Failure to thrive. My youngest was given that diagnosis by the time she was 9 months old. Our pediatrician never used that term with us but rather talked about how small our daughter was. That her growth was slowing. That she wasn’t even close to being on the growth chart. My tiny daughter and I left that well baby visit with a referral to our local children’s hospital. Not exactly what I wanted but I was hoping it would lead to some answers.

A few days later, I got a call from the hospital to schedule an appointment. And that’s where I heard it for the first time referring to one of my kids. Failure to thrive. Ugh. I scheduled the appointment and hung up. That’s when I lost it. It has such negative connotation. I knew that’s what our pediatrician was getting at but was happy that he didn’t let those words touch his lips. He was still able to get the point across. Even though I had strong feeling FTT was now in my daughter’s charts, it wasn’t fun to hear those words out loud. To later see them on paper.

The growth clinic, where our daughter was being seen, is part of the department of Child Protective Services at our hospital. Do you know how humiliating it is to walk through those double doors carrying your child? Nobody said anything to us that was anything but pleasant. But I still felt judged. I wondered what the people in the hall thought as we entered THAT department. I wonder what the office staff thought as they checked us in. I was embarrassed despite not having any reason to be.

The first appointment was the worst. We met with a team of specialists. A doctor, a nurse, a nutritionist, a social worker. We were asked so many questions ranging from do we have transportation to get to the grocery store and do we have a working oven to what kinds of food our infant will eat and how often she takes a bottle. I completely understand the need to ask those things because, sadly, there are plenty of people who are struggling to meet the needs of their family and my heart breaks for them. Yet I still felt like we were put under the microscope.

It’s amazing how often people, usually strangers, feel the need to comment about my daughter’s size. I’ve been asked if she’s going to be a midget. True story. After giving them a blank stare, she stuttered and said “I know it’s not PC, but you know what I mean.” I’ve had people ask how old my daughter is and then tell me to shut up because I must be lying after I answer truthfully. I’m not overly sensitive. I promise, I’m not. I know my daughter is petite, okay, downright tiny and so stinkin’ cute regardless of her size. I understand she draws a lot of attention. And when the comments are positive, I certainly welcome them. And even if you’re curious because you’ve never seen a “baby” so little rock a puzzle, that’s okay. I don’t mind telling you that she’s older than she looks.

But the rude comments? Just stop. It’s not okay. And while my daughter might be small for her age, she’s not dumb and she knows what you’re saying. So please, like you were taught, if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.

And to the other parents of kids who have that failure to thrive diagnosis… remember our kids are not failures and neither are we! They might not be growing quite like their peers, but I’m guessing they are doing a whole lot of amazing things and that’s worth a lot.

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