Thursday, August 21, 2014

The dangers of milestones

Life is a changing in these parts, with lots and lots of drama to keep Grey and me occupied. The whole family has been sick for the past 2 weeks, resulting in two separate visits to the ER for ear infections and a diagnosis of bronchitis for me (and a prescription of codeine to help me sleep). In addition, with Fleur's pending eviction, the police have been coming to our property more and more. It's a stressful and sad situation. Not to mention something that is completely preventable. But mental illness is a complex issue and one that is draining even with people who are actively seeking help. I need to write more on this, as Fleur's deterioration has truly been terrible to witness, but that post needs some more time to craft.

In the meantime, there's another concern.

I wrote before about milestone anxiety and how stress-inducing it can be to listen to all the milestones other children the same age are achieving. With He-Beat, even though he is completely on track, I've sensed this one-upmanship that can happen in passing conversation. It's never meant to be malicious as parents are simply expressing pride in what their children are doing. But I've seen first-hand the moment where one parent in going on about all the amazing things their baby/toddler is doing, failing to notice the down-casted eyes of the other parent (usually a mom). The look of worry that falls over that parent's face that their baby hasn't achieved "X."

And with that worry can come shame; a concern that they aren't doing the right thing.

In a lot of ways, milestone anxiety and TTC anxiety are the same. During my first year of TTC, just prior to diagnosis, I spent a lot of time on TTC forums where women stressed endlessly about achieving pregnancy. It amuses me now to think about on all the "helpful advice" from those who easily achieved pregnancy about how to knock yourself up. Everything from relaxing to various combinations of royal jelly and vitamin B to even suggestions of prescribed headstands. Never mind the fact that biology is a complex and reproduction is still a poorly understood phenomenon. Nope, these women knew the answers. What they failed to understand, though, was how shaming that advice could be. I remember stressing so much about the fact that I wasn't doing things right. That somehow I was screwing everything up. As I put myself through the ringer for regiments and supplement cocktails, it wasn't long before I was becoming frustrated with how hard I was working for nothing.

It wasn't until later that I learned that infertility wasn't due to something I was doing wrong. It was a biological problem that required help. Somehow we got lucky to figure out what the problem was and pursuing a treatment that allowed me to bring my Beats home. But it took years to get to a point where I could look at those women who supposedly had the answers and not feel immense anxiety or shame. To know that though they thought they were helping, they were actually the last thing people I needed to be listening to.

The recent round of anxiety is due to She-Beat not moving. After months of tummy time, working with her on positioning herself to crawl and working on standing, she seems to have zero interest. In all other aspects, my sweet girl is excelling. She drinks solely from a sippy cup (bottles only in the morning and at night), feeds herself, has excelled at fine motors skills, babbles up a storm and is very social. But she's not crawling. And she's scheduled to be transitioned to the toddler room on Monday, joining her brother and all the other babies she has grown with.

All of us are worried that she'll be mowed over.

On one hand, this transition could be a very good thing. Both her doctors and her teachers believe it may be a motivation issue. Yes, all babies develop differently with some babies not even crawling until 12 months. And yes, where some excel, others take longer. It could simply be that She-Beat has been focusing her time on other milestones and that gross motor is something that she'll develop when she's ready.

But my time in the trenches also taught me a valuable lesson: some things shouldn't be hard. That if your gut is telling you something is off, it's worth pushing for help.

Yesterday this article in Slate brought me to tears. As the author talked about how her daughter's delay was causing her to see her child in a negative light, I sobbed over the realization that those feelings of frustration were starting to surface with She-Beat. I don't want to feel that way about my daughter. She is such a light in my life and amazingly beautiful soul. I don't want to be at a point where all of that deteriorates because she's not reaching this milestone. The stress and anxiety are just not worth it.

Over the past few days, I took some steps. I unsubscribed from BabyCenter and their stress-inducing milestone emails. I also contacted her pediatrician and after a longish conversation with the nurse got a referral for her to be seen again by the physical therapist she saw in April. We have an appointment in a couple of weeks, which Grey is insisting he be included in. I also have been talking with her teachers and we are formulating a game plan for moving forward.

And, finally, I made a decision to embrace the positive that is there with my daughter. To make sure that in the evenings when we play together and read together before bed to focus on how hard she is working and focus on the amazing things she is doing. Part of this means that I will also be taking a break from blogs that post milestone updates. It's not that those authors are doing anything wrong, but just as bump-updates were a trigger during my darkest moments in the trenches, so too are these posts likely to be difficult.

