April 8, 2018 10 By Pratima Mehta


Raise your hands if you feel that parenting is a beautiful, wondrous and humbling experience- yet can get overwhelming, exhausting and mind-numbing.

I understand that “Parenting is the easiest thing in the world to have an opinion about, but the hardest thing in the world to do” (not me, Matt Walsh). And I absolutely don’t want to sound preachy here, instead address a very important matter that of ‘vigilant’ parenting.

Vigilant parenting regarding your child’s health.

Babies and toddlers talk, gesture and express in a very different manner than ours. Moreover, each child is unique in his or her ways and hence no matter what you read or whom you consult it is natural to miss signs that something is wrong with the child’s health.

And although many times children fake cry to garner attention persistent crying can symbolize some other trouble.

Now here is a personal instance which will highlight why vigilance is important.

Ira was born a normal child. I had a non-caesarean full-tern delivery. She made her debut within 5 hours from the start of the labour pains, cried immediately on being born and weighed a good 3.2 kg. All happened naturally.

Her development was as per the chart that every paediatrician has. As I consulted not one but two paediatricians I can vouch for that. At 3 months she tried flipping on her sides, at 7 months she fast-crawled and by 11 months she was almost running. She could distinguish a panther from a tiger from a leopard by the time she was one and half year old! Her articulation was perfect- no stammer and no phonological problems.

Sometime in mid-March 2017 we observed a slight tremor in her left hand. It was an inconspicuous tremor- one would hardly notice it except when she held or lifted an object and even more difficult for a third person to observe. However, that tiny ghastly tremor was enough to make me go crawling the walls and tear my hair out, because it was a recent phenomenon. She had no tremors earlier.  Then why now? I could have dismissed it as a motor skill development thing, except that I lost sleep over it. I read, read and read all that I could about tremors and their causes. Along with Juhi (my bff) I made a video and sent it out to a few doctors. Not surprisingly, I was told that it is a motor skill development thing!

This is the video. Look out for the tremor in the left hand.

Now here is another video.

Any observation or inference? Essentially she picked the flower with her left hand and transferred it to the right. Kids are adaptive in nature. Ira was oblivious to the fact that something was wrong with her medically, but had adapted to the tremor and relied on her right hand for most of the work.

It was very easy to NOT notice the tremor. And had I not been shit scared because it was not from birth I would have downsized it as casual and a would-soon-go-away appearance. Besides these tremors, Ira had no symptoms whatsoever- symptoms that would indicate that she is not well. Yes, no symptoms of cancer. It was not until April that we discovered the tumour.

This is what I want to emphasize. Don’t take signs and symptoms very casually because they may have underlying different causes medically. A sign may actually be a symptom. Of course not always but it is better to get a consultation.

I find it important to mention two other cases that I encountered during our stay at Bombay Hospital, both of which accentuate how parents need to look out for signs.

There was this one and half year old adorable boy from Uttar Pradesh. His ammi had sought consultation from a doctor for his increasing bouts of anger. She later told me that he wouldn’t play with other kids, stopped being social and appeared frustrated most of the times. The ammi also observed a difference in his gait. He was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour and was since shifted to Bombay Hospital for a surgery.

Another female child, again of one and half year, was admitted towards the end of our stay at the hospital. She had been capable of walking and running but had started losing the ability to do so. She now ambled slowly and unsteadily, often falling down. Moreover, she had started to develop a squint, medically termed as strabismus.  This child was diagnosed with a malignant tumour extending from slightly above the neck to the top of the brain. The doctors had advised against any kind of treatment, even a biopsy for that matter was not possible.

Now, we’re getting to the point where I want to talk about how to be vigilant. It’s simple really.

Maintain records of your child’s health in a notebook, on your laptop or in your phone.

Not only have I maintained Ira’s temperature records from birth but have filed most of the medical expenses beginning from the maternity ones. I used to jot down the temperature readings with the time & date behind the doctor’s prescription. So the next time we went for a follow-up he had easy access to them, plus I didn’t have to rely on any other piece of paper or fumble for my phone to show him a photo or chart. I carried this habit during the 2.5 months at Bombay Hospital- writing down which doctor said what, which medicine started when, etc. etc. etc. Trust me when I say that it helped us analyse the situation very much.

Tip: Maintaining medical records is a good practice applicable to all members of the family, especially the older ones who frequently require check-ups & follow-ups.

See. It’s quite simple.

In my next blog I’ll talk of how we were able to diagnose the tumour.

Have any more ideas on vigilant parenting? I would love to hear them.