It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment I knew Caleb wasn’t like most kids. I always had this feeling that there was something different about him. He was diagnosed as colicky almost immediately after birth. He would cry when he wasn’t being held. He lifted his head to look at me the day he was born. I tried numerous contraptions and gave Babies ‘R Us my life savings trying to help him get to sleep. My experiences didn’t seem to fit with other moms. I knew there had to be a reason for this.
The doctors kept assuring me Caleb was fine, just colicky and then later on they said it was reflux. But I kept thinking about Caleb’s night nurse at the hospital. She tried unsuccessfully for two hours both nights to get him to stop crying. The second night, she returned him into my arms, and again his crying stopped immediately. She just shook her head and said, ” you’re gonna have your hands full with him.” I didn’t know she meant it literally.
I wore Caleb almost nonstop, even sleeping, for over nine months. A vibrating bassinet was my only rest, and that was only a 45 minute fix. I read countless books and tried several sleep methods. I bought swings and bouncers and several bassinets, plus lots of “special” pillows to help with sleep for infants. Only one thing seemed to work, me. I finally happened upon Dr. Sears’ The Fussy Baby Book when Caleb was almost three months old. It helped me accept that my son’s needs may be different from what society had taught me about parenting.
I began to examine what was cultural and what wasn’t. I realized baby wearing and family beds were the most common methods of caring for a child around the world. This helped me start the journey to becoming the mother my son needed, and not the mother I thought I was supposed to be. Things got easier from there. I wore him during the day and he slept in our bed at night. I saw a change in his moods immediately. He became the happiest little boy, and he blossomed before my eyes.
There were still some things I couldn’t explain. He never transitioned well. Caleb got cranky in the summer, and had night terrors at the end of winter. A pattern that seemed impossible to help. The doctors continued to assure me he was fine.
After his second birthday his “tantrums” turned to meltdowns. The smallest thing could send him into fits for hours. It was impossible to stop and unbearable to watch. At a doctor’s visit he had a meltdown. His doctor did everything she could to manage it. She saw the same red flags I had seen. He was uncontrollable, hurting himself, inconsolable and it occurred over nothing. It lasted for over an hour. She asked how often I was seeing this. When I told her once a day almost every day she said it was imperative we find out more.
This is where our journey really began. The first number she gave me was to a specialist. While explaining Caleb’s history over the phone, she gave me some valuable information. She told me to get an occupational therapist, and this was key, who specialized in sensory integration. As soon as she said it a light bulb went off. I said, “that’s it, it’s like his senses are off! What is sensory integration?” So she explained that sensory processing disorder is where one’s senses become easily disrupted. These children can become overstimulated very easy (a problem we always had with Caleb) and it can cause certain behavioral issues because of this.
I hung up and immediately consulted Dr. Google and found countless websites and books. I couldn’t believe what the sites I found were describing to me. I had finally found something that seemed to fit the problems I had with Caleb. I ran out and bought two books; Lucy Jane Miller’s Sensational Kids and The Out of Sync Child.
Our world was changed in that moment. I knew I needed an OT to diagnose him, but I also knew I had an SPD child. I started a sensory diet based on Sensational Kids in the areas I noted as extreme in him. It took 3 weeks to get in with an OT, but his meltdowns had become almost obsolete with his sensory diet. My happy and exuberant child was quickly returning to me.
Now I spend every day counting my blessings. It turned out that a lot of the coping skills I had developed for handling Caleb’s issues were found in the books and websites. I still had a so much more to learn and I know I will learn even more in the future. However, the most valuable lesson I learned was when Caleb was only three months old; listen to your child and their needs. By opening myself up to the possibility that maybe I needed to rethink how I was going to parent, that maybe my son needed something less “traditional” I gave us both an amazing gift. A happy, healthy existence. A sensational child can’t be forced to change. They have to learn, they need to understand and experience the world to find their way, to exist as we exist. So I look, I listen and I open myself up to all the possibilities so that I can help my son be sensational.