Post partum fall-out

*** Update- It seems I have once again failed to express myself accurately. Please note that this is a very long winded post and it is full of emotions and feelings... don't worry we are still doing everything we can to get our son and us the help we all need***

Well it seems that it is time for another Tara-processing-her-thoughts post.

I can just feel your excitement. :)

This afternoon we met with our counsellor at the Children's Mental Health Centre. This is the second time Doug and I have met with her. The meetings are about Aiden and he will eventually participate in things but not yet. So far it is just a zillion questions to Doug and I.

This past week the counsellor met with Aiden's Aide from his class, the special needs director at the school and a psychologist who specializes in kids like Aiden. The psychologist was in Toronto- which is a 25 hour drive from where we are- so they met via video conferencing.

Today the counsellor passed on to us some of what they talked about in that meeting.

So far it is all things we have covered before with various specialists. The way it works is that the psychologist was sent Aiden's huge file, she went through it all and then asked questions and listened to the concerns from the school's perspective. Then she asked the counsellor a bunch of questions that she, in turn, asked us. She wants to know why we didn't keep Aiden on Ritalin. She wants to discuss that further (READ: I'm pretty sure she wants us to put my kid on more drugs). She wants the counsellor to discuss attachment issues with me because my post partum depression is a red flag that needs to be looked into further (READ: she wonders if I bonded appropriately with Aiden or if I abused him in any way etc.). She wants us to put Aiden in more extra-curricular activities (READ: she doesn't think we are doing enough to help him). She wants us to participate in a 10-week intensive parenting course thing with the counsellor (READ: she is pretty sure a lot of Aiden's issues can be cured with better parenting). She wants the counsellor to do home observations (READ: she needs to find out how dysfunctional our home life is). She wants to know what we are doing about Aiden's obsession with Star Wars (READ: she think it is our fault that he is obsessed with being a Jedi for the dark side).

In my head I KNOW why they need to know all this information and it is not a personal attack. I KNOW that they are doing their best to help. I KNOW that the psychologist has never even met us and the counsellor has only seen us for a couple hours total so there is a LOT they have to ask us.

Here's the thing though... I have spent YEARS being judged a bad parent by a lot of people. They see how Aiden acts and assume that it is because we suck as parents. As you all know I am a pastor's wife and in the past church folks have given me MUCH advice on how to better parent my child. When Aiden would freak out at church some people would walk by and glare at me and shake their heads in disapproval. When Aiden was finally diagnosed with Autism people who had not spoken to me in months and months suddenly started being very friendly and understanding because now I had a "legitimate" reason for having such a disruptive child. I'm not saying Aiden wasn't disruptive... he was. And I'm not saying that everyone responded the same way, some people were positively beautiful about it. I could cry right now thinking of the compassion my friend Becky and her husband and kids showed me right from the start. But it sure did hurt to be judged so harshly by some.

I have been glared at in stores. I have been given more unsolicited and unhelpful advice than I could ever hope to remember... or maybe I should say more than I can ever hope to forget. I have been told by professionals and lay people alike that if we would just "give that kid some firm discipline he would turn right around". I have been told that if I would just do "such and such" that he would be cured.

Why do people assume that I have not researched how to help my own son? Why do they assume we are not doing everything we can to help him?

I have seen dozens of specialists and answered the same questions over and over and over again.

And I have had to answer their inquiries about my post partum depression and how I handled myself and my children during that time.

This time they even want to meet with Doug seperately to ask him about me and how my depression has affected our family.

Don't get me wrong... I KNOW my depression has affected Aiden and my whole family. I do. I'm not an idiot. I am not blind. I am not delusional.

But it IS hard for me.

It is hard for me to answer the questions over and over again.

Professional: tell me about Aiden's first year... how did you respond to him? How did you deal with your anger? etc. etc.

Me: Well, Aiden cried 12-13 hours per day and I carried him, rocked him, sang to him, fed him, changed him, and then cried with him for the remaining 11 hours. He never slept longer than 2 hours at a time and most of those were spent in my arms or on his father's chest. That lasted until he was over a year old. When I couldn't handle it I called his father and he would take over until I could function again. We split the day into shifts... I took the middle of the night, Doug took early mornings, I took during the day while Doug was at work, Doug took evenings after work. We constantly asked for help and received none. Thanks for asking.

It is hard to analyze, yet again, how much of Aiden's difficulties are my fault.

Because you know what? I didn't CHOOSE to have post partum depression. Aiden didn't CHOOSE to have a mentally-screwed up mom. My husband didn't CHOOSE for his wife to turn into a completely different person that was unable to function normally.

But that is what happened.

And it's not fair. To any of us.

