“I’m big and you’re small”
(so says my kid’s friend from daycare to her yday when they meet at a playground).
Today I discovered there is an actual term “heightism” (found it in the Merck Manual of medical stuff). I wonder how it took me so long to find an official term for something so obvious in society.
No hang on. It took me this long because I am tall, and privilege blinds us or diminishes the effect of our privilege sometimes. At 170cm (5’7″) I am tall for an Egyptian woman. Not so much that there aren’t many women my height, just v few women taller than me and quite a few men shorter, in my surroundings. It is rare that I have to look up too much to someone. I know how it feels to look down on someone. Physically i mean.
I don’t generally make fun of shorter people. As a woman, it’s actually awkward being with another woman who is much shorter. Makes me feel less feminine somehow. Most (but not all) my close friends are tall-ish. I’m heightist? My mom (also tall-ish) used to make fun of my much shorter cousin. My cousin told me when i was pregnant that just for those jokes (not mine, my mom’s!) that i’d get a short child. My husband joked “she can be short as a kid as long as she gets tall later”.
My little girl is so petite. She was born low birthweight but thankfully without other health issues. She latched and breastfed not perfectly but still did from early on. I was grateful and thankful, because low birthweight kids can have so many health issues. When she stayed small-ish i was advised to supplement w formula. But she didn’t like it and I was one of those awful/wonderful breastfeeding attachment parenting Nazis. She grew alright the first year then sort of slowed really badly after 18 months. She doesn’t eat well (picky eater or food critic?) and moves a lot so i thought nothing of it. Her pediatrician was kinda cool about it too. Then we considered going to a specialist in growth for kids.
She’s now almost 4 and the weight/height of an 18-24 month old. It’s cool for me to be carrying a 10kg 3.5 yr old kid (i have back problems) but it’s not cool that she doesn’t get taller. Apparently.
She is (thank God) otherwise “normal” developmentally. But not diagnosing/treating her could result in her never growing “properly” possibly totally missing puberty (another “normal” to tick off that can affect her entire life).
The tests she had to go through to diagnose her have been so many and so traumatizing for her that i think they’re worse than the actual diagnosis. Thank God she doesn’t seem to have a wider syndrome or a life-threatening illness (i think!) but.. Yeah…traumatic.
Today we had to do a special MRI on her head that requires contrast and sedation. Awfully worrying to be doing for her age.
I’m pretty strong. What made this most difficult for me was that i could not ask my late dad (an anesthesiologist) what he thought. As the anesthesiologist gave her the mask while the nurses held her down, he gently ran his hands over her hair. He was so gentle. And then I had to leave her for half an hour and pick her up later to wait for her to wake up.
Thank God she was fine. And there is no tumor in her pituitary. But there is something her doctor will have to explain to me when we show her all the results from last week and this week. We’ll see.
As I learned about what growth hormone deficiency was (that’s probably what she has and hopefully it’s treatable in a straightforward way) I began to realize what part of my mom guilt had been based on. Heightism. And something else.
People saw my child not growing and blamed me.
They blamed me for breastfeeding her for two years claiming I spoiled her appetite for real food. As if breastmilk wasn’t the best and only food ever created JUST for human beings! They ignored all the health and psychological benefits. And the beauty of it all.
They blamed me for her picky eating, claiming i wasn’t trying hard enough. My girl has a strong gag reflex. If you forced a grain of anything she didn’t like down her throat she’d throw up her lunch. There was little point in trying. She is better now but still picky.
And now, even now, when they hear she is doing medical tests and doing an MRI, they ask if we should try giving her vitamins.
Are you f@#ng kidding me? Who puts their kids thru anesthesia and MRI for Goddamn vitamins!
And the only reason I have these conversations with people at all is the heightism. The convo starts with,
Stranger: “oh, your daughter speaks so well for her age”
Me: Actually she’s 3.5
Stranger: oh, but she’s so small for her age
Me: yeah. She was born small and it turns out she has growth hormone deficiency
Stranger: doesn’t she eat?
Me: err she doesn’t eat too well but she’s not malnourished. She actually has growth hormone problems. She’s doing blood tests and an MRI to diagnose it properly so she can get treatment
Stranger: oh, maybe you should give her vitamins
(actually no i just politely explain that no, vitamins won’t do it. And yes, ppl ib Egypt are that nosy).
So now you know 🙂
I wish it were just a height problem and I could raise my kid to overcome the adversity. But it’s more and we need to get on with it. Inshallah all will be good
I am thankful every day it is not something worse. I just want people to get over their heightism and stop vitaminizing, please.