Thursday, March 11, 2010

sixth sense

A couple weeks ago, Danny was in a foul mood. He was crabby, which is quite unusual for a Saturday, and he was getting upset over the strangest things. The kids had a church party to go to at 10:00 that morning, but when I asked Danny if he wanted to go, he said no. Since he was close to tears, which is also unusual for Dan, and since it seemed like an overstimulating party was exactly what Danny did not need, I let him stay home, while Charlotte went with Bil.

Instinct told me to leave him alone, to let him come to me, to give him some space. And that is exactly what I did. He sat quietly by himself for at least 15 minutes, until he finally came looking for me. He joined me on the couch and we talked very softly about what we saw out the window. I knew Danny needed peace and calm, that whatever was bugging him would not get fixed unless I ensured he had some quiet.

Danny did eventually start to feel better and we had a good day after that episode. Every so often, something like this happens, and more often than not, if I am listening to my gut, I know what to do to help him.

Contrast this to one night at least three years ago, when Danny woke up screaming. This had happened before and was starting to worry me. Bil and I had no idea what was wrong; nothing we did seemed to ease Danny's distress. We tried gas drops and Tylenol, teething drops and singing. We tried holding him and caressing him, but he would just arch his back away from my hands. My very touch appeared to hurt him physically.

Danny himself didn't seem to know what he wanted. He would motion for us to pick him up, but as soon as one of us did, he would scream to get down. Though he sounded like he was being burned alive, we could never find any source of pain. These night meltdowns didn't happen often, but when they did were so intense, at times I considered taking him to the ER.

This particular night, exhausted, I sat on the couch as Bil tried unsuccessfully to soothe our poor little boy.

And I sobbed.

It wasn't just my concern for Danny that made me cry. It wasn't just my frustration or fatigue. I was convinced there was something wrong with me. What else could explain a sweet little boy being repulsed by his mother's voice and touch? Why could I, who spent the most time with Danny, not figure out how to comfort him?

All the parenting books that claimed a mother knew the cry of her baby and could determine exactly what sort of cry it was taunted me as I heaved and bawled . Not only could I not figure out what had started my son's crying, I seemed to actually be making it worse. What did that say about me as a mother?

Where was that mother's intuition everyone talked about?

It wasn't long after one of these night episodes that Danny was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, and eventually years later, with high-functioning autism. We started putting the pieces together and figuring out (at least some of the time) what set Danny off. We got him into therapy through Early Intervention, I did tons of research, kept a behavior log, started brushing protocol for him, among very many things.

Over time, I realized I did know how to help him. I knew that something wasn't right, so I pursued the answers. I knew when a particular OT was the wrong fit (she spent the entire hour with 2-year-old Danny screaming in a high chair--she wouldn't let him down, because she had to "show him who was boss") and was able to give his preschool teacher lots of ideas on how to help him stay focused. When he was still having those tremendous meltdowns, I knew that taking him for a car ride would help, but that no one should ever, ever sing to him. I figured out that watching Baby Einstein calmed him down, while any other videos riled him up.

I started trusting my instincts. It turns out, I do have a mother's intuition, which if listened to, never leads me astray. Some of what I figured out was probably through research and trial and error, but still, I know Danny and understand him better than anyone else in this world. I can sense when over stimulation is imminent; I usually understand what is motivating some of his more confusing behaviors, and I am the one who is best at getting him to calm down when he has had a bad day.

I know mother's intuition may not be what you would consider supernatural; there's no telekinesis or premonitions involved, but I still think it is a gift, one that I value so much probably because for a while there, I was sure I would never possess it.


For more tales about sixth senses or supernatural powers, visit the Spin Cycle.


LeeAnn said...

Raising our kids today is much different then when we were little! You are a wonderful mother, im sure!! Dont ever have doubt~ a mom knows her kids better then anyone!

Tricia said...

Part of being a great mom is being patient with ourselves while we figure out what our children need. This is especially challenging because their needs continually change! I believe that parenthood has made me a much more patient and tolerant person because I realize that sometimes it just take time to figure things out, and that's okay. Sounds like you've got lots of things figured out! Good for you, mama! You're awesome!

Susan said...

So true!!! Even if we don't have all the answers I get a sense something isn't all there.
I always call it my "breakthroughs" It might take a few tries but it usually comes to me. I love trumping E sometimes with my mother's intuition, "I am the mom, it comes to me naturally."

Sprite's Keeper said...

Wonderful Spin! I used to flip out whenever I couldn't stop Sprite's crying until she hit about 13 months, right around the time I started the blog, when I realized, by thinking hard about it, that even though we as mothers have an intuition, our kids have to teach us where the boundaries lie. My kid loves to be snuggled, always has, when she's upset. Especially with SPD and Autism in any range, the fact that you know your child so well, that you made it your responsibility to find out how to help Danny, makes you one of the best moms out there. You're linked!

Maureen@IslandRoar said...

It's hard enough to find and pay attention to our maternal instincts with our kids. Then throw in something on the autism spectrum and it becomes that much tougher.
Sounds like your son is a lucky boy to have you.

SuziCate said...

A mother's intuition is one of her most valuable tools. You sound like a very good mother.

Kelly said...

Patty, I love your writing and your insights. You should write a book about your experiences as a mom. I would read it.

Sarah said...

Well written Patty---a mother's gut is never wrong. That is one of my core beliefs and I know my kids are better for it just as Danny is.

Elizabeth Channel said...

Such a true and inspiring post! I think sometimes it is tough as a mother of a child with different needs because we have all these "experts" and teachers telling us what our child needs that sometimes I think we let them drown out our own God-given intuition. Kudos to you for reminding us all to listen to that voice.

B’s Mum said...

I truly believe that the best way we can help our SID children is to know them inside out. Always trust your gut instinct. Intuition is a mum's best friend!

Mrsbear said...

What a great post, Patty. I know with my first, the fact that I didn't automatically know what to do, was just so disheartening. You read all these books trying to prepare, then when you don't immediately have answers you feel like a fraud. So much of it is learning and becoming attuned to your kid, it takes time. So glad you were able to find that rhythm.

bernthis said...

I very much believe in a mother's intuition. I listen to that gut feeling most of the time and when I don't, I pay.

Laura said...

I'm coming to this conversation ridiculously late, but came across the post in a recent blog by Hartley's Life.

I wrote about this very thing today, about intuition and progress and perspective. My daughter did the screaming at night like you described for almost a year before I was able to discover the SPD diagnosis after pushing the doctors for months that something wasn't right. Things started falling into place slowly as I suddenly had a better starting point and I could research and learn the crud out of it. That diagnosis was such a turning point.

I'm so glad you're at a place with your son where you're able to know and anticipate potential problems and find a good solution for him. You're right, too (and thanks for the reminder) about the intuition you had. You knew something wasn't right and you pressed for answers and the right teachers/therapists and treatment. Pretty good intuition if you ask me.

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