Tuesday, January 26, 2016


I'm holding a rattle over Ben's changing table, shaking it and carefully watching his reactions. He tracks it with his eyes as I move it from side to side. He swats at it. Good. But he's not yet able to grasp it.

I do my best not to pounce on the two occupational therapists who come to the house separately every week for Max.  I've done my part Googling what Ben should be doing at three months old, but I want to hear their opinion because they can gauge Ben with their own eyes. His next visit with the pediatrician isn't for another four weeks, which is way too long to wait.

I try to be as nonchalant as I can.

"At what age do babies grasp with intent?" I ask during each of their visits, because I know there's a fine-motor skill difference between babies purposefully grasping a toy and reflexively doing so because you've wedged the rattle into their little palm, as the therapist used to do with little Max.

Both tell me that at around four months, babies usually start grasping larger objects, like blocks.

I place a rattle in front of Ben and show how Ben swats at it.

"Looks good!" one says, smiles at Ben and then goes off to do Max's therapy session.

"When babies start bringing their hands mid-line, they're better able to grasp," another tells me on the afternoon she comes to see Max.

"OK! The ATNR should be disappearing soon," I say, adding ruefully, "I know too much."  

Really, what I want is for them to grab me by the shoulders and say, "THIS BABY IS FINE! HE'S DOING EVERYTHING HE'S SUPPOSED TO!" Because I need that assurance. Despite my best intentions, I am watching Ben like a hawk to make sure he's doing things on time, and worrying about him.

I did this with Sabrina, too, but don't remember feeling as anxious. I suspect that's because Max was two when she was born, and I was consumed with his development; I didn't have enough worry to go around. But now that Max is in such a better place, I can focus my concerns on the new little guy. They aren't ever-present, just little flare-ups here and there.

It bothers me that I worry.

I should know better.

Ben is not that baby. 

Obsessing about what Max was and wasn't doing drained a lot of joy out of the first years with him. He was a smiley, pudgealicious tot; I was a person who had loved babies since she was old enough to pick them up. But the ever-present anxiety meant I could not fully enjoy him. Instead of relishing the child in front of my eyes, I'd freak out about the child he could be. When would he hold a bottle? Grasp a toy? Sit up on his own? Crawl? Toddle? Walk? Talk?

The memories of Max's therapy sessions are with me. How the Early Intervention OT would stroke the tips of his fingers on his fisted hands to try to get them to open, then wedge in a little oblong block for him to hold. How she'd hold her hand over his, trying to get him to clutch a peg. Max had to be taught how to grasp objects. Some of the other fine-motor skills babies develop, such as transferring objects from hand to hand and using a pincer grasp for small items like Cheerios, happened when Max was around 9.

Dave has his own baggage from Max's babyhood; he gets overly concerned about Ben's well being. I joke about it but realize that when he says things like "Honey, I was putting him on my shoulder and bumped his nose, do you think he's OK?" he is scared he'll damage the baby. I don't share my rattle worries with him because I don't want to give him any more cause for concern. I don't even want to voice them, because then they'd be real.

And so I stand at Ben's changing table and shake the rattle at him, savoring his sweet smile, exquisite dimple and the cute sounds he makes, and wait and wait for him to grasp it.


  1. Hugs. Ben is absolutely adorable!

  2. If you're looking for someone to shake you, would it be helpful to know I rolled my eyes? Not because I don't respect you, but because I know this will be a thing you with due to the past, while the baby is more than likely just fine. Maybe you need to throw out the manuals for him too. I live in a house with a baby. At 3 months he had no clue about his hands, but a month later, when it happened it happened fast! With another friend's baby, I wondered about him when he was many months old (7? 8? More?) and I had never seen him roll over. He pretty much skipped that and got on with standing and walking. I think it may just be because they never put him down! ALL kids are on their own timeline. When you have a chance to get a little more sleep, hopefully it can recalibrate your worry meter a bit -- emotional ups and downs are a bad byproduct of that! Peace to you as you continue on in your perfectly rational and understandable irrationality!

    1. Just reread this for the first time since this morning and gagged on "I live with a baby". Just giving context, definitely NOT setting myself up as an expert, and especially not comparing to your current concern!

  3. Working with an organization based upon helping children with Cerebral Palsy every day, I overhear conversations constantly about missed milestones, warning signs, etc. It's completely normal to allow one world to absorb the other and see ghosts where there are none; each day I go home and question if my child is exhibiting any signs due to her complicated delivery, etc. It's normal to fret but it's also necessary to check yourself; don't allow your own peace of mind to be overtaken by the whisps in the air that seem to be threats. Soldier on - all the best

  4. My heart aches as I read this...I KNOW this; I've lived this. My son has high-functioning autism and I have been watching his little sister (age 2) like a hawk. I too missed so many moments in his baby/toddlerhood because of worry about his development, and I told myself I would not do that again. But it happens sometimes. I was just thinking today about how having a child with special needs does something to you. There is that little voice that resides in the background, urging you to look for things and to not miss red flags. I get so mad at that voice sometimes, yet at the same time am thankful for it because it led me to get help for my son. Hugs....

  5. As always, appreciate your honest and relate!

  6. Hi Ellen, I started to read your blog as a part of my assignment in DSW program. First of all, I appreciate that you found strength to share your story. Though, I was assigned to read the recent blogs, I just wanted to know more about Max. So I read Max's story and the older blogs. It is a heart-breaking story and I have tears in my eyes from you said the happiest day became your saddest. I should say, You are a Wonderful Mother. Max is so blessed to have you in his life. I respect you, because you find time to write this blog and taking care of your family. I wish all your endeavours to be fulfilled to provide more meaningful life to Max.


Thanks for sharing!

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