Compare and Contrast

April 19, 2013

Sam the Anti-Preemie
Disclaimer: Since I am sure this might worry one particular friend - let me go on record... I LOVE your son. I celebrate his amazing progress. I love seeing him every week. I want nothing but for him to continue to be a presence in my home and my life. Please, do not be disheartened by what I am about to write. I know you are keenly aware that I might be having a hard time with the different paths our boys are on.

Ok - with the disclaimer out of the way, it's confession time. The past few weeks, I have been blown away with Sam's progress. Each day, I see him improve. I see his eye contact with people he knows and even with strangers grow. His communication skills are expanding by the minute. At Occupational Therapy this week, his therapist teared up a little because she felt like Sam had turned a huge corner. To quote her, she told me that "I have my boy - personality and all".

Then, Wednesday rolled around, and Sam's nanny share, B (another miracle preemie), came over. As I said in the disclaimer, I am totally enamored with this little man. I have been with him from the beginning - through some of his worst and scariest times. Each week when B arrives, I marvel at his progress. This child has a lower survival chance than Sam, and he has done so much more than survive. Not only is he thriving... he is ahead of the curve in most things.

Watching B talk and interact with myself, the nanny, Sam's therapist really threw me. Don't get me wrong, I am so thrilled that B is where he is developmentally... but I couldn't help but compare Sam to B.

I know. You are never supposed to compare children.

I know. Everyone develops on their own timeline.

I know. Just because one child can do something at a certain age, doesn't mean all children can.

I know. Don't compare the children.

I know.

Still, I can't help myself.

I want my child to initiate a conversation with me.

I want Sam to bring me a toy and tell me how much he likes it and wants to play with it.

I want Sam to walk into a room, run over to me, hug me and say "Hi Mama"... unprompted.

I want to hear Sam say things that are not memorized phrases or random babbling.

I want Sam to tell me not to laugh at him when he says something that I find funny but he said in all seriousness.

What can I say, I want this progress to be faster.

Tagged: Autism
As a mom of a daughter in multiple therapies, I totally get this. Each week we go to our group therapy, I can’t decide whether to celebrate or break down as I compare my daughter to the other kids who are struggling. The fact of the matter is, we all just want so much for our kids. And that’s why they’re making progress. Because we want — and work — for them to do just that. Keep it up! Keep wanting more. Sam will thank you.
I understand this post more than I’d like to. My baby had one of those “easy” three month NICU stays. No surgeries, no serious infections, no serious IVH, etc. If there were wagers made, she would be the baby to bet on that would catch up quickly. Imagine my surprise when at six months (actual age), she still was not able to hold up her head. She has been involved in Early Intervention since five months of (actual) age. I feel good about the progress she makes. But then, I see her with other kids (preemie and term)… and feel disheartened. Like you said, I know… we aren’t supposed to compare… but it’s so hard not to notice. Maybe there is just more healing I need to do. *shrugs*
I think the healing with preemies lasts… and lasts… and lasts. At least we have early intervention and cute little ones to snuggle at the end of the day.
Not disheartened at all, dear mama. All I feel is compassion for you and a gut-level familiarity with what you’re feeling. How could you not feel this way? Last time I checked, you were human. And as I think you well know, during 2011 … this post could have been written by me, referencing Sammy as “the other child” as B went in and out of multiple emergency hospitalizations/surgeries/therapies … and there was Sam … thriving …. HUGE. Which is all my way of saying “I know that you know that I know.”
“Don’t compare the children” is so wise, yet near impossible to pull off 100% of the time. As for your wants, those are good wants and you’re entitled to them. Every now and again, as you warrior-up for this boy and your five thousand monthly appointments and therapies … it’s okay to shake your fist at the sky and scream, “This is HARD! This ISN’T what I wanted!”
And while the right thing to offer in response to this post is likely a reminder of the well-known “Welcome to Holland” bit, I think that every once in a while, after spending weeks on end dodging canals and ducking windmills and sneezing (because, turns out you’re allergic to tulips) … it’s okay to stop (with or without a well known hand-gesture) and say, “SCREW Holland.”
Thank you for welcoming my boy into your home, heart and family. Thank you for nourishing him in the early days when what I had wasn’t enough. Thank you for showing up at emergency rooms when my boy was being transferred to the ICU. Thank you for letting B into your home every Wednesday … even when it’s hard and puts a macro lens on the places that hurt. And here is what I know: for every “want” you mentioned that Sam eventually nails (or even gets close to), we are going to CHEER. LOUD. And every miniscule milestone will be all the sweeter because of where he started (not a DAY passes when I don’t marvel with joy and feel a little overwhelmed during some moment of Bennett eating — not a DAY). Sam WILL run to you, unprompted and say, “Hi Mama.” And when he does (and likely EVERY time he does … possibly forever) you are going to feel the goosebumps and joys of a miracle in your presence … which is who Sam is.
Love, empathy and a whole lot of solidarity.

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