“And Though She Be But Little…”

This kid is 3/4 of the way to being one year old.  She has resided in this world longer than she resided in my belly.  She’s full of love, this one.  Her smiles start in her eyes and end in your heart.  She gives the best, albeit wet, kisses on the cheek.  (The concept of closing her mouth has not been grasped, so all kisses are open mouthed kisses.)  She even has a love for the cats (a love so big she insists on grabbing a handful of them every time they walk by – I don’t think her love is reciprocated).

At her 9 month well check, she weighed in at less than 13 pounds, which is even less than I thought she weighed.  Y’all, I promise I feed this kid, but she is determined to stay small.  Sometimes I’m ok with her being this tiny.  Like when we went to a mommy/baby workout class and I had to wear her the entire time.  I was thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t working out with a 20-something pound baby strapped to me.  And man oh man is she easy to pick up in the middle of the night when I’m half asleep and have absolutely no strength.  But I feel like her tiny size is starting to become a hindrance.  It’s hard for a baby to develop and reach certain goals when she’s half the size she’s supposed to be.

We started therapy with a generalized specialist, and she asked us if Avalynn was doing certain things such as grabbing a toy in each hand, pulling up, eating table food, etc.  It’s always hard to admit your child can’t do things that she should be doing at her age, but it’s a different kind of difficult when you think she’s perfectly capable of doing those things, but she’s too small to accomplish them.  For example, Ava plays with all sorts of different toys, but she doesn’t really play with more than one at a time because her little hands are too small to hold a toy in each hand.  We have some small blocks that she loves to play with (by play with, I mean knock them all in the floor), but she can barely hold onto them.  She can just grab the corner of them, but her grip loosens pretty quickly.  She does try to feed herself with her spoon, and she’s done pretty good so far, but it’s hard for her to pick up individual pieces of food when she can barely see over the tray on her high chair.  As far as standing up, she can pull up just fine when I offer my hands, but I honestly think she’s just too short to reach any type of furniture to pull up on.  And she’s to be measured on these tasks the same as her “normal-sized” peers?

There’s a chart that I saved on my phone and would stare at from time to time.  It showed certain milestones and what age range both Down syndrome and typical children should meet them.  I found the chart when I was pregnant, and if I ever started to wonder about when to expect certain milestones to happen, I would study the chart.  I started following several Instagram accounts of people who had children with DS.  I would scroll through their pictures to find when their child started walking, figure out how old they were, and compare that to the chart.  Then when she was born and started to roll over earlier than expected, I pulled up the chart and began to wonder what other milestones she might meet early.  I became attached to this chart.  It was my lifeline when I started to worry.  I’m a person who relies on facts and schedules, and as long as I knew when to expect certain things to happen, I felt grounded.  Then one day when I was staring at my beloved chart, I realized that the Down syndrome age ranges for these milestones was ridiculously wide.  It said the range for children with DS to walk was 1-4 years.  1 to 4 YEARS! How was that even something they could call average when it was so broad?  Then I started to look closer at the typical age ranges.  While they weren’t quite as large, there was still a pretty large gap.  9-18 months to walk alone.  1-3 years for a first word.  Obviously, I had seen the statistics before, since I studied this chart night and day, but it was just now that I realized this chart held no significance.  If these “average” ranges were so broad, then why even pay attention to it?  All babies, typical and DS, will hit milestones in their own time.  If it is “normal” for Ava to walk between the ages of 1 and 4, then why should I stress about trying to get her to walk right this minute?  She’s got time.

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So yes, her size makes me worry a bit about her milestones.  But am I stressing about it?  I’d say no.  Avalynn is her own person, and she will meet them eventually.  In the meantime, I will do what I can to help her to make up for her lack in size.  I will shower her with love and encouragement.  I will try to keep the cats out of her reach for as long as possible.  And I will celebrate each day as it comes.

P.S. Anyone wonder why babies feel the need to slap whatever they’re close to?  Cuz I’m wondering that right now.

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