I’ve always been a big believer in the power of words. Today marks four years since I was told that my nine-month-old baby was ‘failing to thrive’.
I was failing her and so she wasn’t thriving. I went home and I sobbed. It had been nine months of weekly weigh ins, weekly ‘why don’t you give her a bottle?’, weekly insisting that there was something wrong with my baby, they were wrong, she wouldn’t catch up. My wonderful health visitor was the only professional person who took me seriously and did her one year check early to start referrals to the specialists. The GP was the one to tell me my child was failing to thrive and he referred her to the growth paediatrician. The only referral that was successful. Every other service came back and said no. They would not help yet. My wonderful health visitor battled with them all until they accepted she needed their help.
Funnily enough, the growth paediatrician was the only positive aspect. She wasn’t failing, she was just small. But I sat in her office and begged her to check Tilly. My ‘failing’ baby had no reflexes and it was mentioned she may not walk. It was a very difficult time and another seven months before she saw any of the services she needed.
The word failure swam around in my mind for a long, long time. I took it personally. I had failed her. I was her main caregiver so it was my fault somehow. Maybe I didn’t interact with her enough? She was sick almost constantly so would stay upright and strapped to my chest to keep as much milk in as possible. Did I harm her by doing that? Should I have left her to scream in pain on the floor to work on her muscle tone?
Not only that, but they had described my baby as a failure. My perfect, wonderful baby. I was heartbroken.
Four years later, Tilly has profound learning difficulties, is officially classed as disabled and has uncontrolled epilepsy. Would I class her as failing to thrive?
My girl is a warrior. She’s never failed at anything. She’s fought tooth and nail to be the very best she can be no matter what has been thrown at her. She has low muscle tone and very flexible joints yet has learnt to walk multiple times and gets stronger every day. She has epilepsy that charges through her brain constantly yet still pushes on to learn new skills.
Tell me exactly what part of that is failing to thrive?
I hope that one day doctors will stop using such a hurtful and unneeded term. Use the word delayed. Delayed gives hope. Not yet, but one day. Failure is a cruel word to describe anyone. Words are powerful, use them wisely.
My girl is NOT failing to thrive. My girl is incredible.