Because the boys were born prematurely, we have three prescribed visits to a developmental clinic to assess their progress in bridging the gulf between their chronological age and the age they would be if they'd been born on time -- in our case, roughly two months. The first visit passed mostly without incident in January, but we had our second one in late July, and as we crept toward it I had that horrible feeling of being about to get busted for not doing my homework. I knew the guys were doing great in some areas, but I also knew there was one glaringly empty box on the checklist: sitting.
"Wait they don't what?" the therapists asked, confused. "Hang on, explain again what they don't do?"
They don't sit. I don't mean in their high-chairs: strapped in and supported, they sit in high-chairs, car seats, boosters, whatever. But when it comes to play time on the floor, the beans do not sit. At all. They cannot push themselves from the floor into a seated position, they cannot stay in a seated position (well, Liam can hang out there for a little while, but he doesn't), they do not want to be in a seated position, and Dylan can't get out of it gracefully. So, unlike most babies who sit on the floor and play, our guys can't. Don't. Both.
The therapists had never heard of this.
And frankly, I knew it was weird, too. It bothered me constantly. We watched our guys pull up on the coffee table, the bookshelves, our legs, and cruise along, side-stepping and using their hands to get around; we watch them haul themselves across the floor at light speed. They are engaged and engaging; they smile readily, laugh, react to the world around them. But no sitting. We'd try to fold Dylan into a sit, but he'd straighten his legs immediately, arch his back, twist and turn like a tornado against our bodies to avoid being forced into that position. When we got him there, he'd either fold in half or kick out and fall straight backward (usually right into us). Their trunks never got strong enough to hold them there. It's a vicious cycle: They don't do it because they can't, and they can't do it because they don't.
We all kept thinking they'd develop the skill, that cruising would make their backs tougher. Our doctor seemed to think we should wait and see. And then suddenly their 12-month developmental checkup was upon us, and our dudes couldn't sit on the scale to be weighed.
Also, they aren't clapping -- or bringing their hands together to bang two toys together, or anything of that ilk. While one hand is stationary they'll bring the other to it, but that's it. They don't point when they want things. And they only military crawl; no hands-and-knees, tummy-off-the-floor movement. That in itself isn't a concern for most parents because most babies learn to sit before they learn to crawl. I think the sitting is the lynchpin of all of this. Because our beans don't, they never had times when they were too immobile to get a toy and cognizant enough to point at it so that we knew what they wanted. Our guys just went and got it themselves. And when you spend most of your time on your tummy, or standing up with at least one hand on a supportive surface, you don't tend to clap much. It's like the old tacky joke, "How do you get a one-handed [insert stereotype for stupid person here] to fall out of a tree? Wave at him, he'll wave back."
So on Wednesday, Kevin and I took the dudes to an OT/PT clinic for another assessment, with the goal of establishing a regular treatment plan. They were evaluated separately, and no surprise, found to be grossly all-over-the-place in development and hypotonic (in short, untoned) in the hip and shoulder joints, as well as the torso. They hadn't seen anything quite like this, either -- the guys can do things you wouldn't expect kids who skipped sitting to do. They did rule out autism as the cause of these particular delays, although I know that doesn't necessarily mean they're in the clear forever; still, that was enough to get me to breathe a bit easier.
There are caveats all over the place: Liam can do almost do a lot of this, or more or less everything Dylan can't. He's three and a half pounds sturdier at only an inch taller, so that makes sense. You can get him into a sit, and he'll stay there, but he doesn't have much interest in doing it for long. His posture is better than Dylan's -- he cruises more upright, he kneels more upright, he will catch himself on his hands, he will try to stay on his hands and knees with his tummy off the floor if you knead him into that position. He squats properly from a standing position to pick up toys on the floor, he gets up to a stand correctly. Dylan often picks his leg up and straightens it behind him at an angle, meaning when he stands up, he's heaving leaning on whatever he pulled up on, and then slowly scoots his feet closer to it so that he's nearer to vertical. He also tries to pick stuff up without bending both knees, or sometimes without bending even one, and thus frequently gives up, and starts crying when he's tired of standing because he gets too scared to try and lower himself. (He's had a few more falls than Liam has, and so I think he's gun-shy, which may govern his developmental lags as much as his lack of torso strength does.)
But, for now, the program is the same: Mondays and Fridays, for the next month, include an hour of therapy with their ladies -- they'll work concurrently, in the same space, possibly also interchangeably but it's hard to say yet -- and then whatever we can do with them ourselves on an extracurricular basis. I'm confident this is the best and right thing for them, a little annoyed at myself for taking this long to get here even though I also understand the logic we used to defer this, and anxious to get going. I want my boys to be strong, to keep exploring the world without fear.
And I want to get to a point where I'm not scuttling along the floor after them, trying to make them crawl with their tummies off the floor, holding their bellies up or their knees at a 90-degree angle, because damn, that really hurts a girl's knees and back, you know?