I've never parented a premature baby before.
I knew -- intellectually -- that preemie development is assessed based on how old they "should" be, rather than how old they are. So, even though it's been a little over 3 months since M was born, her "adjusted" (or "gestational") age is 1 month because she was 9 weeks early.
So, I knew that she would probably roll over, crawl, babble, walk, talk and so on about 2 months later than is typical.
Notice how those are big milestones for later?
I used to tell people that the first 6-8 weeks are the hardest part with a new baby. Once they hit 8 weeks, in my experience, things sort of fall into place. They develop a little more of a personality, they fall into a more predictable schedule, their needs are more clearly established. Guess what else is taking a little longer for preemie M?
Truth be told, she is doing terrifically well from a developmental perspective. (So much so, that I sometimes wonder about the accuracy of her supposed due date.) She's holding her head up well, she pushes her shoulders off the ground during tummy time, she occasionally bats at toys hanging in front of her. We usually get at least one 6-hour stretch between feedings at night; when she does wake up in the night, it's usually eat and go back to sleep in 30 minutes or less. She's outgrown the "newborn" size clothing and is fitting into the 0-3 month sizes well.
But she is still mostly just eating and sleeping. She'll have two or three stretches during the day where she stays awake for an hour or two. She reacts to loud noises, but doesn't seem to turn towards a voice or respond to a face much. That's all OK, because she's still just (developmentally) 1 month old. As I think about it, I guess that I would say her gross motor skills are probably on track for her chronological age, but her social development is still at her adjusted age. Interesting that it can work that way.
It's funny being out places with her. People will ask, "Oh, how old is your baby?" and I say "3 months." If they look puzzled or startled, I will explain that she was 9 weeks early. I had my first experience of someone asking if she was breastfed yesterday. (I said "No, she's on special high-calorie formula.") It's hard not to justify myself, because I was obsessive about nursing my own biological children, but I remind myself that it's really not the business of this total stranger in line at the dry cleaners.
I'm hoping that we will soon be past the magic 6-8 week mark when I start to feel a little bit more like I know what I'm doing and less like I'm stumbling from one feeding to the next.