Surreal. It’s the best word to describe this moment as I walk around in a happy daze, teary eyed thinking about all that my child has accomplished. This week, Peyton achieved something we never expected: graduation day from therapy. For the average person, that may not seem like much. For a parent of a preemie or a child with disabilities, it means the world.
When my triplets were first born, there was a lot of uncertainty. We had already lost our first child, Abigail, and we were faced with the reality that survival was extremely slim for our remaining two children. During our stay, I remember the doctors and nurses often telling me that years later, the setbacks and early health issues will just be a blip in the road. It was hard to believe that as I watched my daughter face an uphill battle.
Therapy started within the first few days of life for Peyton. There were concerns about one of her tiny fingers and that led occupational therapists to construct a makeshift splint. At just over a pound, there was nothing small enough, so they improvised. As the weeks and months passed, more therapists began to work with Peyton in the Nicu. OT worked on strengthening her petite body, while speech therapists taught her to eat and not rely on a feeding tube.
When we arrived home about four months later, the therapy sessions increased. Several specialists worked with Peyton on a weekly basis at our home. It was a lot of therapy for such a small, high-needs child. In the early days, there wasn’t much they could do. I wondered whether it was even worthwhile because Peyton was more like a blob, unable to sit up or do much of anything. But, little did I know, the simple activities and exercises, worked wonders for my child. She didn’t start crawling until 17 months old and didn’t start walking until close to two years old, but her therapists kept reminding me that each child goes at their own pace. None of Peyton’s therapists had ever worked with a child born so premature. As a 22 weeker, there are very few survivors, which means there are very few statistics on what the quality of life could be for a child born that early. Peyton was going to develop at her own pace and all of us were along for the journey, whatever that may be.
I don’t think any of us thought we would be saying farewell to therapy any time soon. Yet here were are, just two weeks before Peyton’s 3rd birthday, and my child is living up to her miracle status. It didn’t happen overnight, instead, it took hundreds of hours of hard work and a huge support team. Therapists, our amazing nanny (who has a background in teaching) and my husband and I spent a lot of time working with Peyton. Thanks to the help of our therapists, we learned fun activities and games that would help with Peyton’s motor skills, her strength and speech. She had no idea that we were doing work because it was so much fun! Over the years, Peyton has become the poster child for “Early Intervention” services. She’s living proof that a little hard work, with the support of family, can help a child overcome their delays.
As I watched Peyton’s therapists leave our home for the last time, my emotions got the best of me. I cried as I looked back at when the therapists first met our family and the uncertainty of Peyton’s future. I thought about the milestones we celebrated together over the years and I reminisced about the recent months when we all realized that Peyton was making major strides. While this one chapter may be closing, it’s not the end of our story. Peyton is fierce and full of sass. She’s determined to succeed in everything that comes her way and we can’t wait to see what her future holds. Those busy days will now be an empty slate, allowing Peyton to explore the world as a typical toddler.