This series of blog posts is also available on Autism Sucks
When our first child was born, we were the same as most new parents: filled with love, hope, joy and dreams for our son. Little did we know that God had planned a very different journey for us. Far from the smooth highway we veered onto the rugged back roads and broken dusty trails. The first of the section is fact. The second part, in blue italics, contains the less rational emotional journey.
The Early Years Birth to Three Years of Age:
- High Blood Pressure last trimester - medically controlled by Labetalol. My mother-in-law suffers a cerebral haemorrhage when I am thirty weeks pregnant. We travel interstate to see her and land smack bang into family politics, making life nasty and hellish. On our return, my previously perfect blood pressure has skyrocketed through the roof. Rushed off to BP specialist and medicated. Weekly visits. Informed it is MY BP, not pre-eclampsia.
- Admitted seven days overdue, blood pressure dangerously high again. Controlled, induced ten days over. Twenty-four hour labour, attempted forceps, foetal distress, meconium passed not inhaled, emergency caesarean section. Blue baby. Apgar four at birth, nine at five minutes. I cope, after all that is what women do. I have run the gauntlet and survived, and so I cope. And thank God for a brilliant obstetrician without whom we both would not have survived.
- Slightly jaundiced baby. All well within 24 hours. He is cute, but I am waiting for this overwhelming rush of maternal love. It finally kicks in around Day 3, about the same time as my milk. And the tears. Then I get mastitis. Twice. Gotta love this gig.
- Early childhood nurse picks up torticollus and craniosynostosis (or cranial stenosis as it was back then). Turns out he was wedged like a cork in my pelvis the last trimester which resulted in weakened muscles on one side of his neck, tightened on the other. Craniosynostosis/Craniostenosis is when premature synostosis of cranial bone sutures occurs, normal head growth is inhibited. Various characteristic anomalies of the head develop as a result, and in extreme cases, the development of the brain and sensory organs is hindered. Google is not my friend. My baby may have to have the sutures in his skull cut open. His forehead is pushed forward on the left and his skull is flattened at the rear. His brain is being crowded. He screams in terror when they lock his head into position to take an x-ray. I cry.
- By twelve months old, (when I am two months pregnant) we are given the all clear. Physiotherapy, posturing, tummy time and sleeping position regulating has strengthened his neck muscles, allowed the pressure to be relieved on the flattened plate of his skull, and the bones to realign. It is pure luck that the plates have not fused. We rejoice that our gorgeous boy does not need surgery on his delicate skull. I did not know how I was going to handle it if they had said "surgery". All the tears when we made him lie on the side he was not comfortable in, all the battles when he tried to roll to the other flat side were worth it. He is going to be okay.
- He starts saying words quite young. The ECN does not believe he is saying "Mama" at four months, she says he is babbling "Mumumumumumu". Until he does it in front of her. Until he deliberately and clearly calls Mama when I leave the room. Looks for me. Waits. Then yells quite annoyed: "MAMA!" She also denies the night terrors in a child under 12 months old. So we video them. Again she admits her mistake. By twelve months, he has over thirteen words including a favourite: cheesestick. Sentences are being formed. He is a joy, and apparently quite forward in his speech according to the ECN. But he is lagging in the physical development side, but we are told not to worry.We can only stop the terrors by latching him onto the breast. I feed to thirteen months when I am nearly through my first trimester and sick as a dog.
- He is a very Mum focused child. Clingy, but a happy, laughing boy with it. Sleeps through except for night terrors sometimes. Captivates many with his engaging smile. Loves blowing raspberries to strange women over Dad's shoulder. He has the best laugh and an infectious giggle. Hubbie could have had lots of phone numbers with this one as his wingman. So engaging, he loves people. Had the whole plane playing peek-a -boo on one of our flights north. I think he is used to being with me, which is why he cries on the rare times he is not.
- Commando crawls from 5 months, crawls on knees 11 months, finally walks 17 months. Finally! Thought I would be carrying two babies around. ECN says the lateness is nothing to worry about.
- Loves being a big brother. Constantly monitoring adventurous Boy 2. He loves his baby. Sits and chats whilst I feed Boy 2. Never a hint of jealousy, none of the anger or tantrums we were told to expect. Is very protective of his little brother.
- Sensitive little man, is upset if people yell or argue. Does not like loud noises but is not exposed to them often.
- At almost three he begins to change. Coincidentally it occurs with his MMR injection. He becomes extremely attached to me screaming whilst I shower. His speech changes to an indistinct, slurred, monotone. Obsessions come out and eye contact is avoided. Meltdowns run for up to two hours. My child vanishes and a new one is revealed. The doctor later says it is at this age that these signs emerge. I am lost in a fog of grief. After a long battle my Dad has lost his fight with cancer. I am not mothering my children, I am merely managing. The baby sitter mentions autism. I tell her to mind her own business, silly little know it all. My son is nothing like Rainman.