Two weeks until the PT appointment. Two weeks to begin making all these changes. The new motto: no shame.


  1. It sounds to me like you have everything in place for her to be successful. I think all the feelings you are experiencing are completely normal human reaction and emotion to a situation like this. I hope you are able to get some comforting answers and Miss She-Beat shows everyone how capable she is :) only on her terms.

  2. I love the motto! No Shame!! I have gone through similar worries with Cadet. For a while there, it was really hard to be around other kids Cadet's age. I was constantly comparing what he could do to others. It wasn't healthy. I did the same thing you more BabyCenter e-mails, and just focus on him. You're doing a great job!! (((HUGS)))

  3. I think going with your gut is the most important thing and April was a long time ago! Good job for fighting for another assessment. I totally get how you can become obsessed with the one thing that is the problem. For us it was feeding and it dictated my mood every single day! Walking was also super slow. I think focusing on everything else will help you and your daughter, especially if it's a motivation issue.

  4. I'm a first-time commenter but I wanted to applaud you for following your gut. My younger daughter, now seven, was slow at every milestone. She wasn't even holding her head up at 9 months old, let alone sitting up or crawling. She was a full-term baby who only weighed 5lbs 2oz at birth. She spent eleven days in the NICU and all her doctors insisted there was nothing wrong with her, that she would catch up. But she didn't. Finally, when she was a year old and still not sitting on her own, I insisted on a referral to a physical therapist. She ended up in PT, OT, ST and DT. Finally, at two years old, she was diagnosed with a very rare chromosomal disorder called 5p- syndrome (aka Cri du Chat.) I don't tell you this because I think your daughter has anything wrong with her. I tell you this because I think it's important for mom's to follow their instincts. Your daughter will probably catch up and do all things in her own time but physical therapy certainly can't hurt.

    My daughter did finally sit on her own at 13 months, crawl at 17 months and walk at 29 months. She runs, climbs and reads at an accelerated level now but I don't think she'd be doing any of these things as well as she is without therapies.

    My older daughter crawled at six months and walked at ten and a half months, but if you average my kids' milestones together, we're still on the very low end average, so I've learned not to compare or to take any credit at all for what my kids can do. These things are their accomplishments, not mine.

    Sorry for the book, just wanted to give you kudos for being an amazing mom.

  5. I think getting a PT appointment is a great idea, if nothing but for your peace of mind and to learn other techniques to help her be motivated. Just as a "been there" story - my nephew didn't crawl until after a year and he wasn't a premie) and didn't walk until after 18month. His docs called him a "lazy baby" -- he literally just wasn't motivated to move, but he's a totally healthy, crazy, running everywhere 2 year old now.

  6. Both of my twins have been on the later end of gross motor milestones - Miles just started walking a couple weeks ago at about 14.5 months. At a little over 15 months, she is still not walking. Kudos to you for going with your gut - we all need to do that more.

  7. I read that same article and remember thinking that could easily be me, I'm such a perfectionist and used to overachieving in (mostly academic) areas. I thought it was a great read and a real eye-opener. Some kids just do things in their own time, not on our schedules.

  8. I can totally see the parallel between TTC & milestones. I'm glad you are listening to your intuition & doing what's best for you and your daughter. It's so frustrating how competitive women can be when it comes to babies - making & raising them.

  9. No shame. Good for you!

    And She-Beat sounds wonderful. But I know you know that.

  10. I know you have written before about worrying about the twins meeting their milestones on time. Good for you for taking action. Even if your little girl is absolutely fine (just a little late) some PT can never hurt!
    I wonder since you are a scientist and a biologist whether it would be helpful to keep in mind that these milestones are just the average of the healthy population and the variance in each of the traits might be quite high... I totally don't mean this to sound condescending if you do already think of this-- but sometimes scientist-moms respond well to these sorts of logical mantras!
    I so hope your little girl is fine fine-- keep us posted.

  11. My two year old didn't walk until he was 18 months AND is delayed in his speech. He got referred to early intervention, and his gross motor has picked right up. He's still getting services in speech and I pushed to now get him private speech therapy as well. I can tell it is helping. Everyone develops on their own schedule but if some intervention helps lesson a child's frustration, it's wonderful! You're not alone!

  12. How's she doing? I recall a baby of my acquaintance who caused much anxiety because she hadn't started crawling. She didn't spend much time crawling -- but once she managed to start pulling herself erect, she was walking in no time flat. Maybe a little later than some of the other babies, but not that far behind. (((hugs)))


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