Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

Still Playing Catch Up… And It’s Okay!

Two weeks before my preemie’s second birthday, I was chatting with a mom after story time, and I noticed her baby pulling up to stand and cruising around the library’s furniture. “Wow, look at him go!” I remarked. “How old is he?” I couldn’t help but ask. “Nine months. All my kids started walking at that age.” she marveled. I almost said, “my son just started pulling to stand too!” But I did not. I could not.

2nd birthday!

2nd birthday!

So many of you preemie moms tell me not to compare, but, I do! I can’t help myself. I am around other kids all the time. I work as a children’s librarian, and to see so many little ones who are half my son’s age and doing all the things I so badly wished he were doing is disheartening to say the least. It makes me want to go back in time and give that annoyingly perky developmental specialist we talked to in the NICU what for. She is the one who gave my husband and I the “they usually catch up by age 2” spiel. Maybe because our preemie was born at 29-weeks she assumed he would, but he has not.

He is not walking yet, which is his most obvious delay. He has been struggling with a gross-motor delay the most, but is still behind in his fine-motor development. He has a speech delay, but that is complicated by his cleft lip and palate. He also was recently given a cognitive evaluation by our early intervention program and he scored in the average/below average range. In addition to evaluations done by his physical, occupational, and speech therapists, he has been evaluated by a developmental pediatric specialist and neurologist. After an MRI showed nothing wrong – thank God – all of these specialists are now left scratching their heads as to why Ben has such significant developmental delays.

I am not scratching my head anymore, however. For the past two years, I did live with the hope that my preemie would be all caught up by his second birthday. Even when he was not rolling over or grabbing his feet by 6-months adjusted age or sitting independently by 16-months adjusted age, I thought the catching up would just happen all of the sudden. Guess what? It doesn’t. Will it ever? Maybe, but I will not allow myself to worry about it anymore. Nor should you if your preemie has not caught up yet! Ben has always done things in his own time and as every preemie parent comes to accept eventually: every child is different.

Way more fun than walking!

Way more fun than walking!

Recently, after receiving a kind comment from an expectant mom on one of my blog posts, I finally began to accept that Benjamin will be who he is meant to be. She had written how she believes her baby will be who he is meant to be. That really hit home with me. But it was not until I was driving home after picking up cupcakes to bring to Ben’s daycare the next day to celebrate his birthday that this acceptance fully hit me. Out of nowhere, tears just started streaming down my face, mainly because I felt such thankfulness to God that I was able to do something so normal for my preemie. Something that I never dreamed I’d be doing those early days in the NICU when he was fighting so hard just to stay in this world. And mixing with countless tears of gratitude were also a few tears of regret. Regret for the time I wasted dwelling on all the things Ben was not doing yet when I should have been enjoying all that he was, and is, doing. I mean, my preemie is 2 now! And as promised by every parent I know, the time has gone by so fast!

While all these doctors and therapists want to know why Ben’s developing so slow, I want to yell, “Time, slow the heck down, please!” Oh, and also assure them, my son will be who is meant to be. Just as your preemie will also be who he or she is meant to be, too.

Beth Puskas About Beth Puskas

Beth Puskas (NY) is a children's librarian and has one child, Benjamin, born by emergency c-section at 29-weeks after Beth developed severe preeclampsia in 2013. Ben also was born with a cleft lip and palate. He came home after a 68-day stay in the NICU and spent the next year having his cleft lip and palate repaired. Despite a global developmental delay, Ben is a thriving, happy, toddler who loves to laugh. Beth hopes to use her experience to help other families.


  1. Kimberly Burke says:

    Hi Beth-I wanted to thank you for your article. It hit home as I have identical twin daughters who at 27 months are not walking, truly crawling or speaking (they were born at 28 weeks crash c-section weighing 1.8lbs each). As you mentioned in your article I was told over and over again that “preemies usually catch up by the age of two.” Not so…at least not with my daughters. We have had many of the same issues…comprehensive developmental assessments amongst other things and everyone is scratching their heads as to why they are both so significantly delayed. I do worry all the time and cry a lot too especially when I have doctors telling me things that no one ever wants to hear. After reading your article I feel calmer and again I want to thank you for sharing. Your son Ben is beautiful and I know he will do things at his own pace as will my girls and honestly…that’s ok. 🙂 Lastly, I read in an article on this website someone saying “No milestone matters more than the fact that you lived” and I keep that statement close to heart.

    • Beth PuskasBeth Puskas says:

      Thank you, Kimberly! and, yes, the fact that they survived matters the most. So nice to hear from you 😉

  2. This really resonates with me. My son, former 26 weeker, will be two in early June and he is not walking or talking much. Given his extensive medical journey he is doing well but I compare and grieve that he isn’t doing what his peers can do. Funny thing is that it didn’t bother me until we started exposing him to peers very recently with the ending of viral season. I know that he will meet his developmental milestones but it will be in HIS time, not mine, not statitstical averages, not professionals’ estimates but his own, just like his birth! So I practice radical acceptance and patience over and over and over again!

  3. Great advice, Shoshana! Thank you so much for sharing with me and happy early birthday to your son!

  4. Thank you for sharing your story! Its touched on a few points which i realised I need to accept as well. Happy birthday to your beautiful boy x

  5. So happy to have found your story tonight. It is the night before my sons 2nd birthday and I was having the same conversation with my husband all week that the hardest part was in the NICU they always said they catch up by 2! And here we are and my 30 weeker has not caught up. I feel the same way that he was going to fast forward as he reached 2 and be walking and running around like all the other kids around us. Thank you for reminding me that they are all own their own journey and on their time. And that’s all it is, time. We need to have patience and remind ourselves how strong these babies are and how far they have come. Thank you!


  1. […] word “stuff” with a certain expletive. Even though I have already made peace with the fact that my preemie has not caught up developmentally yet, it still bothers me when people say such things and once again I have to […]

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