Physiotherapy is one of those emotionally fraught issues for a parent. You know you are doing the right thing by giving your child extra help to reach their physical milestones, but at the same time you still feel fragile and vulnerable because your baby isn’t making progress like everyone else.
When it was first suggested Talia have physio I was ready to burst into tears, even though I knew she was lagging behind her peers. When she made early progress and sat by herself, I was very proud, and assumed we were over that hurdle and wouldn’t need to go back. Unfortunately a few months later the original prognosis came back to haunt us – her development was very patchy and would only lead to frustration as she matured mentally but was trapped physically. She could sit all day like a buddha, surrounded by toys, but nothing on earth would persuade her move from where she sat. If a toy was out of reach, so be it. Shortly after her birthday four weeks ago we resumed one-to-one physio sessions at the hospital to help Talia develop the skills she needs to be able to reach, turn, crawl, stand and eventually walk.
Two sessions of physio (plus plenty of practice at home) later, Talia has steadily improved her abilities, and now does things other babies (and their parents) take for granted, but which were entirely new for her: playing with a toy using both hands on the same side of her body; turning to the side over her knees and raising her bottom off the ground; moving her body so she is on “all fours” (although she usually slips down onto her tummy); turning and reaching and then bringing herself back to a sitting position; pulling herself up to standing while holding my hands. With help she can put weight on her knees and will occasionally start rocking in a way which some babies do before starting to crawl.
Today I went proudly to the monthly group physio session, knowing that Talia would be surrounded by ex-24 weekers who are crawling like Olympic champions but glad at least that she no longer spends these sessions just lying on a mat crying, and hopeful that she might have crept up a little on the development chart. (Yes they have percentile charts for development too, not just height, weight and head circumference!)
The physiotherapist who saw us was very pleased with her progress – but regretfully showed me that Talia has in fact slipped lower on her development chart due to the very erratic nature of her progress. I am making up an example here, but apparently most babies develop skill A (like rolling) before skill B (like sitting) before skill C (like pulling themselves up on furniture) before skill D (like standing confidently with support). Talia has decided to do B before A, and D without C. So from the physiotherapist’s perspective, she still has a long way to go. In contrast, my mother has been overseas since we started the extra sessions and will no doubt be amazed to see how far Talia has come in 5 weeks.
The hospital provides physiotherapy only until their NICU graduates are 12 months corrected, which in our case is only 2 months away. So it will be interesting to see how much more progress we can make in the next 8 weeks, before we are out on our own.