That Whole Thing About Two

No one really believes it, right?  That preemies catch up by two?

I’m not even going there with Owen.  Nope.  Not going to do it.

With Kellen, my 34 weeker, however, I did go there.  Guess what…two was not his magic number.  When he switched from an infant only daycare that was at my work, to the toddler/preschool that he currently attends, he was 16 months actual.  Those other kids ran circles around him.  I’m pretty sure he was the only one the teacher had to help step down curbs.  He wasn’t so far behind that he was out of his league, but he definitely was behind most of his friends in all areas.

At his two year well visit, we stopped correcting for height and weight.  He went from 75th percentile to the 50th.  He happens to be in a group of kids that are really tall, so he was on the shorter end for his class.  On the most part, by two, I wasn’t noticing the differences between Kellen and his friends so much, but I did notice that all of his friends were in the younger half of the class….the ones that were born closer to his due date.

And then we had a surge.  At his 3 year well visit, Kellen was in the 80th percentile for height/weight.  He had grown 4.5 inches and was starting to be one of the taller kids in his class.  His 3 year well visit was the first that there weren’t development questions that he was questionable on.  80th percentile felt okay for his height.  Kyle is 80th percentile, I’m off the charts on the high end, so the doctor felt that gave us a good indicator that Kellen was going to be built like Kyle.

But the surge didn’t stop.  Earlier this month we had Kellen’s 4 year well visit.  He’s now in the 95th percentile for height and 90th for weight.  He grew another 4 inches last year.  Guys, he’s 43″ at 4!  His development is still on track for a 4-year-old.  He socializes really well.  He’s learning and loves to learn in school and he’s pretty athletic.  However, as I learn more about preemies, I’m starting to realize some of Kellen’s behavior quirks may be preemie related.  At four, he still will steal Owen’s pacifiers if he thinks we won’t catch him.  he’s very oral…everything goes in his mouth.  EVERYTHING!  Salt, baking soda, vinegar, paint, glue, paste, mud, rocks.  EVERYTHING.  Just like a baby, his mouth is still his go-to sense for exploration.  He’s impulsive and demands a lot of his caretakers attentions and just may go on to cause us some grief in his toddler through teenage years, if you know what I mean.

In all honesty, no one could definitively say that these behaviors aren’t just who Kellen would have been regardless of gestation.  He’s clearly in the range of “typical” and he’s had some pretty scary life events for his young age that impact his behaviors.  At the same time, it’s not lost on me that sensory and behavior “quirks” are two of the most frequent long term effects of prematurity.  According to March of Dimes, a baby’s brain at 35 weeks is just 2/3 the weight of a 39 week baby’s brain.  Even though Kellen was a large, 6 pound 34 weeker, he wasn’t done developing when he was born.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a ton of worries about Kellen’s future.  He’s bright, excels at social skills and has a “get things done” kind of attitude.  He’s going to do well in life – I know he won’t accept less.  At the same time, even in his case; a 34 weeker who spent 10 days in a special care unit and never has had another hospitalization, I still can’t confidently say he’s “outgrown” being a preemie.

Being a preemie does not define Kellen (or Owen), but it is still part of his history.  Part of who he is today and, I would guess, part of who he will always be.  That doesn’t mean he, or any of our preemies, won’t be amazing adults, it just means their start was a little different than others.  Their start doesn’t change at two.

I shared this infographic during Prematurity Awareness month, but thought it’d be good to share again today.  Proof that preemies have every opportunity to continue to be amazing.

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© Copyright Tatum, All rights Reserved. Written For: Ain't No Roller Coaster

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