Comparison is the Thief of Joy
Updated: Jan 31, 2021
We quickly settled into a routine that worked well for our family. Laila was growing and developing well, and I was adjusting to fewer hours of sleep and the constant attention she required. She was a happy baby and rarely showed signs of discontentment until she was hungry. If I wasn't quick to breastfeed on demand, she was not a happy camper and made it clear with her loud cries. It warmed my heart that she was doing so well after our NICU experience. She continued to amaze the doctors at each visit. Although she wasn't on the growth curve, she was steadily growing at a pace that they were satisfied with.
Part of our first few months also included monthly check-ins with a local early intervention program, Babies Can’t Wait, through our county’s health department. They called every month and asked a series of questions to determine if Laila was hitting milestones as expected. They were clear to explain that there was an adjusted age and an actual age. Her adjusted age factored in her prematurity and shifted developmental expectations to more closely fit where she should be had she been born full term. Thankfully, she was always on target and slightly beyond in some areas. Even still, I couldn’t shake the nagging concern that she was behind and wouldn’t be able to catch up. I wondered how she would adjust when it was time to go to school. Would she need special services to get her up to speed? I knew my fears were completely unwarranted because she was exceeding all expectations; however, I still found myself occasionally comparing her to other babies that I saw. Because she wasn’t in daycare, I didn’t have quite as many opportunities to ruminate on this.
We enrolled her in a music class at a local church when she was around 9 months old. I’m pretty sure the parents enjoyed it more than the babies did. I looked forward to the scheduled time to get out of the house and connect with other families in the area. I found myself explaining to the other mothers that Laila was born prematurely and that’s why she was so much smaller than the other babies. Not to mention that I am very petite so it’s no surprise that my child was not considered average size. I disliked that I felt as if I had to be in defense mode when it came to my baby’s growth and development. Of course, it was mostly my own insecurities manifesting themselves. Laila was doing just fine.
I finally came to realize that Laila’s journey was and continues to be unique and her prematurity is part of what makes her such a gift. Her presence is a testament to God’s grace. I can reflect on this in the present as well. Not only is she here, but she is doing well and living a full life. There are no lingering health challenges to navigate and those specialists' visits are no longer needed. Within the first year of life, she had caught up with her full-term peers. I still have moments when I compare her academic abilities with other classmates or when I wonder if I’m doing everything in my limited power to help her succeed. It’s at those times that I remind myself that God is in control of her life and that she is exactly where she is supposed to be.