Tuesday, 28 April 2020

My Baby Milestone Anxiety & Overcoming It

Being a parent is, without doubt, one of the most incredible blessings that any human being can experience. But yet, at the same time, if someone had pre-warned me about just how much I'd be consumed with endless worry from the moment I gave birth - I'm not entirely sure I'd have been quite so keen on the whole thing!

The magical moment that sweet, innocent little bundle of joy is placed in your arms and you feel that overwhelming rush of love is beyond description - but it's soon followed by a tidal wave of panic and sheer, unadulterated fear. Or at least that was how it happened for me.

I remember that first terrifying thought so clearly.

"Oh dear. It is MY responsibility to raise this child. To keep them safe and happy for the at least the next 18 years - WHAT IF I CAN'T DO THIS?!"

For me, the anxiety that came with being a parent was ever-present from the very beginning. There was a rarely a night that I slept well - because of course on the rare occasions that my baby slept, I found myself constantly waking up in a cold sweat - sneaking over to his crib to check he was still breathing.

And then came the worry about baby development! 

I know I'm not alone in this, as first time parents spend a lot of time worrying about what baby milestones their child should be hitting and when - it can be a lot to take in and remember. (Don't forget to Visit Emma’s Diary to find out more about 8 month old baby’s development). 
 I had an app on my phone which told me all of the various stages and milestones that my baby should be reaching, and I so clearly remember the strange sense of competition I felt from other New Mums in my circle.

We'd gone from comparing bump shots and chatting excitedly about baby names, to talking about who's baby had hit their next milestone early.

By far the biggest cause of anxiety for me when it came to milestones was crawling.

I was a member of an online Bump Group, and a few of the other Mums there had been posting about their early crawlers. One was only 7 months old when she started scuttling around the floor on her hands and knees - I watched the video clips in amazement, and tried to encourage my own little one to make some first attempts.

But as I lay my 8 month old baby on his tummy,  he was barely able to lift his head and soon started to make his objection to this strange new position known!

I spent the next couple of weeks watching on as every other Mum in my group posted about their babies becoming mobile, and the more time went on - the more I started to worry. My son was 8 months old, right in the middle of the "Starting to crawl" milestone window - but he was showing no signs of it whatsoever.

Maybe something was wrong?! Why were all of the other babies crawling but my baby wasn't?
And why did I feel this strange sense of shame around it? As though it was somehow my fault that it happened yet? Had I done something wrong? Had I failed him in some way?

It sounds pretty dramatic looking back on it, but at the time those thoughts were all consuming and I was convinced that I'd done something wrong.
I stayed up into the early hours of the night googling "baby developmental milestones" and "When will my baby crawl?" - then spent days trying all of the tips I could find for encouraging crawling ... but nothing seemed to work.

I talked about my concerns with my health visitor Jenny, who reassured me that some babies just need a little bit longer. She observed him during one of her visits and assured me that she wasn't concerned. So I tried to relax about it all.

Eventually, at 11 months old - it happened! Without any coaxing from me that day, he suddenly figured out how to push himself up onto his knees and that was it - he was off across the floor!
At 11 months old, some of the other babies in my bump group had started to take very early first steps -  but by that point I had finally started to feel much calmer about things and I didn't care! My little one was crawling, he was doing just fine and he was having the time of his life exploring the world on his hands and knees!

The experience taught me that babies grow and develop in their own time, and although milestone guidelines can be beneficial - they're certainly not set in stone.

That firstborn of mine is now 7 years old, and I can confidently say that you'd never be able to tell which of the children from that bump group were the early crawlers and which were the later ones - nor would you need to! These milestones can seem like most important thing in the world in that moment but they soon become nothing more than a distant memory.

As fate would have it, my next two babies were fairly late crawlers too - both starting at 10 months old. Thankfully I'd learned to relax about it all much more by then! 

Remember that if you're concerned about your baby meeting their milestones, it's always worth having a chat with your health visitor - mine was fantastic for putting my mind at ease.

You can find out more about your baby’s milestones here, or on the helpful infographic below.

*Disclaimer: All babies grow at different rates but as a rough guide here are the development milestones to look out for when your baby is 1 week old. Don’t worry if your little one doesn’t match this pattern exactly – they might be a few weeks ahead on some things and slightly behind on others and it usually evens out over time. However if you’re concerned that your child has missed out one or more important milestones altogether speak to your health visitor or GP.

Be sure to check out the Emma’s Diary Brand new Pregnancy and Baby app on Google Play and App Store too.

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