I never cared much about milestones with Peanut. She hit most every milestone right in the middle of the range. She rolled front to back at 5 months, sat unsupported at 6 months, popped her first tooth at the same time, and took her first steps on her 1st birthday. She slept six hours straight before 4 months. She wasn’t a prodigy, but she wasn’t behind. I thought I was pretty cool, being a mom who didn’t get “worked up over milestones.”
(By now I should know that any pride I have in myself as a parent is fleeting at best, and rightfully so.)
Then I had another baby. A little guy who marches to the beat of his own drum.
Squeak doesn’t sleep through the night (not by a long shot). He doesn’t gain weight like he should. He won’t eat solid foods (trust me, we’ve tried it all… purees, baby-led weaning, everything). At his six-month appointment, when the doc sat him up on his skinny little butt, he fell over like a wet noodle. I was devastated.
I’m sure moms have been comparing babies since the dawn of man:
CAVEWOMAN 1: (eyeing cavebaby #2) You baby too skinny. My baby fat. Fat mean long life. *grunt*
CAVEWOMAN 2: You baby fat, fat mean slow, get eaten by sabre tooth tiger. [mutters] Bitch.
But we don’t live in caves anymore. Instead, we have Facebook and Instagram to remind us what our babies aren’t doing that other babies are doing…. And doing sooner. (Hmm… I wonder if that’s what all those hieroglyphics were really saying, and we’ve just misinterpreted them all this time?)
Chickening out on Facebook
My insecurity really hit home on my little guy’s six-month birthday. I was about to post a photo of Squeak along with his stats: 14 pounds, 2 ounces, 28” tall – when I saw another mom post her kiddo’s four-month stats. My stomach dropped. He outweighed Squeak by five pounds.
I chickened out. I couldn’t post his weight — I’d look like I was starving him! Compared to that baby’s roly-poly arms and legs, my kid looked like an Ethiopian from a Sally Struthers commercial. All he needed was sad deploring eyes and a bloated stomach to complete the look.
I went ahead and posted the photo, leaving off Squeak’s weight, and instead made a vague comment about him being skinny. I didn’t want anyone to think I was a bad mom. Hell, I already think I’m a horrible mom. I must be – why else would my baby boy have fallen completely off the percentile chart for weight by his 7-month birthday? It must be my fault, right?
We started out well…then it all fell apart
My Squeaker didn’t start so tiny. He was 7 pounds, 7 ounces at birth, which is about 50th percentile. But by his 2 month well baby check, he was in the 10th percentile for weight. At the 4 month, we were still riding on the 10th percentile growth line, but at the 6 month appointment, we’d fallen down to the 3rd percentile. Squeak could roll from front to back, but had never rolled back to front. He was nowhere near sitting unsupported. Now the doctor’s face showed some worry.
We looked at supply issues, wondered if the slow gain was thanks to his repeated ear infections (he had tubes put in a few weeks later), but nothing pointed to a smoking gun.
The doc said give the kid boob whenever he wants it and keep trying on solids. For me, the official Late Night Watering Hole of our house, that meant my days o’ little sleep continued. *sigh*
We returned for a weight check one month later. He’d gained just 3 ounces, and now had dropped completely off the chart. I wanted to cry.
The pediatrician, who is awesome, reassured me as best he could. There are zero signs of a problem. No thyroid issues, supply problems, and his height is above average. His motor skills are developing normally (he was sitting unsupported by then).
Please don’t tell me my kid is tiny.
We’re trying everything to plump him up. I nurse him at least 3 times a night; we offer solids daily, but he’s uninterested. We went up a nipple size at daycare, so he’s eating 3-4 ounces more per day than before. Yet he remains a skinny wittle guy.
Despite the doctor’s vote of confidence, I’m still afraid that I’m doing something wrong.
When your baby is small, there are always comments. Squeak was in the high chair last month when a friend arrived for a visit. She walked in the door and said, “Oh my God, he’s TINY!”
I’m sure she meant exactly what she said: he’s small. She didn’t mean “Look how malnourished and undersized your child is, what the hell are you doing to him?!”
But that’s how it felt. I read way more into her innocent comment, because I doubt myself constantly (and this particular mom is someone I trust, so her opinion matters more than most).
That doubt is made all the more intense thanks to social media, where I see babies half his age that weigh more than him. Or a baby born 8 weeks after Squeak, sitting unsupported like a boss, when my baby is still keeling over 80% of the time.
Will this get any easier?
I’ve had a few weeks now to process all of this. I’m getting better at taking the comments at face value. He’s a little peanut of a baby, and that’s okay. Look on the bright side – being rail-thin will come in handy when he goes to college and gains 25 pounds thanks to a diet of Natty Lite, Gumby’s Pizza, and ramen noodles. (What? Doesn’t everyone do that?)
Being a parent is an exercise in self-doubt. Am I screwing up my kids permanently today, or just temporarily?
Probably neither. The milestones will come, even if it’s not on the same schedule as Peanut, or “the average baby.”
Little victories. Baby steps.
Earlier this week, my TimeHop app reminded me that Peanut, during her “happy seven months” picture in 2013, had rolled from back to front to prevent me from taking a decent photo. It was yet another jab at my underperforming baby, this time by myself-from-two-years-ago.
This morning, while I was changing Squeak, he reached for a toy that was just over his shoulder. Like he’d been doing it for ages, he rolled over onto his tummy. I got out the iPhone to get it on tape, and he did it again. Just like that.
Despite being skinny, he’s obviously doing just fine. Maybe the next milestone needs to be for me – letting go of the self-doubt.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Lisa Williams