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My babies don’t move: A story of physio, growth charts, and slow walkers

Mum of three Juliet Speedy writes of the worry and eventual acceptance of having babies who move in their own time.

My third child was one year and one week old when he started crawling. I rang my Mum. “Mum! I have an early mover. A baby that moves! What do I do with him?!” She laughed. We both laughed that many parents around the world would be stressed if their baby wasn’t walking by this age, let alone had only just started crawling. But not me, no daddy-o. My babies don’t move. My now six and four year old children both started walking when they were just shy of twenty months old – outside of all of the graphs, charts and realm that experts consider ‘normal’.

‘Your baby will start walking around 12 months’ screamed up at me from every piece of literature I ever read.

‘Some as late as 16-18 months,’ also appeared.

‘Anything outside of that, see the professionals,’ I often read.

Neither of my eldest children were crawling at 12 months. Neither of them was moving at all. In fact, they had not long learnt to sit up. My eldest could barely weight bare. Actually, at 12 months old he wasn’t. So Plunket referred me to the hospital when he was 13 months old. From there we had blood tests, scans, x-rays and paediatrician appointments.

I’ll never forget the day when, sitting in the paediatrician’s office with my 13-month-old first born eating raisins on her floor, the serious faced doctor said: “It may be nothing or it could be something more serious like cerebral palsy.’

The walls of her office started spinning.

I was no paediatrician, but I felt pretty sure I’d have known if my round faced little baby had cerebral palsy.

It wasn’t just the experts. “Is he still not walking yet?” I often heard.

“You know, there are places you can go for that,” I was advised.

“Wow, you must be so worried, “ said one, who appeared to be more worried than me.

Should I have been worried? I googled: “15 month old still not walking”. I just seemed to find chat rooms of mums advising each other on what was and wasn’t normal. I stopped reading them as soon as I’d started.

My baby was then referred to a physiotherapist. For nine months we had a physio visit our home every fortnight to play with my boy and me in an effort to encourage him to move.

“For some babies, it’s like maths,” said the physio. “Some just need a bit more help than others.”

Eventually he started to crawl and then to walk.

In his own time.

The physio admitted that she had been worried about him when she first came. Now he was walking, she wasn’t. “You’re discharged,” she said to him. He smiled and toddled off.

Just four weeks later his sister arrived. That was lucky. I didn’t really want to have to carry both a toddler and a newborn out to the car every time we left the house.

Twelve months later my daughter turned one. She wasn’t moving. Plunket was concerned. “I think we should refer her to a physio.” “Ok,” I agreed half-heartedly. “I’m sure she’ll get there in her own time. Our babies don’t seem to move.” But physio she had.

Eventually she bum shuffled around the floor for a few months, crawled for a bit and then at 19 months and two weeks before her little brother arrived on the scene she started to walk. That was lucky. I didn’t really want to have to carry both a toddler and a newborn out to the car every time we left the house.

With friends and family, we laughed. With our last name being Speedy, the irony was not lost. “Another Speedy baby who’s not so speedy.”

Baby number three was another handsome little boy. He was going to be no different, I was sure. Actually, I hoped he wasn’t. An immobile baby is much less work for a mother of three.  Now I had a tribe, having one sit on his butt and not wreck havoc was actually a godsend.

It’s nothing but interesting that all three have been slow off the mark. Is it genes? We’ve looked. “I was a lazy baby,” said my Mum. My hubby’s Dad couldn’t find his plunket books.

We joke about which side of the family is to blame.

I have, of course, heard many theories from many people along the way.

“Have you not given them enough tummy time?”

“It’s because your babies have such big heads.”

“He’s an early talker, his brain is too busy focussing on that.”

At nine months old our new lovely Plunket nurse said of our number three: “He’s still not moving is he? I think we should refer him to physio.” “Are you sure we need to yet?” I queried? “Our babies don’t move.”

The postscript is that my six-year-old is now playing rugby and cricket, riding a skateboard and running faster than me. My four-year-old spends hours daily dancing to Spotify on our kitchen floor. My two-year-old is joining in on all of it.

The now-very-Speedy kids

The now-very-Speedy kids

Our babies didn’t fit into the charts of ‘normal’ but to me, that’s a badge of honour. I love that they’re different. And I never bake biscuits with cookie cutters anyway.

Juliet Speedy is a Christchurch based journalist and writer who juggles her time between newsrooms, supermarkets, kindy, the library and the laundry. She has three small kids who were born closer together than she can remember. Since becoming a Mum she now wonders how she ever got her university degrees, these tired days she finds it hard to do her six year old’s homework.

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