Next came crawling. Marlowe has been super strong physically from birth. She was lifting her head up from day one, etc, and so I hadn’t really worried about her being able to crawl. I noticed, though, that she really didn’t enjoy playing on her tummy, and would roll or wiggle herself to a toy and either play with it while laying on her back, or get herself to sitting to play. But no crawling, and definitely no action on all fours. This progressed to an army crawl at about seven months where she would drag her entire body weight with her arms to get from place to place. And get places, she did! It even began to assuage my fears as I felt that I had totally heard of “the army crawl” before and thus it must be totally normal.
It ended up being so educational. Marlowe’s physical therapist spent some time with her, watching her army crawl and playing with toys as well as testing her more basic reflexes. She taught us about the Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR) also known as the Crawling Reflex. It is present briefly after birth and then reappears from around six to nine months. This reflex is what helps the baby divide their body in half at the midline to assist in crawling and other alternating arm/leg motions. It disappears around eleven months. And guess what? MARLOWE DIDN’T HAVE IT. She told us that with some babies this is just how they’re born, and makes it a little bit more challenging to manually pattern them in to a crawl. She stressed the importance of us showing her at this stage how to properly move her body, since without therapy she probably wouldn’t figure it out on her own. I was blown away. It made me feel better on one hand, because it was clear that waiting it out wouldn’t have solved anything, but I worried about how long it would take to fix the issue. The physical therapist reiterated that there is a risk of poor muscle tone, inability to sit still and concentrate, and sloppy motor skills if left unattended. How was Marlowe supposed to become a celebrated neurosurgeon with sloppy motor skills?!
So we spent an hour there that day, just standing over Marlowe as she moved and holding her body up in to the traditional crawling stance. We gently guided her hips and basically simulated the preferred motion. By the end of the session she had worked so many new muscles that her legs were shaking when she pulled to stand. The therapist said this was an excellent sign, and we made another appointment for a week later. The next morning, Kyle worked with Marlowe in the yard. He repeated the exercises that the therapist had shown us, and set out toys on one end of the grass to motivate her. By just a few hours later, SHE WAS CRAWLING!!! When Kyle brought her inside to show me, I wept. I felt relieved, but also so proud of my strong and determined child. Sometimes she would go back down on her stomach and we would gently remind her “Marlowe not on your tummy!” and she would grumble but pick her self back up to all fours. She kept progressing, and after a few days was crawling all over the house perfectly, as if she had never spent time in the Sherman Oaks Baby Army!
Generally what this whole experience taught me was this: babies are not robots. They are as specific and “flawed” as their adult counterparts. And they are perfect, even in their imperfections. As her Mom all I can do is support and guide Marlowe through who she is, and what her strengths are. I’m glad that I got her help for this problem, but it taught me a lot about patience and understanding, especially with myself. If your kid is late, don’t judge. Gather information and work through it, but definitely don’t panic. Trust your child that they are becoming exactly who they’re meant to be, no matter the path.