Celebrating The Milestones That Really Matter

by Alison Lee
Originally Published: 

When you have premature babies, all these numbers matter. These numbers indicate whether or not they need to be in the incubator, have finally beat the recurring jaundice, and are closer to going home where they belong.

Life in the neonatal intensive care unit is a bunch of milestones for the babies and their medical team.

Life as a mother of premature twins is a bunch of moments that I did not think I would care much about. Until I did.

The first time I held them (not immediately).

The first time I breastfed them (days later).

The first time I changed their diapers (not for the first few days).

The first time they wore clothes (10 days old).

© Courtesy of Alison Lee

The first time I saw their faces without wires or tubes on them (3 days for my daughter, 9 days for my son).

The first time they were finally together again after they were born (12 days old).

When they finally came home after two weeks.

When their big brothers finally met them.

When I could feed them in the quiet of the bedroom, without machines beeping and whirring around us.

When we were finally together as a family of six.

When you have premature babies, all the usual baby milestones are forgotten. Holding heads up, rolling, sitting up, eating solids, crawling, standing, talking, walking. They will get to them when they get to them.

With my first son, I stressed about when he would start walking (late) and talking (very late), what he ate, when he slept (or rather, didn’t), his obsession with electronics, his tantrums. I worried he wasn’t keeping up with his peers, and I avoided talking about things like “sleeping through the night” (nope, that didn’t happen until he was 2). Some worries were legitimate—at 3, he was diagnosed with a speech delay and started working with a speech-language pathologist twice a week. Others, not so much. He walked eventually at 15 months and was none the worse for it, despite being months behind other kids his age. He’s 5½ and the size of a 6-year-old, even though he only ate four types of food (none of which were fruits or vegetables). He can read and write, even though as a baby, he tore books up.

I relaxed considerably with my second child, as you do. I only remember his milestones because he was in such a hurry to do everything. Rolling by 3 months, crawling by 6 months, and walking just as he turned 1. He was speaking in sentences at 18 months, before his older brother could string two sentences together.

When my boy/girl twins were born at 34 weeks, I was thrown for a loop, as you would expect. However, I knew enough to take the statistics thrown at me daily, while they were in the NICU, to mean that they were closer to the moments that mattered: getting stronger, growing healthier and going home. So I celebrated the small milestones that mattered: holding them, breathing in their baby smells, marveling at their tiny hands and feet (and were they tiny), and being grateful for medical technology that ensured my children survived being born too soon.

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