In regards to the title of this blog, yes, I actually heard these words…more than once. These were not words I was expecting to hear, ever, in my lifetime. Not that I am opposed to parenting classes. I am a big believer in bettering yourself in all areas of life in whatever way you can find to do it. I also was not particularly offended…at first. The person delivering this advice was the third psychiatrist we were referred to by my 5 yr old daughter’s pediatrician. Yes, I really said 5 yr old.
I should go back a bit. My first pregnancy was incredibly difficult. I am a type I diabetic who decided to have children against my OB-GYN‘s advice. Being pregnant was a full-time job. Morning sickness was an under statement, I could not keep food down. Had to go on medication just to eat. I often wonder if this could be the source of my girl’s problems. But that is a subject for another day. My little bundle of joy arrived after 24 hours of labor, 3 of it with her head out. It was not a good scenario and we both came close to not surviving it. Another possible cause? “Was the child a result of a difficult pregnancy or childbirth” is one of the first question asked on a child’s psychiatric evaluation. Did you know that? I didn’t.
Anyway, we did survive, she was gorgeous and angelic. She slept through the night at 2 weeks old and I could not be happier. For exactly 4 months. At the end of that 4 months, it was like someone switched babies in the night. My quiet, delightful baby suddenly turned into a screaming, fit throwing, stubborn little being that I did not recognize. I know what you’re thinking, “welcome to parenthood, get over it.” But this was truly different. Still, I thought maybe I was over reacting so I consulted our pediatrician, a woman I will hold in high esteem for the rest of my life. She was sympathetic and really listened without belittling me. Not wanting to be quick to arrive at the wrong conclusion, she stayed in close contact with me and we began a diary of sorts to document changes and growth. This is, btw, an awesome tool for all new parents regardless of your child’s health.
Life continued in this way for quite sometime. I noted all the difficult things such as her refusal to sleep in a crib or playpen or anything even remotely confining except the snuggly that kept her plastered to me. I also noted the amazing things such as pulling herself up to a standing position at 4 months old and walking at 9 months. My OB-Gyn’s response to this? “What do you expect when you give birth to a toddler?” She was 9 pounds, 8 ounces a month early and wore 9 month old clothes home from the hospital. This was another note of interest to the psychiatric world as well as the fact that she used her left hand and only her left hand from day one. She was brilliant. She didn’t speak in baby talk. Didn’t speak at all until she could speak in sentences as a matter of fact, preferred pens to crayons and held a fork, not a spoon, in her hand and ate with it like an adult from the minute she could hold one. She was scary smart and we just thought that was so awesome. Turns out, it comes with it’s own set of problems.
The first time the pediatrician spoke the words, “I believe there is a problem with Tylie”, she was about 18 months old. This proclamation came after a phone call made in desperation to the doc after hours. She had advised she thought Ty had behavioral problems and we should try to squelch them now rather than later. This was done with exercises like putting her in the crib and letting her cry it out until she learned and accepted that was where sleep was happening. My child was not having it, none of it. Now I am not a wimpy parent. I believe it is my job, not a friendship and I take it seriously. This does not mean I do not adore, spoil and cherish my kids (yes I had another one much to the chagrin of my OB-GYN. He swears all his grey hair is my fault). It means I am capable of any and all discipline required to give my child the best possible life they can have.
Here comes the kicker, I did what the doc said. I put her in the crib. I loved her up, kissed her goodnight and told her to lay down and sleep. She looked at me as if I had lost my mind, shook her head “no’ and giggled. I am not kidding. I walked out of the room. It took her approximately 10 seconds to decide her course of action. She then threw her sippy cup out the door and began screaming. I was prepared for this. This was the routine. I was determined, encouraged by the doc that I could do this, that she would get tired and fall asleep. Really? She didn’t. Two hours later, remember, I was desperate by this time to stop the fits, she was still going strong. I was not. I was a tear soaked (mine not hers, she didn’t have many at all) nervous mess. I called the doc, held the phone out and said between hiccups,” ?!?” She listened to the screaming for what seemed an eternity. The first thing she said was “put the phone down and go get her so you can both calm down, I’ll wait on the line.” Then she delivered the words that would forever change our lives. The ones no parent ever wants to hear, my child had a problem and it wasn’t gonna be simple to fix.
My heart did all kinds of flips. The round of emotions was so vast. Fear, anxiety, relief. I didn’t know how to react. However, I am nothing if not proactive. I am a fixer. I high tailed it straight on to the path of knowledge. Thus began our journey that led to the words in the title. The first time I heard these words, I knew there was some sort of mistake. They were missing something. This had nothing to do with my parenting, did it? I was so tired, and weary I did everything they asked, short of the actual class, because by this time, Ty was 4 and instead of lessening, her fits had gotten worse. She ate only organic healthy food, she was on a regular schedule, she had equal amounts of discipline and freedom. But no amount of discipline, giving in or loving could stop this child once she was upset about something. It was exhausting trying to be the “perfect” parent. Which is why, by the time she was 5, the 3rd psychiatrist to tell me that I was the problem got an earful of colorful words describing what he could do with his parenting class and his degree. It was not one of my finer moments.
Even my parents thought I was losing it. You see, Tyler was the most amazing, charming, and beautiful child I have ever laid eyes on. I am not the only one who thought so either. Did you see the photos above??? She charmed everyone. The bottom line, lest this turn into a book instead of a blog is this…there was a problem with my daughter. She is bi-polar. That is not what she was diagnosed with back then. We had to go through many trials and labels before getting down to the nitty gritty. Actually she just had to be older. Instead of having one label she had to carry 3 around. OCD, ODD and Anxiety. Back in the early 2000’s doctors were unwilling to diagnose young children with anything remotely like bi-polar. I had seen my bi-polar niece go through enough bad times to know that if something like that was the problem with my child, then by God I was gonna get a handle on it sooner than later.
I am pleased to say that my stubborn nature as well as Tyler’s, paid off. As a result of plodding on until we found the right combination of counselor and psychiatrist and many heart breaking situations and yes, even medications, we conquered the problems. Are they gone completely? No. Will she have to battle the condition the rest of her life? Yes. But here’s the deal, she does battle it, every day, she does it. We help her, but she is ultimately the one responsible now that she is older, for keeping it under control and managing it. And she does a fantastic job. I am so in awe of her every day. People who meet her today cannot tell at all that she deals with a life altering condition every day. She is amazing.
Oh and the psychiatric world is now considering the possibility that treating younger children showing symptoms early may even be a good thing. Huh, really? I like to think we had a part in that. I also like to think I am partly responsible for the way Ty handles herself. She is ultimately the one who deserves the praise though, she inspires me daily. So what’s the moral of this story? Never give up on something you know with every fiber of your being…no matter who is telling you that you are wrong. Sometimes we parents, or patients depending on the situation, DO know a thing or two. Maybe even three. Oh, did you know that bi-polar is hereditary? Me neither…