Saturday, January 11, 2014

They'll get there.

When I was pregnant with my first, I read several books, like What To Expect when You're Expecting, and the like.  I'd been babysitting since I was 10 and had taken care of countless infants.  I thought I'd had most things figured out.  Of course, like most new mothers, I was wrong in this assumption.

There was a time, shortly after my son was born, where every evening when my husband came home from work, I would hand him the baby, and promptly lock myself in the bathroom, where I'd wallow in a hot bath, crying myself dry.  I'd lay there weeping in the tub, leaking from my eyes and my swollen breast as my  baby boy cried out in the hall and my husband asked through the too-thin door how long I'd be and if I could come out soon as the baby was hungry... again.

That kid nursed every hour on the hour, for at least 40 minutes. Every day. For nearly a month.

And I wondered how it was that my life had come to this: I was nothing more than a dairy cow.  Plump. Confined to my stable. Forever providing sustanence.

Of course, now, in hindsight (and having been diagnosed with subsequent babies), I realize I was then suffering from post-partum depression. And trying to adjust to life as a new mother. Giving up one lifestyle for another is always an adjustment, even when you choose it.

Later, when I was pregnant with the twins and my boy was working his way into toddlerhood, the baby I had finally figured out quickly grew into a stranger. I had read book and articles, spoken with friends and fellow moms and again referred to my babysitting knowledge and felt prepared for terrible twos... ha!  This child threw-up at nearly every meal, refused to potty train and smeared his poop like Van Gogh throughout our house--couch, carpet, walls, kitchen table, all the world was his canvas.  Big Brother was scared of most loud sounds, was overly opinionated about his clothing (especially for child that rarely used words to communicate) and never would go to nursery at church. His meltdowns were EPIC.  He often hit himself and others, bit himself (and others), rammed his head into the wall, wailed until he vomitted, and then wailed some more.  There were times when the only way to pull him out of such a state, was to throw him into the shower, clothes and all.

And I hated myself for it: I was using water and shock therapy--medieval, barbaric techniques--to control my child.  I was an utter failure... or so I thought.

Then came the twins.  Premature at 34 weeks, the doctors assured me every. single. visit. that the boys would catch up with their peers, in size and development, by the age of 2.  They prepared me for the possibility of medical issues: allergies, eyesight or hearing problems, asthma, etc. But assured me that developmentally, the boys would meet every target their peers would. Again, I read articles, joined forums, checked out books from the library.  Everything was going to be fine. The boys were so precious.  Thing 1 weighed 3 lbs 10 oz the day we brought him home from the hospital. He was hope in my hands. They both were.

By the time they were three months old, we were in a routine: breakfast, baths, storytimes, naps.  But I suffered dizzy spells all the time and after a particularlly bad one, in which I nearly dropped a tiny baby, I finally saw a doctor.  It was then that I first heard the words: post-partum depression.  You see, it not only has emotional symptoms, but physical ones as well, like dizzyness.  Something no one had ever told me before, something I'd never read in a book or heard another mother talk about.

At six months old the twins weren't sitting up, Thing 1 wasn't babbling at all and my now 2 1/2 year old still wasn't speaking... or potty trained.  I set all three boys up for evaluations through Wyoming's Early Childhood Development Center.  All three qualified for services.

My oldest was enrolled in a preschool for children who were developmentally behind.  My little ones were set up with in-home speech therapy and occupational therapy, which they continued to recieve until they were three.

Along came my daughter and she was beautifully typical.  Every milestone met. Which I am convinced has a great deal to do with her inborn determination. Since the moment she first opened her eyes and saw the world around her, she wanted to be a part of it, to be a key player that could say and do and experience all the things everyone else did.

Big Brother finally began speaking in sentences, rapid-fire, intelligent, sentences when he was 4.  And every sentence revolved around dinosaurs.  His last day at the developmental preschool, was the first time anyone indicated that this might be a problem.  His teacher walked us to the door, and just as it was about to close between us she said, "All he talks about is dinosaurs." I laughed.  "I know, he's so smart.  He knows them all and knows tons of facts about them." She didn't laugh. "Well," she said, "Keep and eye on it. Encourage other topics of conversation." And then she let the door close, never explaining to me why his passion for dinosaurs was problematic.

The next year the twins went to preschool. It was instantly obvious they were not caught up with their peers. They couldn't count, name shapes or colors... or letters.  Not for lack of trying.  I'd been working with them during the Baby Girl's naptime every afternoon for a year.... just as I had with Big Brother.  Though, Big Brother took forever to finally start communicating thoughts and needs, he counted to twenty by the time he was 2.  He knew all his shapes and colors and most of the alphabet too.  And when he entered preschool, though he couldn't tell you his name if you asked him, he could spell it on a paper if he was instructed to do so.  The twins were totally different.  Thing 2 talked all the time.  Mostly in Daeglanese, as we called it. It was hard to decipher, but once you got the hang of his pronunciations, it was super adorable.  Thing 1 rarely spoke, but he could and he had a large vocabulary. But here they were, unable to use their words in an academic setting.

The 'in the meantime'.
And I kept searching, reading, networking, reaching out to every mother I knew in hopes that someone would be able to help me understand my boys.

It was years of searching, pleading with doctors and teachers for help. Years of being treated, rather condescendingly, as a hypocondriac mother who just needed to have patience.  "They'll get there," they'd say.  Just because that statement was true, it didn't help. It further belittled and frustrated me.

I wanted to know how they'd get there, when they'd get there... and what to do in the meantime.

Those are the things no one prepares you for as a mother. And no one really can.  Whether it's autism or ADD or short term memory issues or dylexia, you can read all the books in the world, but each child's experience is, in the end, unique. No one develops in the same way... not even my 'typical' daughter.  Each has his/her own journey. As we all know, not one of us comes with a manual.

No one can prepare you for the future because it is mostly unknown. The doctors couldn't have told me when my oldest was an infant, unable to handle being in church surrounded by people and terrified of pop-up books, that he was autistic. No one could have told me when the twins were born that some of the complications from their experience in the womb and as premmies would be an inability to comprehend math, speech impedements and severe dyslexia.  How could they know?

So if I could prepare you, young mother, for what your journey may be like, let me say this:

There they are.  Aren't they beautiful?
There is no preparing. There is only living. There is only loving. Children are as unique as snowflakes and their childhood melts as fast. Don't rely on experts or even other mothers... they will from time to time, get things wrong. Not that you shouldn't reach out, just... Trust yourself. And trust in God. He gave these little ones to you. Let Him show you what they need. He will. And you will.

And someday you'll look back and say, "Wow. I can't believe how far we've come."

Because, as frustrating as it is, they're right when they say, "They'll get there." They will get there. Or, perhaps, they won't. But they will get somewhere. And that somewhere... it will be the most beautiful place you've ever seen.

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