My firstborn was a preemie, coming into the world 8 weeks early after yours truly had a nasty spat with eclampsia and HELLP syndrome that nearly killed us both. While I can say the monstrously high blood pressure, low blood platelets, seizures, and failing kidneys are safely in my past, my son has had trouble shaking the monkey that is prematurity off his back.
In a sea of appointments with physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, with regular weight checks at the pediatrician thrown in, I have come to terms with the ever-growing likelihood that, while my son may catch up developmentally, he will always be small.
His birth weight was 3 pounds, 3 ounces, at 32 weeks and 4 days – tiny even for a preemie. We had to double-check the weight restrictions on our car seat before bringing him home from the NICU at nearly 3 weeks old because he was still not yet 5 pounds. I fortified my breast milk with high-calorie formula for the first 4 months of his life and still regularly walk out of the pediatrician’s office with boxes of Pediasure samples now.
To this day, I still feel a tremendous amount of heartache when someone misses his age by a long-shot or comments that their own child, a year or more younger, has already exceeded his weight. On the flip-side, when someone gets it right, recognizing that that 24 pound boy who still comfortably wears 18 month clothes and has wiggle room in his size 5 shoes is in fact 2 years old, I have to restrain myself from hoisting that person on my shoulders as if they won the World Series.
But in coming to terms with the fact that my son will always be small, I need to re-frame my thinking. There is little good that comes from me always being sad and wrought with worry. Every dark cloud has a silver lining, right? So here is my list of possible benefits to having a smaller child:
So there you have it. I will still get anxious whenever he doesn’t finish his lunch, but I know there will be no obstacle too big for my small, sweet boy – except maybe reaching that jar on the top shelf.