Today, I'm thrilled to feature a letter written by my good friend, Kerry Phillips, entitled, "To The Mom at the Doctor's Office."
I met Kerry virtually through the Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) Facebook Support Group. Kerry is an amazing mom with a huge heart. She tirelessly works to educate others about IUGR. In fact, she has organized the IUGR Awareness Day Virtual 5K for the last two years.
Although Kerry lives more than 1,000 miles away from me, we have become close friends. It's amazing how a medical condition, such as IUGR, can bring two moms together.
Kerry's heartfelt letter, "To the Mom at the Doctor's Office," is featured below. The letter discusses a child's visit to the doctor's office, as well as issues relating to age and size.
To the Mom at the Doctor’s Office:
I noticed your son the moment you walked through the door.
He was full of energy and wonder as he examined his surroundings. His eyes lit up as he noticed the two toddler-sized chairs. As you signed in, he moved from chair to chair and seemed to be having a blast trying to figure out which seat would be more suited for what he obviously knew would be quite a long wait to the see the doctor.
You sat next to me as I held my daughter in my lap. You smiled at her.
Your son was seated in the toddler chair, quite proud of himself. He then decided that he wanted to put his feet up—after all, it’s hard being a toddler. He went over and pulled the second chair in front of his and propped his feet up. You gently reminded him of the “no feet on chairs” rule.
And then it happened…
I asked his age.
I saw the hesitation and observed you inhale just a bit before you responded.
“He’s two; but he’s small for his age.”
I should have told you then but I wanted you to know that you didn’t need to add the latter part of your statement.
As the mother of a child who was growth restricted while in utero, I too understand the ramification of not adding the “but.” You see, my child was diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), a condition in which an unborn baby is smaller than he/she should be because he/she is not growing at a normal rate inside the womb. My darling daughter was born at 37 weeks, weighing 4 pounds, 9 ounces.
I understand the constant need to explain your child’s size. I know the anxiety that can come when someone inquires about my daughter’s age. I often have to mentally prepare for the follow up response, “She’s so tiny!” Some days, I take the time to explain IUGR while other days I let my annoyance be known.
I wasn’t going to ask you if you’re feeding him enough or why he was so small. I wouldn’t have asked if he was premature or even if you were at the gastroenterologist to address weight issues—all of which by the way have been directed to me about my daughter.
No, I only asked about his age because I saw beyond his small stature. Honestly, I didn’t even realize he was small for his age until you pointed it out. I was too busy noticing his adventurous spirit, his curiosity for life and most importantly the special bond shared between mother and son.
Sometimes, “How old is he?” isn’t a loaded question; but rather a conversation-starter.
“Two.” It would have been good enough for me and I hope in the near future, it is good enough for you too. No explanation needed.
I'd like to thank Kerry for sharing her letter with the Preemie Blessings community and for all of the great work that she does to educate others about IUGR.
I'd also like to make a few comments about her well-written letter, "To the Mom at the Doctor's Office."
As a mother of a child who was diagnosed with a IUGR and Small Gestational Age, I am always worried about my daughter's size, calorie in-take, and the volume of her meals.
Although my incredible daughter is two-years-old, her primary source of nutrition still comes from a bottle rather than from solid foods. I fret over calories, her food log, and hydration.
Over the last two years, I've received some comments from others about the size of my daughter. Comments like, "She's so tiny for her age!" Or, "What a little peanut!"
Some may find comments like this to be critical or judgmental, but these types of comments honestly don't bother me anymore. I know that I am doing everything I can to make sure that my daughter's nutritional needs are being met and to encourage good eating habits. Despite these efforts, my daughter remains small.
I've come to realize that most -- if not all -- moms worry about the size of their children, as well as eating habits. Comments about my child's size may be a simple observation, a conversation starter, or a just way for another mom to inquire about their own child's stature and make a comparison.
My daughter entered the world at 28 weeks gestation weighing one pound eight ounces. She has come a long way -- and currently weighs more than 20 pounds. Although my daughter may be small for her age, I simply feel blessed to have her in the world -- and to have the honor to be a mom.
What are your thoughts? Does size really matter?