Plain and simple, Hope loathes being on her tummy. She always has. As a newborn, this was most likely because she was in heart failure and breathing was too exhausting to manage. After surgery, she needed to heal, which extended the time she would spend on her side, back, and in our arms. Tummy time probably didn’t become a routine event in our house until Hope was a good 3 to 4 months old.
We use all of these facts to try to explain why one of the best days in Hope’s life thus far—we think—was the day she learned to roll from her tummy to her back. We would repeatedly place her on her tummy, working on our PT exercises to strengthen her arms, back, and core, and as soon as our hands were off of her, she’d roll to her back with a triumphant smile.
Back in March of this year, Hope proved to us that she had been paying attention to her therapists. We were reading one of her favorite books during tummy time and she leaned on her elbows and pulled herself closer to the book so that she could more easily turn the page. Over the course of a few days, our immobile 15-month-old learned how to commando crawl. Her biggest motivators were her books, but she could do it anywhere at anytime. We were entering the crawling stage! Or so we thought…
Commando crawling went on for about a month. We took Hope’s cues for forward movement and attempted to mold them into crawling in quadruped (hands and knees). We’d been working on hands-and-knees crawling for months, but this was the time we felt Hope might actually take to it.
Well, Hope surprised us. Instead of tucking her knees underneath her to land in quadruped, she used this skill to pop back up into sitting. And this wasn’t repositioning in the way we’d been working on for over a year. This was a hyperextension of her hips to swing her legs around her body, like a gymnast doing her floor routine, and tucking into a W-sit, grunting all the way but finding the will to push through the agony of physical work to attain a seated position.
Hope has had a PT session every single week for 14 months now, and we do our own work with her at home all day, every day. This is what one of our therapists refers to as “therapeutic handling,” which works therapy into our everyday routine without it feeling forced. For example, if Hope is sitting on one of our laps to read a book, we position her feet flat on the floor. Instead of picking her straight up out of her crib or off of her changing table, we guide her through the steps of sitting up on her own, and now we’ve even introduced guiding her through the steps of standing up on her own (in the crib or from the floor, not on the changing table).
Our little one has proved to us she’s not afraid to work, but she’s not willing to work for something she doesn’t feel is worth it. Our therapists assure us she will eventually crawl, so we continue to plug away at it every day. Sometimes working toward crawling is as simple as keeping Hope on her hands and knees and rocking her back and forth so that she can feel her weight shift. Sometimes the work has her in kneeling to play with toys we’ve placed out of reach in sitting. And as often as she lets us, we guide her hands and legs through a full crawl so that she can make her way across the floor to reach something or someone she wants, although this always ends in protest.
Every now and then Hope will show us she remembers how to commando crawl and she’ll pull herself a little bit before repositioning herself in sitting. It seems our only defense now against butt scooting is helping Hope to stand and walk wherever she wants to go. That’s really not so bad!