Any time a mother of a child with additional needs or a mother of a premature baby asks if I have any advice for them I ALWAYS say “don’t compare”.
Something I wish I had followed myself when my son was younger.
It’s something we all do when we have a child, you look up what they should be doing developmentally for their age and compare your child to what you are told is “normal” for them to be able to do.
You look at your friends’ babies or babies of mothers who you maybe go to groups with or your online birthing board and compare your child with others the same age. There’s always one who claims that their child is sitting up and talking in 3 different languages by 4 months old isn’t there!
All joking aside though, it’s something that can really make a mother feel low and doubt herself.
When my son was born over 9 weeks early I knew straight away that he would take a bit longer than a child who was born full term and I was constantly told by various different people that I was to go by his “corrected age” for milestones, so base development as if he was born on his due date.
I tried so hard to do this but I have to admit, I constantly compared him to other children, I seen other babies smiling at 4 weeks old and I longed for that little smile back at me for so, so long. When he did finally give me that first cheeky little grin at around 15 weeks old I think I actually cried, it was the most amazing thing! I was reassured.
Yes, he was born early and I’ve nothing to worry about... So, I stopped comparing for quite a while but it all started back up again when he was nearly a year old and still not sitting up, not even close.
Even going by his due date age this was considered “late” for this milestone and then when I really thought about it, he wasn’t doing quite a lot of things that I had read and been told he should be doing by this age, he wasn’t rolling over, he couldn’t play with his toys well as his hands were always clenched, he didn’t attempt to army crawl or anything like that.
Panic started. Why is he not doing these things? What’s wrong? Any time I mentioned it to people I was told things like
“Oh, there’s nothing wrong with him, I can tell by just looking at him!”
“Don’t worry, he’ll catch up soon”
“He’s just taking his time, he had a hard start, honestly ALL babies get there eventually”
Deep down I just knew, my mother’s instinct was telling me something different and I just couldn’t wait and do nothing about it. That is the day that my confidence and determination to get answers grew to a point where I never thought possible!
I had always been someone who was shy and quiet... This person had been replaced by a fighter. And I really did have to fight, but we eventually got the answers we were waiting for.
He had an MRI scan which showed something called PVL and he was diagnosed with quadriplegic cerebral palsy and he may NEVER sit up or walk. Now that, I don’t believe. But I’ll write about that another day!
Honestly, even now, I still find it hard sometimes when I see babies years younger than my son achieving milestones that he’s yet to achieve. I put on a brave face but often get a bit of a lump in my throat when I see that he’s still not doing these things.
However, I just need to look at him to see how far he’s come, he’s even more determined than I am to reach his goals and the amount of hard work he puts into physiotherapy each day is inspiring, plus he has the BIGGEST smile I’ve ever seen on someone.
He has already proved professionals wrong by reaching so many milestones that once seemed impossible.
I wish I hadn’t compared him to other babies/children so much when he was younger but maybe if I didn’t then I wouldn’t have gotten the answers we needed when we did, or maybe I would. I’m not sure.
One thing I will say though is if you do compare then just don’t let it take over your life, enjoy the moment, enjoy the journey, even if it’s a tough one then make sure there’s good times too because there’s nothing more valuable than smiles and laughter in life.