I want to introduce you to my oldest son, B. My son is a newly dairy-free and developmentally delayed handsome little boy. He makes my world go round in a crazy, dizzy, chaotic way.
You see, when he turned 12 months old, we had the routine well-baby visit with our pediatrician (who we didn't really like, but anyway). I knew a little of what to expect, but I wasn't prepared for the developmental milestones questionnaire our pediatrician would go through. I was excited to see how well he was doing! My world came crashing down as each time we answered a question, we answered with a "No.".
Our pediatrician politely gave us a referral to a developmental pediatrician at a local children's hospital and said she would follow up with us in a few months.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and we were informed that our sweet little boy would need to start therapy for his delays to try and catch up. We were referred to an early intervention program where we began weekly playgroups and home visits from the therapists. We went from enjoying our time together and having fun, to having to schedule these home visits and making sure we didn't overlap things.
With the first few months of therapy we saw rapid improvement. I'm talking about the therapist coming out for the very first time, helping B get onto his hands and knees and helping him move his legs to crawl. Four hours after she did that and left, he got up on his own and crawled for the very first time. This was at 13 months of age. His therapists helped us communicate with him (we learned some simple sign language), taught us muscle-strengthening activities, and so much more. His therapists helped keep us grounded and sane when it felt like our lives were crumbling.
B finally, with the intensive therapy, walked at 25 months of age.
During the first year of therapy, we saw not only the developmental pediatrician, but also a neurologist who ordered an EKG and MRI. Guess what? All those tests came back NORMAL. What the fuck do you mean NORMAL? Something was clearly wrong with my baby and these doctors were telling me these tests were all normal? I was furious, I actually WANTED something to come back just so we would have answers.
We never got answers. B is six years old, and we have no definitive cause for his delays. Every single test (blood, urine, stool, MRIs, EKGs) have all come back normal. It's maddening but also lets me breathe a sigh of relief. I don't want something to be wrong, but I do. I want answers, I want to know if there's a certain method or medication or something we should be doing that we aren't. This is the chaotic maze of our life. We seek these answers and just get spun back around to the starting line.
Throughout this journey so far, we have met so many wonderful therapists, clinic staff, parents and children. We have therapists currently who are B's best friends. They get him, they love him, they accept him. They work hard with him and give us so many suggestions and so much feedback, it blows my mind. I never thought that a medical professional could be so involved before I met PTs, OTs, and SLPs.
One thing that is hard as a special needs parent would be having to translate and speak for your child. B has speech apraxia, and to strangers is almost always never understood. It's like he's speaking his own foreign language, and we are merely translators. His speech has improved greatly however, and we are finding more and more that people CAN understand him, unless he starts talking a mile a minute!
It's not something I wanted, to be a special needs parent. I didn't want to work with therapists, to have to apply for SSI, to have evaluations and tests. I didn't want to watch my son cry alligator tears because the work is too hard, or he's too frustrated. I didn't want to cry myself to sleep at night wondering what I had done wrong. Had I eaten something I shouldn't have while pregnant? Did I bump into the counter or table one too many times? Did I eat too many black olives? I didn't want to be the mom in my group of friends who has a "different" child.
But this is my normal. This is all we know. The weekly therapy appointments, the IEP meetings, the evaluations, it's all normal. After awhile, the word 'normal' kind of loses it's meaning, doesn't it? You can only say it so many times before it just loses it's meaning. We can't go by the books, we go by our child. He is ours, and he is our normal.
Is there something about your child that makes you have your own meaning of 'normal'?
My choice to use disposable diapers is wrong. My choice to vaccinate is wrong. My choice to use formula is wrong.
Everything I do is wrong, wrong, wrong. Why is that?
Why is it that what one family decides to do is completely off the wall and what another decides is somehow deemed favorable?
It doesn't matter what decision you as a parent will make, there will always be someone (or sometimes, more then one person) who doesn't agree. You will have people no matter where you live that just don't understand that every parent is different, every parent has different values and beliefs.
One mom might prop the bottle to write a blog post (*ahem*), and she'll get bashed for not bonding with her baby and enjoying those precious moments of mother nurturing her child.
One mom might chose to formula feed because due to physical inability to produce enough milk thanks to a little something called Insufficient Glandular Tissue (again, *ahem*), and she's getting bashed for denying her child proper nutrition.
You know what I say to those people?
