It sometimes seems like a lifetime ago that we were finally coming home from the Ronald McDonald house in Stanford to a new (to us) home in Chico and life was becoming a new normal. It wasn't too long before the developmental therapists from our Far Northern Regional Center began to visit once a week. For Bean, it was play time - she got to play with different toys, sing songs and have someone devote 100% attention to her for an hour. She loved it. Our first therapist was pregnant and went on maternity leave...and we were sad. But, her replacement ended up being great as well and new toys were introduced and the attention was still there, so Bean still loved it. Watching the therapists was also a benefit to me. I learned the developmental milestones they were looking for, I learned the toys and activities that would help Bean reach those milestones and I soon acquired toys that worked on the same skills. I wouldn't say that I "worked" with Bean on the skills, but I definitely "played" with Bean in the hopes of her reaching her goals. And every report, she got closer and closer to her adjusted age (because of her being a preemie, she was adjusted to her gestational age).
Well, as Bean's third birthday draws nearer (how did that happen?), a bittersweet realization was reached last week as her latest evaluation was being performed. Bean has officially "caught up" - she is considered normal in almost all areas of development (she is a bit behind in fine motor skills and self-help skills, but these vary greatly by age, so it isn't considered to be a problem as long as they are close to their age)! At three, the Regional Center transitions clients into the local school district. But, we will not be transitioning because Bean is now not in need of additional services. I say bittersweet because the attention and the training was great to have. I think it really helped me help Bean and to cope with some of her challenges in a constructive way. I was not afraid to challenge her because I saw her being challenged by someone else and saw her enjoying the challenge. That confidence is harder to find on your own, I think. But, I am so very thankful that she has been able to catch up - physically (she is walking normally for her age and she is even on the growth charts for weight now - 3rd to 5th percentile), linguistically (she's actually ahead in this area - not totally shocking since her parents are debate coaches and she spent a considerable amount of time, once out of the hospital, at speech and debate tournaments and even a two week debate camp last summer), and developmentally. I hear/read so many stories from other families whose children are struggling because of their time in the hospital, their time on the ventilator and their time with a lack of full oxygenation from their heart problems. We have truly been blessed with Bean rebounding from all those things in a relatively quickly and almost surprising way. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
I can not believe that we came home from the Ronald McDonald house almost two years ago! Those first few months were a blur, but I still remember the incredible feeling of being able to dress Bean up in her flower costume and answer the door for Trick or Treaters in our own home:
In some ways, this seems like a lifetime ago - she has changed so much and done so much. But, in other ways, it seems like not that long ago. Last year, she traded in the flower costume for a cow costume and looked like this:
Kipper the Dog (who can resist that adorable British accent?). She loves to play games, has a memory like no other (much better than mine now, which seems to be going downhill fast), is fascinated by bugs, loves loves loves her Music Together classes ("Songs!" is her first demand upon arriving in her car seat), is outgoing to a fault sometimes (I think she has scared other little kids more than once by barreling up to them and saying "hello" or "hold hand" if they are older kids), would stay in a bathtub overnight if it was allowed (but would demand "more water" intermittently during the night), and has just discovered a love for KidsPark.
Overall, I would say we're living a pretty normal life considering our daughter has a heart from another baby beating inside her right now...she takes medications (only five now) three times a day, she has to have an echocardiogram done about every two months now (something I have never had done in my lifetime - and probably something most of you have not ever had done) and a heart catheterization done about every four months now (something which terrified me the first time she had it done, but has now become quite routine) and we have to be careful of germs, especially during flu season (and flu season cometh...very soon). Other than that, we're pretty run of the mill. And that normalcy is pretty much a miracle! Our miracle...