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Let The Fairness Guilt Begin

I took Cora in last week for her
four-month checkup, and I have to confess I was actually looking
forward to it. Being out and about in the city with only one child
– and the one who didn’t complain or whine or beg, at
that – felt positively vacation-like. Going through the
well-baby visits the second time around are much easier: you know
what you’re doing this time (ish) and your list of questions
is much shorter. So I cruised in, smugly anticipating smooth
sailing and a quick trip home.

The check-up went well for the most part – Cora’s in
perfect health, and is growing well, eating well, yadda yadda
yadda. But then the doctor started looking at Cora’s motor
skills, checking for the four-month milestones. She put Cora on her
tummy, helped her pull up to sitting, tried to encourage her to
standing, and so on.

“I’d like to see Cora a little
stronger on her tummy – her butt sticks up a bit more than it
should by this age,” she said conversationally. “And
she’s not interested in pulling herself up to standing, or in
putting any weight on her legs in the standing position. I’d
like to see that improve over the next month or so.” And
indeed, when Cora was finally persuaded to the standing position,
she wilted amicably back to the floor almost immediately. And as
for being on her belly? She lifted her head, looked around, and
went back to a semi-doze on the ground.

Of course, I immediately panicked and spent the whole drive home
convinced my child was developmentally challenged and would be so
her entire life. Suddenly small things took on immense status: the
way she still flails around because her nervous system’s
still immature? She’s never going to get that under control.
And the way she’s still not sleeping through the night, and
indeed wakes up a few times a night not hungry, just awake? A sure
sign of ADD.

By the time I got home I knew I had to call the doctor, or spend
the next two months until her six-month check-up driving myself and
Brian CRAZY. When she called me back that evening, I said,
“Listen, this is just mommy paranoia, I’m sure, but do
I need to be worried about Cora developmentally?”

Silence. Oh, crap, I thought.

And then the doctor burst out laughing.

“Jennifer, I can tell two things by looking at Cora,”
she said. “One, she is a second child, and two, she hates
tummy time. That’s all.”

Turns out that most second children develop at a slower pace in the
early months than firstborns. This seems to be due partly to the
fact that first-time parents are frantically making sure they Do
Everything Right for their child, with the Mozart in the womb and
the cutting-edge learning blocks at six weeks old, which does
indeed stimulate development faster in the early months. But the
other part of the equation is that parents simply don’t have
as much one-on-one time with new babies when there’s a
toddler or two around the house, so some growth is a bit slower.

I’d thought that having Maddie around might make up for that
– after all, she’s always sticking her face in
Cora’s and playing with her. But at this age Maddie is a bit
too much for Cora and she shuts down right away, so it’s not
much help.

So I can be relieved that Cora doesn’t have some sort of
disability, but I now feel free to pile on the Mommy Guilt at not
spending as much time stimulating Cora as I did Maddie. The doctor
assured me that Cora’s well within normal range and will
catch up quickly, but encouraged me to try to find a bit more time
with her.

So the past few days have found Brian and me grimly determined to
make up for lost time, and poor Cora’s working like
she’s in training for the Baby Olympics. Don’t like
Tummy Time? Ready to quit? Drop and give me two more minutes! One
more minute! C’mon, you can do it! The little lamb has gone
from a few minutes on her belly a couple times a day to doing these
intense “Tummy Time Sprints” about eight times a day.
The good news is, she’s finally starting to accept that Tummy
Time is a fact of life and she can’t get out of it by faking
a cramp.

And then, of course, there’s the rest of her training: every
time up out of the bouncy seat/swing/playmat is a chance for her to
use those arms to pull herself to sitting. And then standing.
C’mon, Lil Bit! You can stand for five seconds! Four! Three!
Two! One! You did it! Then there’s Sensory Stimulation,
Verbal Acuity, and of course, Rolling Over – the list is

At the end of the week, I could see a definite change in
Cora’s alertness and interaction, and the guilt over the
amount of time I’ve plopped her in the bouncy seat to get
dinner made or bills paid simply doubled. But I have to accept that
I’m going to be the best mom I can be all the time, and that
it simply isn’t possible to be the same mom that I was
before. And hopefully that’s good enough for Cora. Though I
imagine that when she reads this in fifteen years, she’ll
disagree and take this nugget gleefully with her to therapy.
(“This,” she’ll scream at me, “Is why I
didn’t get early acceptance to Harvard!”)

On the plus side, by the end of the week Cora was sleeping longer
and longer at night. I think we wore the poor kid out. That’s
ok – she needs her sleep while she’s in training.

Go Team Milner.


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