1) Yes, I'm propping the bottle. But guess what? I'm so close I don't even have to stretch my arm out all the way to touch his face. But guess what just happened? My oldest (who is 6) jumped up on the sofa next to us and started feeding his little brother. So while mom and baby aren't bonding, brother and brother are bonding. There's something special about a big brother feeding his little brother, and then loudly proclaiming, "Oh yea, he's pooping!"
2) There really is such a thing as Insufficient Glandular Tissue. There are even pictures of what women's breasts look like when they have IGT. IGT can cause a low milk production, and since I dealt with this, I tried everything. Pumping frequently, fenugreek, oatmeal, lactation cookies, barley water, you name it and I tried it. I guess I have a chronically low milk supply because it just wasn't physically working. We ended up going to formula and supplementing with breastmilk (it's supposed to be the other way around). I was able to pump and freeze 20oz, which is what some moms can do in just a couple of days, but that's what I got in, like, 2 weeks of pumping. I am still feeding my child, I am providing for him the best that I can. Do you really want to bash my decision and say I'm doing the wrong thing by formula feeding, or would you rather me continue breastfeeding and literally be starving my child?
People always have input too, when you're a parent. Even the non-parents have something to say. If you've never had this happen, then consider yourself lucky. Women deal with it from co-workers, friends, family, even strangers. You can't even post on Facebook or Twitter without someone commenting with their advice, or what they did (which is always the opposite of what you're doing). It's weird to get "advice" from strangers, they have absolutely NO idea what kind of parent you are, or if there's medical issues or anything. I always get this look on my face when a stranger says something "advicey", a sort of "Who the heck are you?!" look. What right do they have to butt in?
As a new, first-time mom, the advice from others if overwhelming. You go through the entire pregnancy being compared to your sister, your mother, your grandmother, your mother in law, the neighbor lady, the librarian's daughter. Why? Why do women have to constantly compare one to another? It's not a competition, there is no "Best in Show" ribbon.
My advice? (ha ha) Take everyone's advice with a grain of salt. Smile, nod, and then do whatever you want. You are the mom, you are the authority. If someone gets out of line, stand up for yourself. Don't get rude and nasty, but thank them for their advice but "I've already figured it out.".
And remember what our moms told us - If you don't have something nice to say, then don't say anything at all!
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 began like any other day. I woke up and struggled to maneuver my huge belly out of bed so I could rush to the bathroom. For some reason, I’m not a “wake up in the middle of the night to pee” kind of girl, even when pregnant. Once in the bathroom, I noticed the faintest hint of pink spotting when I wiped. I thought maybe I was going crazy, since the scheduled c-section was just two days away (scheduled for March 25th) and didn’t think much of it. I did however return to the bathroom a few minutes later to recheck and noticed the spotting was a simple pin-prick size amount each time I wiped. This was at 9am. I noticed one singular instance of red spotting, which prompted me to phone my doctor’s office and leave a message for the nurse (because after 5 years of trying and 9 months of waiting, I was a paranoid freak). This was at 9:30am. Just before 10am the nurse called me back and said it could be a bit of “bloody show”, and that as long as it doesn’t start flowing or continue to be bright red that it was alright, and she advised me to rest and drink plenty of water.
I followed her orders and got some water and got comfy on the couch. Minutes later, I had a Braxton Hicks contraction (I'd been having these for WEEKS). It was now 10am. I had recently downloaded a contraction timer to my BlackBerry, so I opened that and started timing contractions. From 10am to 12am I had contractions every 3-4 minutes, that were lasted about 30-40 seconds each. My doctor wanted me to call if they were less then 5 minutes apart, but lasted a full minute or longer. They also needed to be painful, and these weren’t really painful. I woke DH up so we could get ready for the day. My sister was in town for Baby’s arrival, and we were planning on going out to eat and to the National Air Force Museum. The contractions continued, and we made the decision to go to labor and delivery to have things checked out.
You would think being two days away from a scheduled c-section, we would have had everything together and ready to go out the door. DH was running around grabbing things, I was still timing contractions, drinking water, and trying to gather things. We took our bags, the infant car seat, snacks and toys for our older DS, and headed out.
After getting hooked up to the monitors, we were able to see the contractions were 2-4 minutes apart, and definitely lasting a minute, sometimes longer. My cervix was checked, and I was dilated 1cm. My doctor was called and he wanted to leave me on the monitors for another hour and be checked again. The contractions had picked up in intensity, and I was definitely taking note of them and breathing through, just trying to stay relaxed and calm.
