Feeling discouraged because some simple thing is really hard for you?
Frustrated from seeing others do that exact same thing with ease? Yeah, I’ve been there too. At times it can be tempting to just give up. But I learned an important lesson about persevering when things are hard from watching my special needs daughter and her older sister.
There’s Something about Baby
When our youngest child was born (for this post we’ll call her Baby) we knew right from the start that something was a little different about her. We just didn’t know exactly what. Thankfully, she was healthy and alive and breathing fine. But where our four other babies were floppy and flexible, she was stiff and tight.
On one leg, her foot flexed up towards her shin and hardly moved at the ankle. Her legs stayed raised in the air and she couldn’t lower or uncross them without help. Her arms wouldn’t raise above shoulder level. She cried with almost every little movement.
As the weeks and months unfolded, we saw many doctors and specialists and she was eventually diagnosed with Arthrogryposis and bilateral hip dysplasia. Arthrogryposis looks different for everyone that has it. Without going into too much detail here, essentially that means that two or more of her joints had contractures at birth, including both her hips. Joints with contractures have decreased flexibility and some don’t move at all.
Stretching is Key
Moving and stretching were critical to getting as much mobility in the joints as possible, so at 6 weeks old she started weekly physical therapy appointments and daily stretching. Many mobility skills that seemed simple for our other children (rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, jumping) took tremendous, sustained effort for her. Those seemingly simple things had to be broken down into tiny, specific steps and worked on daily for her to learn to use and move her body.
When Simple Things Are Hard
Before Baby, I had never considered all the steps involved in learning to roll over from stomach to back.
To me that looked like:
Step 1: Put baby on tummy.
Step 2: Baby pushes up a little and rolls over.
For Baby it looked like:
Step 1: Use neck and shoulder muscles to raise face off the floor.
Step 2: Turn head to one side.
Step 3: Keep one arm straight and lowered at side. Raise other arm, bend at the elbow.
Step 4: Raise torso with arm as leverage and simultaneously rotate same side hip up and backward, lifting the leg.
Step 5: Repeat until there’s enough momentum to get torso up and over the straightened arm at side.
Step 6: Baby rolls over.
That is by far and away, not the easiest easy way to roll over. Most kids follow a different procedure but because of her contractures, she had to adapt.
Baby worked on her Step 1, raising her head up off the floor, for months and months. It was excruciatingly hard for her. She hated laying there, with her face on the floor mat, squirming but without the strength to turn her head to the side or push up off the floor with her hands to raise her head. She tried and tried and “failed” so many times.
But she persisted.
And you know what? One day she got her face off the floor. And we celebrated. Soon after that, she turned her head to one side. And we celebrated. Eventually, at 10 months old, she learned to roll over.
And we celebrated!!!
A Hand to Hold
Big Sister (child number 4) is only two years older than her baby sister. She accompanied me to almost all the weekly physical therapy sessions with Baby. We nicknamed her “Turbo” because she loves to move, to climb, to run, to jump, to spin…and to do it fast! Her ease in moving her body is in direct contrast to the effort required for Baby.
Big Sister has such a sweet and tender heart and takes her big sister role very seriously. Instead of becoming jealous of all the time and attention Baby was receiving, she watched all the things we were trying to teach Baby in therapy and at home, and modeled them for her, encouraging her to try, and try again. Big Sister’s motivation was a key component in getting Baby moving.
One of my most treasured memories is when I walked past the room the girls were playing in and saw Big Sister lovingly taking 18-month-old Baby by the hand and gently, patiently leading her back and forth across the room to help her practice walking. She could have easily run off and left her sister behind, but instead, she chose to stand beside and help her.
With Enough Practice, Hard Things Get Easier
Today, at three years old, you might never know that Baby had such a challenging start. She rolls, crawls, walks and climbs. It’s still harder for her than for most kids. But she does it! And it’s so much easier now than it used to be! These days she’s moved on to learning some new things, like jumping and running, at her own small steps pace.
The challenge of learning to move for Baby looks the same for me, only in different areas: Clearing my clutter, cleaning routines, or turning off my mental chatter when my kids are talking. I try and fail and try again. Maybe that sounds like you too. Those things might never be easy for us. But we can learn to do them.
Yet there are lots of other people have those particular things down pat. We can learn from and be inspired by them. Maybe that’s you.
The thing is, we all have our own unique things that we struggle with.
Sometimes the desired results come when we break things down and focus on smaller and smaller and even smaller steps. Finally to a step so small we didn’t even realize it was actually a thing. Baby baby steps.
And although the road is longer, baby baby steps will get us there.
Sometimes we need our hand held.
And sometimes we do the holding.
There is a beautiful need for both.
That’s what I learned from my daughters.
- Stretching is key – we won’t change if we aren’t pushing ourselves just a bit.
- Keep trying – with enough practice, hard things get easier.
- Break it down – baby baby steps will get you there.
- Be gracious with others in their own struggles.
- Find a hand to hold when you need it.
- Offer a hand to hold when you can.
Try One of These Small Things Today:
- Push yourself a little.
- Try baby, baby steps.
- Reach out with grace- to give and to receive.
Share With Us:
Small Things Over Time is a place for you to find encouragement for your hard things and give encouragement to others. I’d love to hear from you!
- What little things have made your life happier over the long run?
- How has one small thing helped put you on a better course?
- Which one area of life are you most frustrated with right now?
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