Sitting on a brightly colored mat covered with a white sheet, the physical therapist proceeded to set up a small table in front of She-Beat. On the table, she began placing objects: first a red cube, later a second, then a red hoop with string, next two Cheerios and finally a bell. After placing each object, she watches as She-Beat reaches for it, observes how she inspects it, grasps it, passes it from hand to hand. Grey is sitting behind her, giving her encouragement, asking her what she sees. All the while I sit apart and observe, holding my breath.
For the past 9 months I've though a lot about this appointment. I thought about it the day the Beats were born, which was 6 weeks too soon. I thought about it during our time in NICU, as the physical therapists there assessed them while in their isolettes, observed their growth progression and made note that we could be dealing with torticolis in the future. I thought about it again following She-Beat's frenotomy and then during the sessions with the cranialsacral therapist to correct for prematurity and the effects of the submucosal tie. And I thought about it during their first day of daycare, when I left them in the care of their teachers to interact with other infants, worrying if they were reaching the appropriate milestones and if all the work to overcome the effects of prematurity had simply been in vain.
Yesterday, Grey and I took the Beats in to the local children's hospital and had an appointment with a physical therapist. The purpose of the appointment was simple: how were they doing? Was the fact they were born premature hindering them in any way? So, like many parents with premies, we took them in. All the while running the worst case scenarios through our heads and wondering how we would survive the weekly PT appointments that we saw in our future. How would we afford this? How would we handle the schedule?
As the therapist worked, she noted that I was quieter than usual. Making small-talk, she commented on She-Beats new teeth (which she has happily shown off) and asked questions about what we were observing at home. After a few minutes, she turned her attention to He-Beat, who was sleeping. After switching babies and allowing He-Beat to orient himself, the whole process began again. The whole time, the therapist commented on how different they were from one another, how impressed she was with their ability to grasp objects. She noted their weights, their movements, their responses to their environment and us. And she laughed when it became clear He-Beat was flirting with her. "He's going to be trouble" she announced. Grey chuckled and responded "he already is."
In all, the whole appointment took 90 mins. Both babies were feed, played with and repackaged while she calculated the results of the assessment. Finally, the therapist turned her attention to Grey and me. And just when I thought my heart would jump out of my chest, she smiled broadly and spoke the word I worried I would never hear.
They are well within normal development range. The only prescription is tummy time and play. But there is no need for them to be seen again.
9 months ago, I held two tiny babies in my arms and cried while apologizing to them for failing them. I whispered between tears how much I loved them and promised to do all I could to help them overcome this. 9 months later, they showed Grey and me how incredibly strong and resilent they are. What fighters they have always been.
We've been cleared.