National Physiotherapy Month 2020

Originally published on http://www.itsybitsbalebusta.com
05/2020

May is National Physiotherapy Month! Before February, I hadn’t actually participated in a physio session with one of my kids. SLP, OT, ABA, Music Therapy yes, all part of our therapy schedule. We’d also been through the NICU, surgeries and surgical procedures, and at one point, feeding therapy too, but physio wasn’t a realm I was familiar with.

Just a few hours after E’s birth, a pediatrician visited our recovery room to examine her. He asked questions about our medical history and when we shared our son’s diagnosis he began to tell us about early intervention programs for E and the importance of keeping an eye out for red flags, so that she could get whatever support necessary, as soon as possible. He didn’t have to tell me any of this – from the minute I saw the positive on the pregnancy test, my red flag radar was on high alert. Due to the fact that Y had been diagnosed so early, he was able to begin receiving services from the age of two and it made a significant difference in the trajectory of his development. E’s ability to make eye contact, smile socially, imitate, speak, and use gestures brought with it a sense of reassurance. Despite all of it, I couldn’t get past the fact that she just wasn’t moving as much as her brothers were at a similar age.

I tried not to compare but as the weeks went on, it became more pronounced and I made a doctor’s appointment for her. Our doctor felt confident at that time that she was alright but assured me that if I still had concerns in a month or so, that she’d re-evaluate. At the next appointment I raised my concerns again. She was almost a year old and not crawling, pulling herself up to sit or pulling to stand, standing independently, or cruising at all. She could roll and she could scoot from point A to B, but that was about the extent of it. Knowing my track record in identifying concerns with the kids, the doctor said that if I felt a physio assessment was necessary, she would support that and help us to arrange it. I really, really appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to stand there advocating my heart out and agreed to go ahead with the assessment. 

I initially told M that I didn’t want to share it with anyone. We’re always so open about whatever supports or services the boys are accessing and I don’t usually feel compelled to hold anything like this back, but this time I just didn’t want to get into it with anyone. I didn’t want to hear that I’m just looking for something to be wrong or that she’s fine and in time she’ll catch up and, “to just relax.” Having to nod and listen to the stories about someone’s cousin or child who was also behind and then woke up one morning and was suddenly totally caught up was not something I was willing to go through this time. As well meaning as everyone is, I just wanted to focus my energy on the sessions themselves rather than having to discuss them. I know that walking isn’t a concern until 18 months, but if she hasn’t mastered the other skills, she won’t have the foundation necessary to literally take the next steps.

I thought that maybe this chapter of Motherhood wouldn’t bring along with it therapies and services. N’s first 2 years were spent in and out of hospitals and specialist appointments, with an OT visiting our home to work with him at just months old. Y has been accessing support and services for as long as I can remember – everything from SLP to OT, Music Therapy, and ABA. I remember holding N, only months old, on our living room floor while the speech therapist did everything she could to engage Y and encourage him to attend to the session. I thought this time around I could skip all of that. That for the first time I could just be Mom, without the side of care coordinator and stand-in therapist between sessions, surrounded by pamphlets and worksheets and exercises to work on with my baby. I felt so guilty for feeling this way, but at the same time, so emotional about how it was all turning out.

In February, our Physio came to our home to meet E and to begin working with her. She was so patient, knowledgeable, and kind. Truthfully, I realized that I felt more natural and in my element speaking with someone on a therapy team than I do with most other people. She not only identified all of my concerns within that first session, she also explained the impact each one had on further development and what could be done to address it right away. I’ve worked with a lot of different therapists, but I was absolutely blown away by her! She was sensitive and calm, appreciated the fact that this was our third child accessing services, and spoke to me in a manner that made me feel like an equal. I felt so comfortable and confident in her presence and that we had found the perfect person to support us and help E reach her milestones!

So, why decide to share now, when initially I was so adamant that we just keep this to ourselves? Because when you don’t share the hard parts, sharing the good isn’t as epic. I could have easily posted these photos of E and left it that that, but she deserves so much more recognition for all of her hard work and persistence. We only had three sessions before quarantine hit and in-home therapy was put on pause. With worksheets and tips, phone calls with directions and advice, E has thrived and is now confidently pulling herself up to stand and beginning to cruise! On my birthday, she independently grabbed hold of the walker we had left out (more for her to play with the front panel than feel any pressure to walk with). She took a few tentative steps with it and I was absolutely blown away. We had gone from sessions and exercises where she wobbled, and was agitated, and needed core support to remain upright, to her trying to take a couple of steps with her walker! E kept pushing through, she’s stubborn and dedicated and persistent and inspiring and has made huge strides (pardon the pun) throughout this quarantine. She’s doing all she can to keep up with her brothers and having them home 24/7 now constantly motivates her to get up and join in whatever they’re doing! We’re still working on getting her to stand independently, reducing scooting, and cruising with more ease, but she has come so far already and we couldn’t be prouder!

I was emotional when it was confirmed that she would indeed need physio, regardless of the fact that I’m the one who pushed for it in the first place. What I hadn’t focused on at the time, was the unique sense of pride and accomplishment, and the thrill that comes from successful sessions. We’ve been given more opportunities to celebrate what others come by so effortlessly. Was I excited when I saw the boys pull to stand for the first time? Of course! But there was an element of relief added to the excitement that changed the experience with E. The same can be said for each of the kids and their milestones, respectively. What’s been especially memorable for one has been different for another and it has left us with an appreciation for every single moment, big and small. I’m constantly blown away by challenges and obstacles that Y, N, and E not only face, but work so hard to overcome on a daily basis. I’m so proud of them and forever grateful to so many therapists who have essentially become extended family over the years!

E is thriving and getting stronger, step by step, every day. This is a chapter that brings with it memories of us watching her excitedly and in awe, with her brothers clapping or cheering her on, as she goes above and beyond goals, doing so with so much joy and inspiring us every step of the way!

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