I was monitored from about 1pm to 4pm, and after all of those contractions, there was no change to my cervix. The contractions hurt, but I could walk and talking was only sometimes difficult. As we left the hospital (and headed to the outpatient lab to do my pre-registration blood work necessary for the c-section), I figured I would have these contractions until the baby was out, and it would just be an annoyance.
We decided to go ahead and head to one of our favorite restaurants, Quaker Steak & Lube, with my sister and her boyfriend following behind us in their car. This restaurant isn’t in our town… it’s about 40 minutes away. The contractions continued, some pretty painful… but dangit, I was going to eat some food!
As we drove down the highway, getting closer and closer, contractions were still 2-3 minutes apart, and still painful. As I felt my belly harden and the pain from a contraction, I had the weirdest ‘popping’ sensation from what I can only describe as my vagina. It hurt, and I could hear it (DH says he didn’t hear it). Another contraction, another ‘pop’. I described it to DH as “my vagina popping”, like your hip would, or your wrist or something. I called my sister and asked her what she thought it might be, and she said maybe my tailbone or hip popping so we just shrugged it off. We continued driving, getting closer to the restaurant.
I decided to recline my seat just a little, wondering if I could ease the pain from the contractions. Once I did that, I felt a small gush of liquid. Then more. Then a lot more. Then with each contraction, more and more.
My water broke as I sat in the front seat of our car, driving down the highway, at 6:21pm.
I grabbed my phone and called my sister, shaking and crying, and told her my water just broke and we were turning around and going to the hospital. She told me to calm down, and that the contractions were going to get worse now that my water had broken. I hung up with her and had my doctor paged to give him the heads up that we were on our way. DH immediately went into emergency response vehicle driving (he’s an EMT), and used the emergency U-turn highway thing to turn us around and head to the hospital. Cars honked and I’m sure we got a few middle fingers, but who cares.
My sister was right. The contractions got worse. I was trying to breathe, trying to calm down, but my water had just broken! With DS, the doctor broke my water so I had never experienced this before. I used whatever was handy (a white jacket of mine, a fashion sacrifice) to make sure the liquid was clear and not green or red or anything of concern. By this time I had given up on timing the contractions and just focused on breathing and praying.
We pulled up in front of the hospital 20 minutes later (remember, it normally takes us 40 minutes to get from our town to the restaurant, and when we turned around the exit ramp was just seconds away…). It HURT getting out of the car, and I could barely walk. It felt like the contractions were back to back. I had to use a wheelchair to get from the doors to the room. Once in the room, I changed into a hospital gown and got onto the bed. Sounds easy and like a simple task, but the contractions! Oh my gosh, the contractions. I was bending over using the bed as support, just trying to breathe through them. I was scared. I was excited.
The nurses immediately started checking things out, and made sure my water had ruptured by (ahem) checking my cervix and having me cough (ouch!). I was definitely ruptured, and also 3cm dilated, 80% effaced and -2 station. We were having our "scheduled" c-section THAT NIGHT.
As I breathed through the contractions, the nurses kept me telling me I was doing good. I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t believe I was ACTUALLY in labor, having just been SENT HOME for contractions not changing my cervix.
With my first, the c-section was an emergency and it was very chaotic and I honestly don’t remember much. I did have deja vu moments on the 23rd though, like drinking the anti-nausea stuff that’s really sour and gross. This time, things were slightly more in control, and baby was doing great on the monitors, tolerating the contractions well.
The scariest part was when the anesthesiologist said I may need to go under general anesthetic because of my blood thinner medication. I cried. I was squeezing DH’s hand so hard and just praying that I wouldn’t need to go under. I wouldn’t hear my baby’s first cry, and wouldn’t see him right away. That was NOT what I wanted.
After talking back and forth with my doctor, the anesthesiologist determined I could receive a spinal and I was relieved. What I wasn’t prepared for was having to walk from the room to the OR. That was interesting. They had inserted my catheter already (which SUCKED, especially while having contractions and no pain meds of any kind yet). It was just weird to walk several feet with a bag of urine, an IV bag, and my backside open for the world to see.
The spinal wasn’t that bad, but I was violently shaking. I was focusing on breathing, trying to take deep breaths and kept telling myself to calm down. I wondered if had we still had a scheduled c-section, would I have been THIS scared and THIS shaky? The c-section itself was great. The spinal worked wonderfully, I felt nothing but a bit of pressure and tugging, and at 8:27pm, Baby G was born. Hearing his cry was the most beautiful and rewarding thing. We had waited almost 5 years for that moment. I just let the tears flow. Thank you for our little miracle!