I really sucked as a first-time Mom
Can you relate? Saying this out loud allowed me to start healing. Once I began to face the ugly truth about myself, I was able to start forgiving myself. Do you struggle with that too?
Parenting is hard. At least for me, it was. However, when you have a child with learning challenges, it takes it up a notch. Those cute parenting books don’t exactly prepare you for this and in some cases, give you a false sense of what parenthood is REALLY like.
If you’ve made mistakes, just know you are not the only one. We all make mistakes, even those who appear to have it all together. If you’re struggling to forgive yourself, find a way to accept the past and live in the present. It will be life-changing.
The Early Years
Didn’t you just think that if you held your child and fed them and rocked them to bed, all is well? Sure, nothing is going to be absolutely perfect but I didn’t’ think it would be so imperfect either! In the first 3 years of her life, we had no idea she had Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
All we knew, was that it was hard to soothe her and get her to bed. We would drive around for hours to try to get her to sleep! Was that you too? We sure got to know our neighborhood very well and who was doing what to their house!
For all we knew, our daughter just has a lot of energy. And I mean A LOT! Someone gave us an awesome jumper that attached to the doorway. My super hyperactive daughter jumped in it till she fell fast asleep. It was a lifesaver!
Oh yes, we did! We let her sleep in that jumpy in the doorway, and you wanna know why? If we tried to move her into her crib, she would wake up! We even have a photo framed of it. Guilty as charged! Obviously, I have no shame. I’m not sure that was the right thing to do, but it was the right thing for our sanity. If she did not get her nap, I didn’t get to rest and the bewitching hour would come for us both. We were exhausted.
Here are 10 signs that your child may have Sensory Processing Disorder:
- Hyper-acute hearing
- Hypersensitive hearing
- Exhibit touch aversion
- Poor motor coordination
- No sense of boundaries
- High tolerance for pain
- Overly aggressive
- Easily distracted
- Impaired language development
- Difficulty learning new things
My daughter exhibited 9 out of these 10 signs listed above. If for any reason you feel your child exhibits only half of these signs, I would consider getting her assessed. It’s better to know one way or the other.
Shouldn’t I be the one to be able to soothe my child? Shouldn’t she run into my arms just wanting to be held and hugged all over? Nope! Not my child. We got through the infant years somehow, and as a toddler, you can only imagine how much trickier things got.
My Hyperactive & Sensitive Girl
Hyperactive and very mobile, now what do you suppose that looked like? I couldn’t get my daughter to respond to me or give me eye contact. It was challenging to say the least.
She didn’t like hugs, at least I didn’t think she did. Whenever I asked her for a hug, she turned her back towards me. She became anxious at times. Later, learned that it felt safer to her that way and the thought of someone coming at her with open arms overwhelmed her. Can you imagine?
I wish I had figured that out sooner. Instead, I felt heartbreak and rejection. Those feelings of rejection really did a number on me. I worked hard on understanding her sensory issues. I’ll never forget what Denise said to me one day, “It’s not about you, it’s about her”. Wow. That truly resonated with me. I started shifting. And although I still struggled I strived to be a better mom.
You know when they say, it gets worse before it gets better? Well, yeah, it does. I let the rejection get the best of me and it started to turn into anger. And this was the beginning of my Mommy Monster chapter. Unbeknown to me, I started becoming a very angry and impatient mom. Since my daughter would not respond to me, I felt like a failure and found myself yelling at her, A LOT.
No, not in public, not that it makes things any better. It always happened at home where no one could witness me completely losing my marbles. No one except my poor, innocent daughter. Certainly, I’m not proud of those moments and it pains me to look back to know I only made things worse for her SDP.
I became Mommy Dearest, and I certainly did not need wire hangers to make me upset! I was constantly triggered. Shame overcomes me when I look back at these moments. I take a deep, sad sigh.
Down the road, God blessed me with a super snuggly, hugging boy. It balanced everything out. He’s 13 and he showers me with hugs and kisses several times daily. #blessed
To add fuel to the fire, I felt very judged by other moms and friends. I looked like that mom that couldn’t control her naughty kid. Once upon a time I too was that “judgy” person. Yes, when I was young, single and ignorant about motherhood.
Now I realize what those moms may have been experiencing and I’ve turned judgment into compassion. Often SPD looks like bad behavior but if you know anything about this condition, it’s quite the opposite. Children with SPD can’t control their behavior because it is more of a developmental issue.
You should’ve seen the look on people’s faces when I would try and explain that my daughter isn’t choosing to behave badly, she is wired differently and has a hard time processing information, has high anxiety and has a hard time self-regulating.
People would pacify me with ‘Oh, she’ll grow out of it, eventually’, and my response would always be, ‘No, she has to learn how to manage it’. I can’t tell you how many times I had to justify myself. As they pretended to be understanding, the reaction on their faces told me otherwise.
Silent judging is worse than just coming right out and questioning you. It’s so passive-aggressive and it really got under my skin back then. The more I felt judged, the more underlying anger built up and the more I took it out on my daughter. My heart aches and my eyes welt up even as I write this blog.
Blessed with a Mentor Mom
So, what are the chances that a lovely woman, Denise, in my neighborhood was pregnant around the same time I was? Only she looked adorable as she power walked with her cute little belly while I looked like a whale on the beach. I couldn’t even make it a block without feeling Braxton Hicks contractions. Hey, at least I tried!
You could spot me from miles away and know I was definitely pregnant from all angles. You couldn’t even tell Denise was pregnant from behind! It was no accident that we would become friends. I know that God brought us together for a reason, but we hadn’t truly become friends until our daughters were about 5 years old.
Just when I thought my early years with my daughter were difficult, her daughter was diagnosed with Autism. The timing of our friendship couldn’t have been more perfect as I struggled to understand all that SDP encompassed, she had gained so much knowledge regarding Autism that would prove to be invaluable to me.
If you’re raising a child with any type of developmental challenges, then you certainly can relate to feeling like you are alone in it all.
I felt alone. Denise came along and steered me in the right direction. Not only did she teach me how to advocate for my daughter, but she also taught me how to communicate with her. I felt like I had to learn a whole new way of speaking. She empowered me and gave me tools to help navigate my anger. I was able to stop feeling angry and fight feelings of judgment.
She steered me towards the right resources I would never have found through the school district or anyone else in my life. What a blessing she was. To me, there just didn’t seem to be a whole lot of support groups available back then. I’m sure I was just fearful of joining a group and feeling judged all over again.
I can’t encourage you enough to find that person, like I did, to help you navigate all the things you feel too overwhelmed to even think about. It takes someone who has walked before you in those shoes for a purpose to be able to help those who are just beginning this journey. I truly believe that. We all need that someone in our life.
Twelve years later, Denise and I are still the closest of friends and find such joy in sharing all that we’ve gone through with our daughters. We love sharing their successful moments as well as their challenging ones. More importantly, we love hearing how each girl has overcome their challenge. I can share anything with her and know wholeheartedly I won’t be judged. I couldn’t have managed without her and I thank God for her every day! We don’t see each other as often as we use to, but when we do, we pick up right where we left off.
Raising a child with learning differences teaches you to look at the world in a way you never thought you needed to. True, at first, it seems like a daunting task and then I learned to put my trust in God. With the power of prayer, I preservered and found hope when I was filled only with doubt.
I found peace in the midst of my anger and strength in my weakest moments. Don’t ever underestimate the power of prayer. If you’re struggling with something you can’t seem to resolve, trying spending time in prayer. Pick a quiet time of day and take just 5 minutes to meditate or pray. Be intentional on what is troubling you. I guarantee you’ll feel a shift to a better place in your life.