The evening before my daughter’s 15-month well baby visit, I sat down at the computer to fill out an online questionnaire that her pediatrician’s office requested. As I worked through the form evaluating her developmental milestones, I started to worry. I hadn’t been worried. In fact, I was excited for this appointment. I felt she was thriving—growing well, starting to talk, feeding herself, and identifying all kinds of things. I was fairly certain she was on track with most of her milestones. But, this form shook that confidence.
After completing the form, I texted a friend who has a daughter six months older than mine. We talked through a bunch of the questions and the response choices, and she told me the problem was the form, not my daughter. We commiserated about how visiting the pediatrician always feels like a judgment on our parenting, and I felt mostly better by the time my husband came home from work.
The next day at the appointment, I mentioned my concerns about the form to the pediatrician. She told me that I was the second family to raise concerns about the form that day. She wrote a note and said she’d be talking to the administration about clarifying some of the wording. As we walked through my responses, she assured me that my daughter was exceeding her milestones for 15-months–all but her gross motor development, which we’ve known was lagging since she was about six months old.
When we made an appointment to have our daughter, “Stitch,” evaluated by early intervention at six-months-old, she wasn’t rolling over much or sitting up on her own. By the time her appointment rolled around, she was sitting up on her own. They agreed that she was lagging a bit in her gross motor development, but she was still within the normal range and didn’t qualify for services. They gave us some exercises to work with her on and told us to call them back if she wasn’t walking at 18-months. So, walking at 18-months has been my measuring stick.
The pediatrician agreed that we could wait until 18-months to call early intervention again, but said if at any point I changed my mind to go ahead and call them. I left with my confidence back intact.
About a week later, we went to a BBQ. The first question out of just about everyone’s mouth was, “Is she walking yet?”
I became a broken record. “No. She’ll walk when she’s ready.”
And then the advice and commentary would pour out of their mouths.
“She should be walking by now!”
“Well, if you’d put her down, she’d learn how to walk,” and, “You shouldn’t hold her so much,” both said while Stitch was sitting on the floor, independently playing with bowls, wooden spoons, and measuring cups.
“You have to MAKE her walk.” Right. Uh, huh. That’s how this works. I’ve been doing it wrong! I just have to make her walk. Why didn’t I think of that?
I just kept telling each very well-meaning person, “She’ll walk when she’s ready,” even though I felt so judged. At one point I even threw in, “Her pediatrician isn’t concerned, so neither are we.” Then I escaped to text the same friend who talked me off the ledge over the horribly written online form for the pediatrician.
I really do know that they meant well. They were just making conversation. While there is a wide range of normal when it comes to developmental milestones, I recognize that people think all babies walk around the age of one. But it felt a bit like an attack–especially, as it came from each person who walked through the door, some of whom I barely knew.
The situation frustrated and exhausted me. They were commenting on something I was already somewhat concerned about, something that has been on my radar since she was six months old. Even after I calmed down, I found my confidence shaken again.
Another month has passed. My 16-month-old gets around by butt-scooting through the house. Quite frankly, it’s adorable, and it works for her. Why crawl? This way, her hands are free to carry her favorite things. I butt-scooted too, and so did several of my cousins, and we all eventually walked. But, the lag is starting to weigh on me more and more. I had hoped that a week of vacation with her cousins would motivate her to be more on the move, to start pulling herself up on furniture, but she doesn’t seem interested. My husband keeps asking, “When do we need to worry?”
Thing is, we worry. We always worry. Parents, in general, worry. But, as loss parents, we worry more. We are hyper-vigilant. We know the stakes, and we ere on the side of caution for just about everything. Since my body didn’t protect my son, it’s taken work to trust myself and my instincts again. My confidence can be easily shaken when I’m getting feedback that counters my mama instincts. Apparently, I’m incredibly vulnerable when my instincts are countered, whether by a form or people at a BBQ.
Our daughter is perfect: funny, smart, adorable, charming, and pretty easy going. She will walk when she’s ready. I’m a good mom, and, when I listen, my instincts are pretty good too. Together, along with my husband, we’ll get her anywhere she needs to go. The worry is always present. I try not to let it rule our lives. But, sometimes, worry is appropriate. I need to find the confidence to trust that I’ll know the difference.