Flogging this blog with Where’s My Glow. Click the link and check out her post today. Too funny!
When I first met Rory, a minute after she was born, I was pretty confident that she had hung the moon. And the stars. Probably the sun and the clouds as well. This perfect being was my world. She was, so to speak, the bees knees in my eyes. She could do no wrong. My Bestie Amelia calls this “The Shine”.
As she grew older, the Shine continued to stay polished. She could still do no wrong. I still loved her to bits. In my eyes, she was the best baby ever.
I was consistently told that she was a bright, happy, beautiful, normal baby. Whenever someone said “normal” I wanted to point out that Roo was not just normal. She was particularly fantastic and “normal” was an insult, so special, precious and fantastic was my child.
By 3 months old, we had started Mother’s Group. I quickly found out that not only did every mother believe that their baby was the best baby ever, some mothers thought that their baby was the best baby ever AND better than my baby.
I had been introduced to the fickle, petty and downright nasty world of baby competition.
Roo was 2 months older than the baby closest to her age, and up to 4 months older than the others. We’d had a rough start with her being born out of town, and my trips back to the OASIS clinic (and yes, OASIS sounds nice, but actually stands for Obstetric Anal Sphincter InjurieS – Roo tore me not one, but two, new ones. And yet she still retained her Shine).
Being that little bit older, mothers began to set the benchmark for their own child’s behaviour at “what Rory was doing at that age”. Sweet, lovely, great to be asked all those questions and be treated like a
celebrity expert needed friend.
It wasn’t long, though, before the 2-4 month age gap meant less and less. Other babies began to catch Roo up in the development stakes. They crawled before she did. The climbed before she did. They spoke before she did. All of a sudden, it wasn’t enough that Roo was normal, happy, bright, social and could do the actions to “If You’re Happy and You Know It (clap your hands)”.
Other mothers began to compare their children to my bonnie babe and all of a sudden I noticed a shift in their speech patterns and questions.
It was no longer: “When did Rory start rolling?” It was: “Isn’t Rory standing, yet?” Like my child was developmentally delayed (that dirty word!).
All of a sudden I heard whispers around the group: I was holding Roo back by continuing to breast feed her (she was the only baby in our little group still breastfeeding at 9 months).
I was holding her back by using our Baba sling rather than letting her crawl around on the ground, or sit in her pram (for the record, I had both a pram and a carrier, and the carrier got much more of a workout until Roo was about 11 months old).
I mustn’t be reading to her enough.
I was giving her too many arrowroot biscuits (“No WAY would I pump my child full with BISCUITS” said the mother slyly to another as I was in that moment pumping my 9 month old child full of biscuits. She said this while passing her 7 month old straight fruit juice, mind you).
All of a sudden, Roo began to be referred to by other mothers as “perfectly normal” as if normal was a dirty word. Because their children were obviously trouncing Roo in the development stakes, so she must be “normal” because their children were obviously highly advanced in order to leap ahead of a baby 2-4 months older than theirs.
|Rory being normal…
I began to despise hearing the word “normal” said in such a way that it meant “delayed”. Normal became the new swear word in our house. I began to get competitive. I began trying to get Roo to “do stuff” because I thought maybe they were right. Maybe they WERE giving their child more attention (how can you give a child more attention that 100% of it, I don’t know, but I was convinced I was a bad mother). I found out I was pregnant with the twins and began to suffer migraines and fatigue that could fell a Spartan. I felt like the world’s worst mother for having a “normal” child.
How little I knew. How naive I was. How wrong my priorities were.
Yesterday, when the physio and the pediatrician and the NICU nurse and the medical students all lauded Oscar as “normal” my heart leaped into my throat and I did an internal happy dance (and possibly an external happy clap. Yes, I am a happy clapper. What of it?)
When my boys were born small, at 34 weeks, my life changed from worrying about other mothers to just hoping desperately that my children would be let out of hospital by their due date. When I changed my hopes from leaving hospital at the due date to just hoping Oscar would survive his heart surgery. When I changed my hopes from Oscar surviving surgery to recovering fully enough to not need another surgery. When I changed my hopes to just being able to be at home longer than two weeks without having to travel anywhere between 2-6 hours for a medical appointment. So many times my life, dreams, hopes and priorities have changed over the last 12 months.
Someone suggested that perhaps I have had to “lower my standards and my expectations”. I don’t think so. I think I have had to reassess reality.
At his 8 month corrected NICU follow up and developmental check, Oscar was assessed and pegged as being about one month behind the 8-ball. After three surgeries, low birth weight, low weight gains that I was told consistently would seriously affect his development; after all of that, he was only one month behind. I couldn’t have asked for better news.
At his 12 month check on Wednesday, we sat with two physiotherapists, one pediatrician, two medical students and a NICU nurse that cared for both my boys when they were born. They played with Oscar. Took his toys away. Showed him his own beautiful reflection. They checked his eyes, asked us questions about his speech, asked him to copy their sounds. They made him stand against a table, sit, roll and crawl. They walked him along the ground to check his feet. They encouraged him to hold his hands flat against a table. They asked him to swap a toy from hand to hand and then follow it (with eyes and body if he wished) as they moved it around the room. They weighed him. They checked his height, his weight and his head circumference. They listened to his heart (“No use listening in, there’s no murmur” said the pediatrician almost dejectedly to his medical students. I think they thought they were going to get a good teaching/learning opportunity out of my “heart” baby). And they did everything they could to make him smile, laugh and chatter. Oscar willingly obliged after checking for reassurance from Pal, Fraser and myself. Often he would search me out and tell me with his eyes: “Can you believe how ridiculous these people are Mum? You’d think they’d never met a baby before!”
And after all of this, they spoke to me about expectations and some kind of scale. And how Oscar was a 7. I
desperately hoped assumed they meant 7 out of 10. They did.
“A score between 6 and 9 is normal. And he is a 7. He is perfectly normal. We don’t even need to do a full scale Bayley’s Assessment (a much more in depth developmental assessment).”
And so I am pretty confident that Oscar has hung the moon. And the stars. Probably the sun and the clouds as well.
You see, after your child has been through 12 months of medical rig morale; once you have watched your child be administered medicine that stops him breathing so they can keep his heart pumping; once you see your 1.5kg baby pale and listless, sedated in the NICU surrounded by what seems to be hundreds of wires; once you have held your small, usually cheerful, baby as he cries as they hold an anesthetic mask over his face; once you just want him alive, healthy, able to play with his brother like a normal baby? After that, your attitude towards “just normal” changes.
Perfectly normal is practically advanced in this house.
Oh, for the record: The only way your child can be officially “advanced” is to get a score of 10. Out of 10. And you probably won’t get a “score” or assessment like this unless there’s been a problem. I mean, Oscar had to be born at 1.48kg and 34 weeks in order to get a you-beaut, sh-mick appointment at the NICU follow-up. Fraser didn’t even make the cut. So here’s the deal:
Unless your baby has been assessed, and got a perfect 10, then he or she is probably “just” normal. Comparing your child to another is useless. Because 6 is a normal, as is a 9. They’re all normal.
And you know what?
Perfectly normal is perfectly FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC.