Washington - "So, here's the situation," the obstetrician said. He took a seat on a stool at the end of the hospital bed. Remembering the scene now, I imagine him flipping up coattails, like a symphony conductor about to give the flute section bad news.
I was calm, though still surprised about being in the hospital, where I was handed over to this doctor after an early-morning appointment showed the baby was breech and fluid levels were low. I wasn't in pain. I wasn't even in labour.
It had been a relatively uneventful pregnancy and, at 37 weeks, I knew from my app that if the baby came soon, he'd be early but chances were great that he'd be okay. And my husband and I had just been informed that he was healthy and not under stress. But here it was, all of a sudden - a situation.
"The problem is," the doctor continued, "your baby's dinky, which makes us worried that the placenta isn't doing its job. We think he'd do better out here. We're looking at a caesarean, and we're recommending that it be done today."
Really, it was a perfect storm of several factors that prevented us from having the natural childbirth we were aiming for. Among them, it was estimated that Dinky's weight was only five pounds (about 2.2kg).
We were given some time alone. We took a few moments to think and discuss and pray. I took a few more moments to cry. We spoke with our midwife, who was a comfort.
And, with that, we decided our son would be born that day.
Dinky. I actually didn't mind that he had used that word. After getting the news, I was scared and vulnerable and disappointed, and the word had lightened the mood. I had cracked a smile. It was the language and comments I'd hear later - weeks, months after my son's birth - that would bother me the most.
Because as it turns out, Dinky wasn't just dinky in utero; he remained in the first and second percentile for weight until he was almost a year old. To give it a little more context: As a 6-month-old, he still fit into some newborn clothing.
First, there was the personal commentary, the feigned concern (it seemed to me). An acquaintance, on several occasions: "He's so small. Is he eating okay?" Some of the careless remarks were passed on to me secondhand. An older friend: "So-and-so said your baby is so tiny, there must be something wrong with him."
Other jabs were received via small talk, from strangers and acquaintances, when we were finally out and about. Months after his birth, we were used to fielding the constant question from strangers, followed by the inevitable surprise: "How old is he? Wow, small for his age, huh?"
Second - and I fully admit my role here - a lot of the hurt I experienced was as a result of being an insecure, sensitive, anxious new mom on her smartphone at all hours. I had developed a sort of twisted radar for baby photos in my feed. And, of course, I'd always read the comments.
On photos of a baby born weeks after mine: "Wow, he's so big! Look at those rolls! Great job, mama!" And I'd look down at my son, asleep next to me, still not a trace of chubby cheeks, never mind those adorable wrist rolls I longed for. That means I'm doing a bad job, I'd think. That means I am a bad mama.
Despite our doctor's assurances that everything was going well and he was gaining weight according to the curve, I became obsessed and stressed; I was blinded by it. My friends had chubby babies, strangers on the street had them, patients at the doctor's office had them, and I did not.
One day I'd had enough. I wanted to see pictures of other skinny babies. Dinky babies. So, like any normal and definitely-not-creepy person would do, I hashtag-searched it: #skinnybaby.
Some photos were selfies, and many were of canine babies, or of roly-poly butterball human babies, flashing dimples about the size of the Grand Canyon. (Gotta love those ironic hashtags.)
Other photos showed infants of a seemingly normal weight, certainly chubbier than mine, with captions offering length and weight details from the latest checkup. Skinny babies that had beefed up? Closer, but not quite.
Scrolling through, I then hit a few that truly were photos of skinny babies. Yes! There they were: Skinny babies. Lanky babies. Petite, tiny babies completely swimming in their clothes. Newborns, 6-month-olds, babies like mine, their faces beaming as they looked at Mom or Dad. I finally felt relief.The Washington Post