My baby is a year old and still not crawling. She isn’t pulling herself up on furniture to cruise around. She isn’t supporting her own weight and standing upright. She can’t do any of these things because she is hypermobile.
On her first birthday, Jasmin wasn’t taking unsteady steps across the lounge while we all clapped and cheered her on. She wasn’t asking us to hold her hands so we could help her walk. She didn’t clamber up onto the table where we’d put her presents.
I’m told constantly that she is serene. It’s because she is often sitting in one place while she plays. People expect one-year-olds to be into everything, to be adventurous with their crawling and to be making a dash for corners of the house they’ve been told to stay away from. Jasmin doesn’t crawl towards drawers to open them. She doesn’t clamber up the stairs on all fours. She doesn’t pull herself up onto tables to grab things we haven’t put far enough out of reach.
That she can’t do these things frustrates her. She doesn’t always stay calm.
People tell me too their anecdotes about children who ‘never crawled’ or ‘just stood up and started walking one day’ or were ‘too lazy to walk for ages’. I’m reassured, kindly, and frequently reminded not to worry. Well, I don’t worry. Not anymore. Not since Jasmin’s doctor examined her and told me about hypermobility.
Jasmin, I now know, might not walk until she is two. She might not crawl. She will do things at a pace dictated by her hypermobility.
I knew nothing about hypermobility two weeks ago. Now though, the word consumes me. It lies behind much of what I do with Jasmin. It is the first subject I surf the web about when I turn my laptop on. It hovers around the front of my mind when I try to work. Hypermobile. Those four syllables echo around my brain when I watch my beautiful baby trying to move around. Slowly, by rotating her hips at angles which defy logic, by combining rolling with sitting and pulling and shuffling, she moves gradually in the vague direction she has chosen. Compared to crawling, it is a far less efficient way to get around.
I now understand though why Jasmin can’t support herself on all fours – she truly doesn’t have the strength, and her hips have a range of movement which is incredible. I now understand why Jasmin tends to sit with her legs stretched out wide in the splits. When she is tired, she drops her head forwards and rests it on the ground. It is a pose I constantly fail to achieve in my regular yoga practice. For her, it is a position of rest.
I hadn’t been worrying about Jasmin when I took her to the doctor a week before her first birthday. We were there for something else but I mentioned that she wasn’t crawling. I know all children do things differently, in their own time, and when they are ready. However, I still thought it was worth Jasmin’s doctor taking a look at her incase there was an underlying reason for her not being on the move.
I’m now so glad I did. Jasmin has a larger range of movement in her joints than is usual, the doctor told me. Children who are hypermobile are often described as being very flexible or double jointed. As they get older, their joints often stiffen. For some people who are hypermobile, they live life with few symptoms, for others with hypermobile syndrome, there is pain and fatigue to be managed. (Hypermobility is usually hereditary, and although my joints have stiffened now, I was one of those ‘double-jointed’ children.)
Jasmin lacks strength in her legs and so we must now help her to get stronger. As she gets older, it will be important to help her continue to gain muscle strength through activities such as walking, swimming and ballet. She will have to wear special shoes to ensure correct alignment when she learns to walk. It is likely that she will fatigue easily. Yet despite this, it is vital she remains active to get stronger.
It is too early to assess the extent of Jasmin’s hypermobility, but I am glad to understand a little more about her body and why it moves the way it does. I’m trying to learn as much as I can about ways I can help my beautiful little girl, and I am trying to keep in my mind all of the positives her doctor told me (for example, as an adult, Jasmin is unlikely to experience any disadvantages due to her hypermobility. Professional sports people are, in fact, often hypermobile in an area which benefits their game.)
I spent last week feeling unbearably sad for my little girl. She will continue to watch other babies learn to walk. She will see them run after the toys they want. She will remain on the floor, shuffling round a small area, while they sprint around her to play.
And then, on the day Jasmin turned one, I realised it was time to look at the world a little differently. Jasmin is healthy and well. Hypermobility may bring its challenges, yes, but the hurdles can be managed and overcome. While the babies around Jasmin learn to walk, we will help her get stronger. She is watching the world and taking it all in. She is listening and learning and thinking and wondering. She will always have unconditional support. She is so-much loved and when she looks around, she sees this and feels this and knows this. That’s what matters. How old might she be when she takes her first steps is nowhere near as important.