I’ve lost count now of the number of people to tell me my 22 month old daughter will, “Just get up and walk on her own”. Or that she’s, “Just too lazy at the moment”. Or that she, “Just doesn’t have any interest in walking yet”.
It turns out they’re all wrong.
No matter how well meant these pieces of advice were, they were misplaced.
When you have a child who doesn’t walk, everyone is eager to put your mind at rest. It’s a kindness. It seems that we all know someone who knows someone else who knows someone else who had a late walker. A late walker who just, suddenly, got up one day and ran across the room. (My own husband is one of these miracle children, afterall.) The result can be the false illusion that, actually, it’s totally normal for a child of 22 months not to be walking.
But this is a bit of a fib really.
Because now – finally – we have a clear diagnosis for our non-toddling toddler. She is not “just” anything. It’s nothing to do with laziness or disinterest or lack of willpower. It’s nothing to do with her mental development either. It’s nothing that will suddenly, miraculously, cure itself.
Our daughter has hypermobility syndrome. The hypermobility is exaccerbated by the fact she had correctional talipeze when she was born. We thought this issue had resolved itself, so that her once wonky newborn feet wouldn’t be an issue for her later in life.
As gorgeous as these feet once were….
…they didn’t just correct themselves.
Various milestone checks with GP’s and health visitors told us there was nothing to worry about.
The fact our baby wasn’t steadily sitting unaided at nearly 9 months was shrugged off as, “No big deal”. The fact she didn’t crawl properly until she was 13 months was put down to the fact she was, “Concentrating on her language development instead”.
The thing is, all of these reasons for the lateness in our daughter reaching her physical milestones (in some cases up to 6 months after her peers) could easily have been explained away in a number of ways. I explained them away myself, determined not to enter some kind of baby race competition. I was Earth Mother. Relaxed Mother. I refused to be Paranoid First Time Mother.
I wish I had been Paranoid First Time Mother.
I wish I had listened to my instincts.
I wish I had looked at these feet and hips and realised they weren’t “normal”…
Anyway. Wishes aside. We now know what we’re dealing with. We’re looking at some intensive physio. Exercises at home. Lots of swimming. Strapping on her feet. More exercises.
Every time we see our daughter standing with her legs wide apart and her feet splayed out, we have to correct her posture. Clearly, this is intensely annoying for her (so much so that she’s likely to shout NO before attempting to belt the offending person), but we do it anyway. Seconds later, they’re splayed out again. It’s a miracle I could even take this picture really…
The strapping isn’t the number one most popular item in our house either.
As I held Frog down on the physio table, she screamed while her wonky feet were strapped up. She shouted, “Hurt! Hurt!” before promptly shouting, “Bye bye!” to the Physiotherapist, not even having the decency to pretend that she was having a good time.
The same happened at bedtime this evening, when we had to reapply the strapping she’d removed herself. There’ll be no one left in this house once she relegates us all with a, “Bye bye!” and “Out!” all shouted at the top of her voice while said strapping is taped on. (As parents, it makes us feel ever so popular.)
All this palava is taking place because Frog’s ligaments in her ankles are too tight. It means she can’t move her feet around in the position they’re meant to be. And because everything else is too flexible she is overcompensating. Her muscles are having to work five times as hard as those with “normal” ligaments.
Without shoes her ankles touch the floor, meaning she’s only using approximately a third of the area of her foot to balance on. It’s no wonder she can’t walk yet. It’s testament to her dogged determination that she’s managed even a few steps on her own at all.
Without the treatment, it’s likely she would suffer stress fractures, apparently. There’s still a chance she may need her feet to be in casts.
Shoes are a problem too. She needs more support around her ankles but, until her feet are placing properly, she’s unlikely to get referred to an orthotics department to be put in the magic Piedro Boots. Kickers boots have been recommended – along with various other brands. But, yet again, we’re up against more hurdles. They either don’t sell them in a size small enough (3.5 – yes, Frog has weeny feet) or they don’t sell them full stop.
The hypermobility also means Frog is extra tired. I suppose you would be if you were attempting to walk around on a third of your foot all day, play, shout at people and make your muscles work as hard as if you were on a non-stop Spinning class. Our 22 month old is now forgiven for behaving in an uncharacteristic toddler manner, asking, “Bed Mummy?” at 4.30pm, and sleeping until 10am the following day.
Caution is another typical trait. The day at the childminder’s last week, when she sat in the corner for hours on end with her hand over her face? It seems hypermobility can be blamed for that little episode, if we so wish. The theory goes that kids who aren’t as mobile as others, tend to feel more vulnerable. Quite literally, they can’t run away. So occasional bouts of shyness and withdrawal make sense really.
In all other areas Frog excels. Her language is spot on. She is as much of a diva as ever, with a wicked sense of humour to boot. Despite what many people imply, the fact her legs don’t yet work is no indication of a problem with her brain. She is frustrated and angry and wants to get up on her feet already.
She wants to PLAY goddammit. Outside. Without her mum.
And one day she’ll get there. One day.
Until then, she’ll have to content herself with being naughty inside instead…