I’ve been having a lot of, “ahhhhhhhh, so that’s why…” moments of late, all concerning The Boy especially surrounding the first twelve months. I have a lot of (what I think) dark secrets about my boy but now I can make so much more sense of them, I think I want to share them, just in case someone out there relates.
My boy hasn’t *yet* been diagnosed with anything, however, he is in the process of assessments. I noticed things not progressing as they should when he was around 15 months old. Since he has started his assessments, I have had to answer (approximately) more questions than Andy Coulson has in the last several months, all relating to pregnancy, birth and beyond.
What I have discovered so far is that my boy may have a sensory processing disorder which means he is undersensitive to certain senses and over sensitive to others. The ones he is undersensitive to are very much related to touch and movement. This means he seems to need more of it. For example, liking to sleep with the top of his head pushed against his headboard/have his ‘draggy’ wrapped around the top of his head/his head pushed against a pillow. It also means that he still constantly mouths and chews things, seeking out deep pressure in his mouth.
So what has this to do with my ‘dark secrets’? Well they are thus:
- I co-slept. I co-slept in a way that was probably against the guidelines in order to get a good nights sleep.
- I bottle propped. Especially at his nap times.
- I stopped breastfeeding to suit me.
Actually…writing it down seems far more pathetic than the massive swirling guilt whirlwind that was in my head but I’ll carry on anyway.
Ted was a high maintenance baby. He was very kinaesthetic and so touch and movement played a big role very early on. He spent a very large proportion of his time attached to me, either in the sling or on my boob. Those first 8 months, I think he slept with a nipple in his mouth pretty much for the full 12 hours. He is still very much attached to me and I carry him around like a baby chimp, which has quite an impact on my spine as he is a tall, 3 stone, two and a half year old. I have a left bicep like Arnie and a right hip like a 90 year old. Not really a necessary part of the story but I thought if I martyr myself slightly, you’ll a) feel sorry for me and b) forgive me for my parenting fails *according to many parenting forums*.
Had my boy been my first child, I would have definitely had a breakdown. The physical, emotional and psychological demands of having a baby attached to you day and night really takes its toll. But this was baby number two. And with that you don’t analyse anything. You’ve already paralysed yourself with analysis the first time round so second time, you just do it. I’m not planning on a third but I can only imagine I’d be practically apathetic.
So, I just got on and co-slept without worrying about smothering or suffocating. Just as well because unbeknownst to me, the boy required deep pressure when sleeping which often meant he would be wedged under my head or just sleep in the sling with the stretchy material over the top of his head, because I somehow knew he preferred it. I would have NEVER dared try this first time round.
Also unbeknownst to me, the boy seeked deep pressure stimulation in his mouth, hence the attached to nipple so often and also the biting – which for the record, was not a ‘phase’ anyone could work through. He would clamp through the nipple and not even care/notice the blood covering his face. I however did, and decided to stop feeding from source when he was ten months old. I’d previously put this down to his bottle chewing habit, but actually, it was all part of the same thing.
Then started the bottle propping. This is the bit that I feel most ashamed about. As soon as the full conversion to bottle happened, the boy no longer wanted to be held close. At the time, it seemed that he loathed being moved once he was asleep. I would lovingly cuddle him close with his bottle until he fell asleep then attempt the ninja-like transfer but he would become almost rageful at the disturbance until after just a few nights I just laid him in his cot, placed the bottle in his hand and left the room with a heart so heavy, full of self loathing and remorse. But he fell asleep and stayed asleep (apart from still waking several times a night for more milk but there was no rage at least).
There was a few days when he was about 18 months when I was ‘allowed’ to cuddle him with a bottle, and I hung onto every second, willing it to remain in my memory bank for all time.
I would sneak into his room and remove the bottle from his bed and stare at him. He is two and a half now and still so reliant on his bottles of milk at nap times. But instead of having to use my night vision to pick out the bottle shape from his bed, I now have to search on the floor as it generally gets launched across the room like a missile once it’s been drained. This is the time my husband and I become frozen to the spot, as the thud sounds and we try and determine whether he’s actually asleep or just silently playing, neither of us actually daring to go and check just in case we’re spotted.
There are risks of increased weight gain with prolonged bottle use, and this is definitely something I am witnessing with the boy. However, I know it is temporary. There will be a day he no longer needs a bottle and then I can just sign him up to a boot camp, or something. Ergo, I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
So all in all, I suppose by writing this all down, I can let go of the guilt over how I have ultimately fed the boy. I have a valid reason for stopping breastfeeding when I did (and quite frankly, after all I blog about, it is utter lunacy that I should feel that way). I can also feel proud that I followed his lead and didn’t become a crazed loon at the fact he was in my bed, sleeping on my actual body or trussed up in a sling/attached to my nipple for most part of the day.
I also want to say to first time mums out there. Don’t start panicking that you might have a spectrum child on your hands just because they’re a bit high maintenance, but trust them to know what they want and only you will know that. So no matter what the forums say is ‘right’, how the old school did it, what opinions people have, don’t be afraid to follow your child’s lead. You will not make a rod for your own back but can hopefully break up that rod and bury it when you discover it was just what your baby needed.