We watched with envy as parents prepared to take their babies’ home, “when would it be our turn?!” Seconds feel like hours and hours like days when you are living life separated from your baby and after an agonising 33 days we were finally the ones posing for photographs with our twin boys in Bay C, also known as the departure lounge. To us they were now ‘massive’, a hefty 4lbs 5ozs, defying the odds and leaving the hospital at just 35+4 making them 4 weeks 2 days actual, minus 4+2 corrected. This was a whole new vocabulary and way of talking about age that we had not given a second thought to, all that mattered was that they were here, they had survived and they were coming home!
As we sat full of pride and disbelief that our turn had finally come, that we would at last walk out of the hospital carrying our sons in our arms instead of leaving a part of us both behind day after day, we had no idea what actual age and corrected age really meant.
The first few months were a hard slog as the boys never seemed to progress beyond the newborn baby phase, it wasn’t until around seven months actual age though that I started to doubt my belief that they would simply develop in line with their corrected age. I constantly compared the boys to our eldest son’s development and knocked two months off so when they didn’t clap, or roll over and sitting was a no go I started to panic, fear set in and my mind raced with the thought of long term physical or mental disabilities. Was I missing something? Had I failed them? Was I doing something wrong?
I frantically searched the web and asked questions in groups and forums, desperately hoping someone could provide me with a nice clear milestones chart or an average age for crawling and walking in 9 week prem twins. Of course I didn’t find what I was looking for, all babies are totally different, as unhelpful as that comment was at the time it’s the truth. What I did learn was that being a preemie, even one who ‘only’ had to grow and hold their temperature like our boys, can have a far greater impact than ‘corrected age/actual age’.
The month’s passed by and sitting unaided turned into my Everest! The boys were frustrated, I was frustrated, I tried to explain to people what having eleven month old babies who can’t sit is like but no one can understand unless they have lived it. The moaning because they wanted to sit and play and then the hysterics when they would fall was exhausting, finally at one year, when other children are taking their first tentative steps I took away the last pillow and they did it, they sat and didn’t fall! My life changed that day and that is no over exaggeration, finally I could sit them on the floor to play, they could interact with one another and their elder brother, I could take them to the playbarn and know they could sit without me trying to prop them both up, I could use any old crappy high chair wherever I went, it was huge and after 12 months it was an overwhelming achievement for them and me.
My mission to get the boys to sit was also my moment of realisation that they were further behind than their corrected age, this was painful to accept and it also came as a shock. We had not seen a health visitor since the boys were around 2 weeks corrected and other than a six month check with their consultant we were alone trying to learn what being a preemie means.
I wish I could go back and tell myself as I sat in Bay C naive to the journey ahead to ignore their corrected age, yes use it as a rough guide but don’t try and pin them to it, don’t expect them to hit milestones in line with it and don’t panic when they don’t. It has taken me thirteen months of worry to accept that they will do things in their own time, I have no control over it and the true impact of being a preemie could take years to show itself. They are miracle boys who are cheeky and happy and full of life and smiles, they are precious and loved and nothing else matters, everything else will come in time.
Actual age, corrected age, who cares what age!