When Charlie was in the NICU, there were a few cliche phrases passed around. One of them was “Never Trust A Preemie”. Its purpose was to convey the perilous uncertainty of any given preemie’s condition (even the stable ones). Another was “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon”. In other words, improvement in the NICU takes time… a lot of time. Weight gain is measured in grams and formula intake in milliliters. Despite the truth in them, I hated hearing these phrases as much as I disliked being asked “How’s the pumping going?”
Everyday for the three months that Charlie was in the NICU, I felt like I was holding my breath from one day to the next. I finally felt like I could relax and breathe the day she was discharged from the NICU. Similarly, Charlie’s one year check up felt like I finished that marathon talked about in the NICU.
It is not that Charlie has “caught up”. Despite her amazing progress, she still has feeding problems (oral aversion and swallowing problems), motor delays, speech delays, and sensory issues.
Despite everything, I feel like we have crossed the marathon finish line. First, I know that no matter what happens (catch up or not), we will be OK. More than likely, even better than OK. I dare say that we will thrive. Second, this year was the toughest thing I have endured. It was grueling. Just like if I had run a marathon, I am really proud that we made it. Finally, there is room for improvement. As is the case in most sporting events.
Today, at Charlie’s one year well visit, she showed off her new skills. Her pediatrician and I flipped through Charlie’s baby book. We were both in awe at how far she has come. Afterwards, the pediatrician closed the book and handed it to me. It felt strangely ceremonial and oddly reminded me of receiving race results.