And it frustrates me that I started asking for help for myself and for Aiden from the time Aiden was 2 weeks old. I KNEW something was wrong. So they put me on some medication and that helped me a bit... but really, is it even possible to be happy when your child is that unhappy?

But they told me Aiden had "classic colic" and that it would just go away. And then when he was older and still high-needs they said it was just because he was a boy or it was my fault because he was my first and I was stressed out and didn't know what I was doing etc. And then when he got even older they said it was just because we didn't discipline him properly and we weren't consistent enough.

It wasn't until his teachers started to ask for help that the professionals paid any attention to me. And you know what? Even then I had to bring a dear friend of ours who had some serious clout in the system with me to the meeting before they were prepared to actually do anything. Thanks again for that Jonathan... you made all the difference and I am so grateful.

NOW we have all sorts of folks wanting to observe and analyze us. But what do we do with the 7 years they ignored us?

I already feel like a crappy mom most of the time. I don't really need them to write a report to tell me that. Maybe I should just ask them to write a letter that Aiden can hand to his therapist one day.

Dear Aiden's adulthood therapist:

It is all his mother's fault.

love & kisses,
the Medical professionals, Educational specialists, and Mental Health Centre.

After Olivia was born the public health nurse came to visit us to see if I had any questions etc. This is a program that I THINK is available across Canada because it happened after the boys were born too and we lived in a different province at that time. ANYWAY the nurse comes in and oohs and ahhs over my gorgeous two week old daughter. I had entered my third bout of post partum depression and had just started medication for that. My house is not perfect. My sons are going a little nuts and I was pretty sure she would think I was a crappy mother and housekeeper but felt rather powerless to change. But it was ok. About 10 minutes into the appointment the nurse says "well, I don't think you need me to tell you how to bathe or dress your baby" and she laughs. I apologize for the mess and chaos and she laughs again. We chat for awhile and she leaves. She calls me the next week to ask if I can be part of her resource team for new moms with questions. Then it was MY turn to laugh.

A few months later the school (or someone) recommends us to some parenting program initiative based on Aiden's behaviour. SO I get a call from the program representative who explains that she will come over to my home, observe a bit and then set me up with an "appropriate" mentor. I agreed because I figured what harm could it do? I am always open to some good mentoring and it's not like I haven't been asking for help for YEARS.

SO she arrives at my home and asks a zillion questions, observes for awhile and then goes away. I'm fairly certain I am a prime candidate since I am clearly NOT keeping it all together. She calls me the next day and says she sent a report back to the school saying I was not a candidate for the program but would I be interested in BECOMING a MENTOR?

So I say to her "um... how exactly would I qualify to be a mentor?? People all over this town are pretty sure my son is screwed up because I suck as a parent."

She says "struggling moms don't need someone perfect, they need someone real who can walk WITH them through stuff. Someone who won't judge them because they don't know what age to feed the baby what food at. Someone who won't make them feel worse for how ill-prepared they are for this job of being a mommy... I think you'd be great for that."

And that, my friends, is where the tag line of this blog comes from. I am 100% imperfect. And I try really hard to be ok with that. But when I have to answer those zillion questions about my depression and whether I bonded properly with my baby and if there are attachment issues because of my issues etc... it sure is hard to be ok with being imperfect.

All that being said I AM still happy to be getting Aiden, and us, the help we need finally :)


the Doug said…
You may be imperfect, but you're the perfect fit for me, love you.

(guaranteed at least one of your blog readers went awwwwww..... when they read that - oh yeah me)
Jo said…
awww hon, just by reading your blog I can tell you've been struggling with this for too long. Just know that if you feel in your heart that you're a good mom and that you're doing your best that's all that matters, there will always be people who want to judge you, and it's funny because those are the ones who deep down feel they don't measure up in certain ways. What we dislike in others is most often what we most dislike in ourselves...does that make sense to you? It's obvious you are good parents, you've sought out help for yourself and child and eventhough doors have been closed in your faces you didn't give up. That my friend is an attribute of a great parent. (HUGS) Jo
Mrs4444 said…
It sounds like you could really use some validation that you have worked really hard to be great parents. I guess you're going to have to jump through these hoops (hurtful as it may be) to get Aiden the help he needs.

