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Teacher giving a student a high five

Missing Milestones Until You Meet Them

When Abby was born 16 weeks before her due date, the kindest thing I did for myself was throw out all expectations, suggestions and timelines.

These barometers of success became intrusive and counterintuitive to her path and ultimately our happiness. How can you be born four months early and held to the developmental norms of a full-term baby in the bassinet beside you? It was unfair to hold on to what “should be” when there was so much to enjoy: her first smile, coo and laugh.

In the past five-and-a-half years, Abby’s caught up in many, many ways. Luckily. Thankfully. She’s just like other children in that she has incredible, awe-inspiring bursts of development. With preemies, these periods of growth tend to happen at a pace you can’t predict. Abby crawled at 14 months and walked at 22 months? She got it on her own “Abby time”.

Preemies set their own clock. Taking a bottle, sitting up, learning to say “mama” or correctly sounding out a word for the first time happens exactly when it’s the right time – for them. It might seem like it’s taking for-ev-er. It will take patience and – brace yourself – it will take real work to get them there.

In the last two weeks, Abby’s made incredible strides in physical therapy. She met a huge milestone last week: she jumped. She jumped without her brace, without holding onto anything and with both feet off the ground. It was quite a feat for a child with spastic hemiplegia cerebral palsy; she took me and her therapist by surprise.

She didn’t do it once, either. She hopped … and then she hopped … and then she hopped some more.

Most five-year-olds have been jumping for years – off their bed, off a playground slide or from a swing. But this was huge for Abby.

I have two other children, little full-term daredevils, with no gross motor deficits. However, no jump from Jackson or Henry will touch me like Abby’s jump. It sent me into a physical therapy toy closet to hide tears of joy. Girlfriend is going to do great things with her determination to rise to a challenge.

When I threw out all expectations at Abby’s birth, I adopted a motto: all things grow with love. Preemies included. So let go, enjoy the evolution and watch them jump to the next step all on their own.

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About Jessica Woolwine

About Jessica   Woolwine Jessica Woolwine is a native of Hampton Roads and lives in Hampton with her three “miracles” Jackson (9), Abby (5) and Henry (1). As a mother to a childhood cancer survivor and a micro-preemie, she began the blog Mothering Miracles in 2014 to support other families dealing with health issues. Jessica also works as Creative Director for Rubin Communications Group and enjoys mixing her talents for graphic design and creative writing with community relations. She is a past member of both the CHKD Family Advisory Council and the CHKD NICU Family Advisory Council.

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