Sometimes you just see things coming. When I was a teenager I had a feeling that I was going to get into a bad car accident for six months before it finally happened (thankfully no one was hurt). In the summer of 2006 I swore off casual dating and met Nick a month later. And when I became a mother I was careful not to allow Jack to spend much time in what I called contraptions–bouncers, jumpers, walkers, and the like. I wanted him to spend most of his play time on the floor to encourage gross motor development. And wouldn’t you know that even with all that floor time my baby didn’t roll over until almost six months, didn’t sit unassisted until almost eight, and didn’t even army crawl until ten? He was almost one before he started crawling on hands and knees and pulling up to cruise along furniture and six months later that’s still as far as we’ve gotten. I anticipated that he would be a late walker but even I am surprised by how long it’s taken. The last time I mentioned it here he was 15 months and I was sure that his doctor would say it was nothing to worry about. I was wrong. She made a huge deal of it. I’d already told the nurse that he wasn’t walking yet, so I was surprised when the doctor breezed in and picked him up, saying that she wanted to see him walk to me from her. Uhhh, he doesn’t walk, I said. She told me in no uncertain terms that she wanted me to spend the next few weeks pushing him pretty aggressively to walk and call her if it didn’t work. She said, “He really should be walking by 15 months but I’ll give you a pass for 30 days.” She didn’t say what she would do if he wasn’t walking at the end of her grace period–maybe trade him in for a new baby? She also said that at our next appointment we’d discuss a game plan for dropping the pacifier because it needs to be gone by two. I smiled politely but inside I was quietly resolving to never see her again. We’ve disagreed on several issues before and what it all boils down to is that I don’t like being bossed around, which is what it felt like she was doing. Had she taken the time to tell me what could potentially cause a delay in walking, what her concerns were, and what she would suggest doing about it things may have gone differently, but I interviewed new pediatricians the next week and found one in the same practice that I took to immediately. She told me that some babies she would refer to our state’s early intervention program at 15 months and others she would wait on. Watching Jack move around the room she said that she would wait. I appreciated her individualized approach and the fact that she left the decision up to me. So we waited, but after a few more weeks I decided to have him assessed just for peace of mind. I figured it couldn’t hurt anything and we had nothing to lose–it was free. Just after Jack turned seventeen months a physical therapist came to our house and assessed him for developmental delay. As a social worker who assesses kids in their homes for behavioral health services all the time it was so weird to be on the other side of it as a recipient. The PT’s verdict: it’s not lack of confidence, skill, or motivation that’s keeping him from walking–it’s low muscle tone. He’s just not strong enough to stand on his own two feet without something to hold onto. Any number of things could cause it, from neurological conditions to nutritional deficits, but some kids are just born with it and we don’t know why (known as benign congenital hypotonia). It explains why he was slow to hit all of his gross motor milestones. It could even be related to the hip dysplasia that he had at birth. The good news is that it’s treatable. A physical therapist is going to start seeing him weekly at home after the holidays and in the meantime we’re doing lots of fun things to help him build muscle, like climbing the stairs (under supervision!), crawling over couch cushions on the floor, and bouncing on toys that he has to sit and balance on. We’re waiting to see a pediatric neurologist who will rule out all the scary stuff and let us know if there’s a cause we can treat (like a nutritional deficiency). Luckily, Jack isn’t showing any cognitive or social delays so hopefully with a little bit of PT he won’t have any lasting impact. I tell ya, this parenting gig is not always easy. I am so worried about him but I know we’re doing the best we know how.
In other news, we weaned from breastfeeding recently. He was down to just twice a day anyway and around 15.5 months I decided I was over it and stopped offering and by 16 months he was weaned! Breastfeeding is one of the only aspects of this whole pregnancy/parenting thing that has actually gone according to plan. I could not be more pleased with the experience.
Jack’s vocabulary has also been steadily increasing over the last few months and he now says about 15 words and understands many more. And, AND, I could never get the kid to sit still for a book when he was younger but he’s recently developed a love of literature. He even says book! Well, he says “booh-booh.” And he has a favorite, Rockabye Farm. My undergraduate degree is in English so you can understand how thrilled I am with this turn of events. Other favorite things include phones, balls, remotes, and food (the kid loves to eat, wonder where he got that from).
The last three months have been pretty stressful as anxiety over his lack of bipedal movement slowly mounted, but it’s nice to finally have something to do about it other than watching and waiting. The exercises are fun and it’s plain to see that he’s getting stronger every day. Hypotonic or not, I still think he’s a pretty amazing kid. He’s sweet, affectionate, funny, and smart. We are so lucky to be his parents.