Saturday, May 11, 2013

Birth Club

Back eons ago when I found out I was pregnant with Anna, I went online and discovered a website called BabyCenter, where you could type in your due date and find a group of moms from all over who were due to have their babies at the same time. This was before the days of Facebook, when online communities were not yet commonplace, and I thought it was the coolest thing.

I visited my "Birth Club" all the time. We'd swap stories and commiserate about various pregnancy ailments. Then everyone had their babies and the pictures went up along with the birth stories. After that everyone stuck around, especially for the first year, to chat about how their kids were developing. This was a great way to expound on these weekly emails BabyCenter loved to send out (i.e. "How Your 12-Week-Old is Developing") with little tidbits about what would be coming next.

Three years later when Ethan was on his way I again joined a BabyCenter Birth Club. While Anna's group by that time had died down to a few measly posts every week, the impending baby group was of course buzzing with excitement. And so again I chatted and swapped stories and looked at people's pictures when everyone's babies were born.

Yes, everyone's babies were born. And those BabyCenter informational emails started coming.

I first noticed around the two-month email. "Your baby should be tracking things with his eyes," the blurb said, or something similar. Only Ethan wasn't do that so well. And he'd barely given us that elusive first smile.

The emails kept coming, along with the posts on the birth board. The babies were holding their heads up. Ethan seemed to be taking longer to do that. The kiddos were all rolling over. Anna rolled over the first time at 10 weeks, and here we were at three months, and Ethan hadn't yet.

I reasoned with myself. Ethan was born almost three weeks early. His due date had been in the following month. What if I went to that month's Birth Club and checked out what those babies were doing? My concerns were assuaged a little bit, for a little while. The email facts seemed a little more appropriate. The babies a month younger seemed to be doing what he was doing...

...until we reached about 7, 8, 9 months, when many babies' social side really starts to come out. There was talk about cooing and babbling, of playing peek-a-boo. Never mind that elusive pincher grasp that Ethan hadn't gotten down yet.

I started to hate the Birth Club. At first there was pride tinged with anxiety. Anna had been such a little early bloomer. Her first word was at six months. By age 1 she had more than 10. Full sentences before 2. I hadn't realized how secretly snide I'd become about her little "accomplishments." Such a smart baby! I would marvel. Until my son didn't seem so "smart," and all of those clich├ęs about every child developing differently actually started to mean something.

By the time Ethan was approaching 15 months old, I hated the Birth Club because it made me really, really scared. No matter which of the two months I clicked, really, or even babies born two months later, Ethan was behind. Yet his pediatrician never said a word. Everything everywhere, even those darned BabyCenter emails, said each child developed at his own pace. Apparently, I just had to wait.

But I knew I couldn't wait anymore while still reading what all of the other babies his age were doing. I couldn't take my growing sense of panic. And so, I refused to go back. I left those typical babies behind. I deleted every email that came in from BabyCenter without reading. I didn't want to know anymore. Everything I read ended up getting my heart pounding.

I left the Birth Club to join a club of a different kind. I left BabyCenter far behind for the days of questions and observations, of evaluations and appointments and a diagnosis; then of therapists, and preschool.

The other day online I clicked on an article and realized it was linked to the BabyCenter website. I stared at the familiar logo from so long ago and wondered, Should I?

I poked around a little. It didn't take me long. I found Ethan's Birth Club, took a breath, and clicked.

Of course, now the kids are five. Most moms aren't on there chatting anymore. Our kids are old news. Someone was talking about losing teeth. Someone else asking about vaccinations. And that little information blurb about where my child should be, at age 5 and 5 1/2 months? They were talking about humor, and how five-year-olds don't quite "get it." And about speech -- common mispronunciations, stuttering.

I read it all over, and thought, a lot of this sounds like Ethan. Some of it doesn't. And in that moment, it felt okay.

Best of all, I didn't feel afraid anymore.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I so get this. I had a very similar experience with BabyCenter where I could no longer stand to get the emails. Neurotypical or not, I try not to take either of my children's growth and development for granted.