Soon after I found out I was pregnant, I heard through the grapevine that a colleague was pregnant as well. Her due date was just a week after mine. She had a very easy pregnancy, and her baby was born at full term, which would have been a week after Lexie's due date had all gone well. Instead, Lexie was almost 11 weeks old.
Preemies mature at kind of a staggered rate. You can't simply say, "well, it's two months after her due date so she should be on track with those milestones." In some areas, she's a little bit ahead of her gestational age (her age calculated from her due date instead of her actual birthday), but in others, she's behind. I do understand that all babies mature at a different rate, but we have to be more vigilant for any sort of delays. (Luckily, Lexie is eligible for all sorts of help if she falls behind substantially - starting at 4 months [gestational] she will be monitored by specialists and will be referred for more help if she needs it, up to age 4.)
For the most part, I really am ok with relaxing as Lexie develops at her own pace. I know that the important thing is that she is here and healthy. But this weekend, that colleague posted a Facebook update about her baby "having a conversation with herself," and that made me kind of sad. Lexie makes cooing noises, but nothing as sustained as that, and if she's not interacting with a grown-up she's just as likely to be quiet. Or to be whimpering for some attention.
Of course I immediately went online and found "Eight Ways to Improve Your Baby's Verbal Skills," briefed Steve on the techniques, and we spent the rest of the weekend narrating our every move to her. "Now it's time to change your diaper! Here is the new diaper. See, I'm putting it under your old diaper..."
We know it's a little ridiculous. We really aren't trying to create some type-A overacheiver. We just want her to have every chance possible to catch up to her peers before any delay starts to become noticeable in preschool and kindergarten. We will do everything we can.
In physical size, she continues to make great strides. Her length was on the chart for her true age at her 4-month doctor's appointment a couple of weeks ago - she was in the 16th percentile. She still was underweight though - even for her gestational age she was still pretty light, probably due to a litany of digestive issues we've been working out. But we can see so many major changes when we think back to how she looked in January.
When she was born, she was 10 weeks early, weighed 3 pounds 11 oz., and was 16 5/8 inches long. During delivery, she had been severely bruised all over the right side of her head, her upper torso and right arm. Where she wasn't bruised, you could see that she was yellow and jaundiced. She had a thin layer of downy hair all over her back and shoulders (it's called the lanugo). She was so skinny - there was no baby fat on her at all, because that's what the third trimester is for. Her eyelashes were invisible unless you could get within a few inches to see tiny colorless feathery lashes, more of a suggestion than anything else. Her cheeks were almost gaunt. Her fingers looked so long and delicate, without any baby chubb to fill them out. Her fingernails were the size of sesame seeds. She didn't really have any nipples yet - they develop between 32 and 34 weeks in utero. Her little bottom was almost flat. Her legs were so scrawny that it looked like she was wearing another baby's too-big leg skin. Without any fat on her belly or around her legs, her girl parts stood out like a Mr. Potato Head piece.
(I fully realize that someday she may kill me for writing those last few details.)
At her 4-month appointment, she weighed 10 pounds and was 23 1/4 inches long. Although she's still a little peanut, all her parts are looking pretty normal. Her right eyelid still has red streaks on it from the birth injury, but it's operating the way it's supposed to be. Her eyelashes are now long and dark. My favorite thing is her little almost-chubby bum. Everytime I change her diaper I want to give it a little pat.
It's funny the things you appreciate.