This is a question that probably goes through every NICU parent's mind. A NICU stay is never in the plans of expecting parents and often challenges parents to think about other future unknowns. As a former NICU Mom, I think a better question to ask may be "Can a premature baby grow into his or her own full potential?" With the right supports in place, the answer is, absolutely, yes!
Every preemie who spends time in a NICU is unique and, therefore, their journey home may also continue in a "non-traditional" way. Premature babies, especially ones that experience lengthy stays in the NICU, may exhibit growth and development which looks much different to that of their full-term peers. This is why it is so important for parents to attend all developmental follow up clinics and take advantage of free programs offered in their communities such as Help Me Grow.
Having experienced two lengthy NICU stays with my own sons, I can see the benefits of having a "second pair of eyes" keep track of developmental milestones post-discharge. The first two to three years of life are crucial to catching any type of delays in motor or cognitive development. The sooner interventions are put into place, the better chance any long-term deficits will be minimized.
As a former NICU parent, I appreciate the time, effort and resources it takes to keep these once fragile NICU babies moving forward to reach their full potential. I have seen both ends of the spectrum with one son who is now considered a typical child and another who still has developmental challenges. It is important for parents who have children with disabilities to remember that their child has already overcome obstacles and achieved many goals that most typical peers will never experience. Therefore, making any comparisons will only lead to frustration.
Instead, I have learned to celebrate every milestone, accomplishment or skill no matter how small or in what timeline of development. As parents, we had to let go of who we thought or pictured our son to be and instead embracethe person he was meant to become. Life can and should be lived to the fullest for all children. With commitment and focus, parents can help their premature babies definitely grow into his or her own unique full potential, which is the ultimate goal for any kid.
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