A Tiny Time Bomb
For the first six months of Naz’s life he would scream every night like clockwork from 8 p.m. until midnight. I dreaded the night time. I would worry that our neighbors were gonna call CPS to report us for his nightly crying. The crying just wouldn’t stop no matter how my fiancé and I tried to soothe Naz. I remember him finally falling asleep after hours of howling, and this snuggling tiny human on my chest feeling like a ticking time bomb that could go off at any moment.
He especially hated car rides and being restrained in his car seat. I very carefully chose trips, because if something required too much driving, I wouldn’t go. When we did go somewhere, I would cry along with him. I remember I was on my way to one of my mom friend’s houses for our weekly brunch and being at a breaking point because he was screaming so loud I couldn’t hear my own thoughts. I had to pull over. I called my mom and broke down, telling her “I can’t do this shit! What is wrong with him? How much more can I take?!” I felt terrible. I collected myself, and we got to my friend’s house. As soon as I picked him up to nurse him, he vomited all over both of us. I threw in the towel and drove back home.
Not Like Other Kids
Naz seemed different in other ways from the kids we had mommy play dates with. He wasn’t making much noise when it came time to babble. He was silent when he was happy, fed, and his diaper was clean. He would cry when it was nap time or when we were in the car. I knew something was wrong, but so many people continued to brush my concerns under the rug. I was so anxious and depressed, but faked a brave face for everyone else because I didn’t want to feel like I had failed.
At every check-up with his pediatrician I voiced my concerns. I remember bawling in the doctor’s office because parenthood was swallowing me and I was drowning not knowing how to help my son. His pediatrician diagnosed Naz with colic and said to give him medicine for gas. Spoiler alert: It was not colic. I got more “possible issues” that didn’t help soothe his constant crying.
At 9 months, I filled out the “milestone packet” questionnaire to track developmental milestones like “Is your child babbling?” It wasn’t a surprise that Naz hadn’t reached many of the milestones. We were referred to the Infants and Toddlers Program, a state program meant to help children with developmental delays catch up and get back on track. The teachers in the program would tell me Naz was showing “typical 2-year-old behavior” (If it’s typical 2-year-old behavior, WHY ARE WE IN THIS PROGRAM??). Naz still wasn’t speaking at about a year and a half. He would have epic meltdowns daily. I was doing everything anyone suggested. Teach him sign language, don’t let him watch TV, talk to him constantly, bounce on your head, sacrifice a virgin. NOTHING made it better. The worst part of all this was when he started to hit himself and bang his head when angry and frustrated because crying was no longer giving him relief. The teachers in the Infants and Toddlers Program told me to put him in daycare so he would be someone else’s problem. I didn’t want my son to “be someone else’s problem,” I wanted to understand how I, his mother, could help make his life better. The program wasn’t helping at all.
I went in search of a developmental pediatrician. Naz was given a working diagnosis as being on the Autism Spectrum with sensory issues (he can’t be fully diagnosed with autism until age 4). We were referred to speech, occupational, and ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy. We were given a huge binder of information and sent home to review and contact the doctor should we have any questions or concerns. The diagnosis felt like the first breath of air after years. Finally having an answer to so many things I was dealing with was validating. My mom spidey sense was right. My concerns were real.
The diagnosis came with a period of grief, too. I had to mourn the life I had imagined for him and come to terms with the fact that we would face a whole new set of challenges. I went from being a regular mom to being his mom, advocate, teacher, protector, therapist, special needs know-it-all, personal assistant and calendar. I basically turned into a human iPhone. I am his keeper. I have to read food labels and know what he wants or needs. Sometimes I am his translator when others can’t understand him. I have to fight for him to get the resources he needs: Talk to the right departments, go to the doctor’s appointments, research everything.
Once Naz started receiving therapy things slowly got better for us. When he said “Mama,” his little voice warmed my heart. When he signed “I love you,” I turned into a blubbering mess. It let me know that all the therapy and time I was spending trying to help him was working. Our daily sacrifices mattered. It’s a struggle to have a special needs child, he still has meltdowns, and we still work every day at creating a world he can be successful and happy in, but I’ve learned I’m stronger than I ever knew I could be and Naz is the greatest gift in my life. Before becoming a special needs parent I didn’t understand a lot of children’s behaviors. Things I once discarded as bad parenting or bad behavior have now become my reality. Naz has taught me compassion, empathy, love and how to view the world with different more tender eyes and heart. He has made me the best possible mother, friend, fiancé, daughter, and community member.
Author: Lauren Diaz
Lauren is mom to two happy healthy boys, and the Director of Development for Sixx Cool Moms.