makes her unique, and watching her work through every struggle is awe inspiring.
As the words of the progress report sank in, I took a deep breath and wiped away my tears. We all face different challenges throughout our lives, some bigger than others. My daughter’s ambition and positive demeanor will get her far in the coming years.
There’s no telling what her future holds, but I know my child won’t let anything get in her way.