Our son was colicky his first year; it was awful. We never had a meal together and say we played "hot potato" with him. It's rough. Colic doesn't cause autism, though. Hugs to you...
Anonymous said…
Toodlee-doo, I love you.
T in the Cap.
Shoz said…
Oh T, I think you are a great mom! A hell of a lot better than I would ever be so keep goin sister. I know it sucks going through the barrage of questions(that often feel more like accusations) But in the end it is all worth it if it gets Aiden the help he needs to function better.
I agree with Jo and then would add no matter what others say these children have been given to you by God and it was not an accident of any sort. They need you and all that you have to teach them. You may have gotten off to a rough start with Aiden but the diagnosis has come and now things can only get better.
And I think you would be a fantastic mentor! You are great at listening and loving people no matter what. I think that would be a brilliant fit!!!
I love you Ta and am seriously proud of all that you have become. You are kinda like a little sister and I love you to the moon and back!
Krista said…
you know that i have a friend whose son was diagnosed with autism not long before Aiden. (they even have the same name!) i know that many of these thoughts and experiences happened for them too... you're so not alone.

what i learned from her experience, and from my own experiences navigating the "system" to get help for Josh early on... is that none of it is personal. they ask a zillion questions because they need to - they need as complete a picture of your child & family as possible in order to give him the best help that they can. if anything, your experiences prove to me that you're a GREAT mom and probably more capable of helping others in similiar situations than you know.

hang in there Tara... you and i both know that God doesn't make mistakes!!
Judy said…
Beautiful post, Tara.

Thanks for sharing both the pain and the joy of being a mother.
Anonymous said…
Dearest Tara; First I want to apologize to you for the hurtful way people try to help,and the reality of human judgment.

I could share with you Darrin's and my story with our son Brandon and his 4 years of undiagnosed depression and how just like your describing... we were also targeted as the problem, but that would be a long one... Turns out that our son finely after 4 years, only after he became suicidal, got the help he needed....
I just want to encourage you that working through the challenges of post postpartum depression and undiagnosed child health issues already qualifies you as a good parent. Because no one could understand like you do how difficult it is to be alone in it, and how hard it is, and the frustrations you feel all around with the lack of support you recieved.
I see you as a lovely family, and I would like to know who has the perfect family and perfect parents. I finally came to a place of realizing that God was the only perfect father/mother of my life... I certainly am not, but I love my children with all my heart. I know they know this...

I certainly didn't have the perfect parents, but I love them and I know my kids love me to with all of my imperfections...

You are a good mom... Do not let anyone tell you differently!
Your in my prayers today.. Thanks for sharing the truth of what's on your heart.

Caroline Oorschot
Amanda Daybyday said…
I think the nurses had it right. You are someone to be looked up too. Someone who's great to talk to. Someone who understands and is not judgemental. That's what I thought of you way back in college and I'm not surprised you're still that way. I for one have always respected you...and I always will.
I haven't had to face nearly the barrage that you have with Finn...but I do feel that whole "you're not parenting your child quite right and if you just do this..." feeling from the professionals once in a while. I keep some appointments that I think are completely useless just so I can look like I'm trying so they'll give us the real help we need. But you know all that. Love you and I'll be praying that you find the help this time around that you should have gotten 7 years ago.
Emily B said…
It sounds to me like you are a great mom, and fighting to be a great mom in adverse times just speaks to your dedication to your family. I admire your strength - and I know you might not feel strong - but to me it sounds like you have been fighting an uphill battle for years and still going, that is something to admire. Wishing you and your family the best!
Anonymous said…
Your strength through all of this and your ability to share the reality of your journey is a great gift. More good must be coming to you, your family, and your community out of this long and difficult experience and your courageous and honest contribution.

Much love from G.on the coast
Anonymous said…
Oh Sweetheart, you are a wonderful mom and also a good friend to your children. They all adore you. Aiden and you bonded when he was a baby, it was just that he was sick for that part! And honestly I think Aiden is doing so much better. My neighbor says he's such a polite and sweet boy and that you should be proud of your parenting. So there, it's all in how you look at it. I'm sorry you've been going through so many questions. Sometimes life sucks. But you are a very special person and both you and Doug are outstanding parents. Love, Mom
Heather said…
If I was there, I would give you a GREAT BIG hug and tell you that you are the most awesome mom ever! You are such an inspiration of how to "keep the faith" even when under fire.
Hang in there, because I know that God will use this for His glory somehow, someway!
Colleen said…
The judgemental people can all just go "wuffle up a gump stump" as my parents would say! :o) I know a bit of how that feels from when I worked with the Loves' son in Japan (he has Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified -- P.D.D.N.O.S. for "short")I had to escort him to and from school every day that year (a half hour train ride, with a transfer, followed by a 5 minute walk) and MAN did I get the glares from people that I wasn't keeping him under control better and CLEARLY it was all my fault that he was misbehaving the way he was. ARGH. But those people all have no clue - NO CLUE what is going through these poor kids' brains, or how their brains are even working or how AWESOME of people these kids really are once you get to know them... so again, I say - the judgemental people can all go WUFFLE UP A GUMP STUMP.
Here's looking forward to the future and that one day, not too long from now, you will have that help you need and maybe a wee bit more understanding from those around you...

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