My daughter was born 7 weeks early. Right from the start I worried incessantly about her development. Granted, I am a worrier by nature, but after spending my first 15 days as a mother in the NICU, my anxiety reached a whole new level. Due to her small birth weight, we were included in a Neonatal follow-up clinic to track her progress. In some ways this was a positive experience, but it was also feeding into my paranoia. The checklists, the questions, the pressure. I understand the reasoning behind tracking a child's milestones, however, I feel like there can be too much emphasis placed on the timing in which they are achieved. Also, quite frankly, some of them don't hold much merit. I never crawled, and yet somehow am a functioning member of society. My daughter was "late" to crawl, according to experts, both medical and self-appointed. I tried not to worry about it, but it was all anyone asked about once she was about 8 months old. As the months wore on and my response was still "not yet", the looks of pity I received would stir up a panic inside. Why was she not crawling? Was there something wrong with her? Was I doing something wrong? Then low and behold, at 11 months she was on the move. After that I was able to breathe a brief sigh of relief before the next onslaught of pressure and questioning. Is she pulling herself to stand? Is she walking? Many times, these questions were coming from people who weren't parents themselves, just in-the-know about gross motor development. She began walking, finally, at 14 months and hasn't stopped moving since.
I remember sitting with my mother in the NICU a few days after Jane was born and her telling me about a dream she had of Jane as a toddler, running around in the kitchen. I just started to cry when she said this because I felt like it was a dream that I would never see. This sounds very dramatic, I know this and admit that can over-dramatize, but it can be hard to have perspective when you are clouded with fear. I wish I could have known then how quickly she would grow, how strong she would become (and perhaps always was), how fast she would run and how high she would jump. We took our own time and a few extra miles to get there, but we are here now and I wouldn't change a thing.
You'd think that after having this experience I would be a little less stressed about milestones with my second child, born 4 weeks early, and I was....a little. I still find the anxiety creep in when I am asked about what he's doing or when I compare him to others. My husband is always telling me that I shouldn't worry about what others are doing, but the comparison is unavoidable with things like Facebook. Isn't that what Facebook is - a place to show how much better you are doing than your friends? Regardless, the pressure to compete is there and once again we are not leading the pack. My son has been slightly ahead of Jane with rolling, sitting up and just started crawling a week shy of being 11 months old. I must admit, part of me is thrilled that he is crawling, because it is all anyone has been asking me about. Another part, the wiser, more rational side of myself, is a little bit sad because I know that he is on the fast track to growing up on me. Being a mother, for me, is a constant struggle between wanting my children to move forward, but also wanting to hold on to them just as they are. I am trying to be more present with them and celebrate what they are doing and who they are today and not worry so much about pushing them towards tomorrow. I know that tomorrow will always come and that I will be wishing for yesterday.