When I found out that I was pregnant I thought that it would be comforting to go through the process with my friends who were also expecting their first babies. However, I soon realised that this would not be the case after my 20 week scan. I was the furthest along in my pregnancy so my scan was first. Although I knew that the point of the scan was to see if there was anything wrong with the baby, I never for one minute expected that they would find anything. So when they told me that one of my baby’s kidneys had not formed properly, it hit me really hard.
Although together, my husband and I dealt with this, I then had to listen to all my friends tell me how well their scans had gone and how perfect their babies were. I can honestly say that I was happy for every single one of them, but each time I couldn’t help the pang of jealousy that stalked me. Why did there have to be something wrong with my baby? Luckily, five days after Mia was born, she had a scan and the damage was nowhere near as bad as first thought and no action apart from being monitored was required. Now we were just a normal family like everybody else and everything was going to be straightforward from now on, wasn’t it?
I couldn’t have been more wrong. When Mia was one, I started to become concerned about the rate of her development. Everybody at work was talking about how their little ones were trying to walk and how soon they thought it would be before they took their first steps on their own. I used to sit and listen with a fake smile plastered all over my face. Mia was not taking any interest in trying to walk, wasn’t trying to pull herself up on the furniture and had only recently started crawling. Oh my word, we tried. We walked and walked. Up and down, up and down. But no, we weren’t making any progress. She could only walk if she was pushing her walker or if we were holding her hand. The one thing that did change was her attitude. Most of the time she had not been bothered about walking but now, the look of determination on her face made me so proud, but also added to my frustration.
What was I doing wrong? What had the other mums done that I hadn’t? I felt like everybody was judging me, especially when around other children. Mia was also very tall and so looked much older than she was. So when people saw this ‘big girl’ crawling round I can only imagine what they must have thought.
Determined to get to the bottom of things and with a new found hope, I put my giant child into her pram and walked up to the local children’s centre to consult with our local health visitor. I explained my concerns, but nobody took me seriously; they didn’t even examine Mia, they just told me that she would walk when she was ready. I didn’t buy it. I saw the determination in my little girl’s face and I knew she wanted to do it but something was stopping her. A couple of weeks later she was reviewed by her paediatrician and I saw this as a good opportunity to raise my concerns. Within minutes Mia had been diagnosed with low muscle tone and very flexible joints. This was why she was having difficulty walking and we found out that it might also impact her ability to speak.
This was good news in that she could now have physio, but we also worried about the effect on her development. As far as walking was concerned, we shouldn’t have worried. The day the appointment came through for physio was the day she just got up and walked across the room. Nothing has stopped her since. We know she will never be a marathon runner, but in the playground she can run round with her friends and that is good enough for me.
So, time to relax and enjoy being a mum. Wrong! The new craze amongst the mums was how many words little Bertie could say or how far Jemima could count. Give me strength. But Mia was just grunting, followed by pointing. I just wanted to cry. It felt like all my friends were sailing through parenthood the very same way that they sailed through their pregnancies. We, on the other hand, were having to fight to get Mia to where she needed to be. Not a week went by without a trip to the hospital for a review, or speech therapy or physio. What were we doing wrong? Nothing! That is what we now know. These things just happened and at the time were difficult. Slowly we started to win our battles. Mia was walking and made such good progress that she was quickly discharged from physio, partly because of the hard work we had done with her.
It was not all plain sailing from this point, but every day we started to make progress. She started school nursery and although we knew that she was behind the other children because of the low muscle tone we still worried. But, as Mia blossomed and grew, the worries lessened with every day. Whatever difficulties we would face, we were witnessing the development of our beautiful, happy and ultimately, healthy child. Whenever the doubts or worries started to creep in we had the benefit of a wonderful support network. My mum would always make me look at Mia and put things into perspective. Our paediatrician reassured us that we were raising a happy, confident, pleasant child and that always felt good.
Then the unexpected happened. Parents’ evening. My little trooper, in less than a year, had moved to top of the class and was making massive progress. I no longer worry about what other people’s children can or cannot do, or assume that every time we have a bad day that it is because I am a bad parent. My best friend put it perfectly when she told me, “When she goes to university, nobody is going to ask how old she was when she took her first steps or when she said her first words.”