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Percentiles, Height, And Babygasms: This One Is All Over The Place

Babies babies everywhere!

The photo at the top of this post is of Huck (angry) and five of his friends from church, all born in 2010. Actually, there were eighteen babies born in my congregation in that year. Eighteen. Yes, in Manhattan. Crazy? Really crazy.

If you were me (perish the thought), this photo would basically be your dream come true. Babies! Babies everywhere! A veritable babygasm! And one of them is mine!

There was a time in my life when I thought I would never have the chance to be in a group like this. We struggled for two years to get pregnant and oh golly, it sucked mightily. But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about percentiles. You know, when you go to the pediatrician for a well visit, and they weigh and measure your baby and then attach him to a percentile, and that’s how you know whether your baby will grow up to be a functioning normal adult or a serial killer? Or . . . am I right?

Yes. These well visits are also incredibly important because they let you know how good of a mom you are.

“80th Percentile for Height! You must be doing a good job!”

Well, not really, but it feels that way sometimes, doesn’t it?

Our very favorite thing to do at play group, me and the rest of the Twenty Ten Eighteen, is discuss these percentiles.

We like to lay our babies side by side on a blanket and compare altitudinal abilities. Hold one then hold another and compare heft. Squish one then squish the other and compare girth. “Oh, so this is what the 90th Percentile feels like!” It’s really fun.

A few weeks ago, Huck went in for his four-month appointment (and those awful, nasty shots). I was super nervous because, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m not exactly tall. Having an almost average-height husband, and being a shawty myself (don’t be jealous), we were figuring we’d have a Below-Fifty in the height range for sure.

At his last check up Huck was solidly in the 35th Percentile, which is a very confusing percentile to be, indeed. Close enough to average to make me feel better about things, but also not really average at all? Meanwhile, all of my friends are birthing these tall-in-stature types and I was beginning to think, Oh bother. Leave it to me to birth the shrimp. I mean, isn’t that always how it goes or whatever?

But! In a delicious twist of fate, my Huck was declared to be in the 70th Percentile for Height that day. 70th Percentile! ABOVE AVERAGE! Way to go, Huck!

But then I started to wonder: What does it all really mean, anyway? What is the correlation between your percentile as a baby and your percentile as an adult? And, can my boobs take credit for that 70th Percentile? Pretty pretty please?

Anecdotal Evidence: I was a fat, fat baby. When I was five months old I weighed a ludicrous 25 pounds. That would be the 95th Percentile. I did an unofficial weigh-in today (I kept my shoes on), and then I looked up my stats online. I am in the 15th Percentile for height, and, well, we won’t discuss my percentile for weight because it is stupid (sigh, breastfeeding, another time), but anyway, it is clear that my baby percentiles weren’t an indicator of anything (though my mother is quick to point out that I was always rather short as a baby, too).

Scientific Evidence: According to sheknows.com, the growth of a baby in its first year of life is more a reflection of intrauterine conditions than genetics, with genetics finally coming into play after toddlerhood (source). So, for all these gurgly babies, it’s just too early to tell.

(It should also be noted that normal, healthy babies will clock in anywhere from the 5th to the 95th Percentiles. “Doctors are less concerned with the specific height and weight of a child, and more concerned with the pattern of continued growth (source).”

So, where does that leave us?

My mom heard that you can double your child’s height at age two to get a good indicator of their adult height. I read that you can take the average height of both parents and add 2.6 inches for boys or subtract 2.6 inches for girls to find their estimated adult heights. (Mine and my sisters’ heights all do a good job of disproving this theory, though.)

When I got home that day I patted my boobs on the back anyway. 70th Percentile! Good job, girls!

(Of course I get to take the credit for this one, didn’t we establish this already?)

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