Rewind fourteen years ago to the birth of my first son. My partner, now husband, and I welcomed our first child into the world. I was in a rush to start a family; I had battled health issues and I felt this now or never pressure. We were young parents without a clue in the world. My labor was long and complicated and ended in an emergency c-section. But, the wait was over; here was this baby boy I absolutely longed for. Motherhood threw punches quickly; breast feeding woes, infections, and at nine weeks our babe ended up in ICU with a near fatal virus. I rebounded quickly from the early months and went on doing the best I could with what I knew.
As my son developed red flags would go off in my head. He had an incessant need to move, throwing himself in his exersaucer, running at eight months, never a dull moment. His attention to detail was beyond his age. At two he was rattling off sports stats that no one else in the house had a clue about. His mathematical brain was extremely advanced; counting by threes at the age of three up into the two hundreds. His social skills were lacking, he had a hard time relating to children his own age and was quite aggressive. But, it was all I really knew so it was my normal. Then there was the phone call from day care…”Sorry to let you know, but your son can no longer attend here. He is too aggressive and is the center of the problems”. I was devastated. I was seven months pregnant and on bed rest and had no idea what to do. He was already attending a preschool a couple days a week so we upped the time there and carried on. As preschool carried on, his teacher expressed concerns about his lack of fine motor skills and suggested that me may be on the autism spectrum. During this same period, we noticed moments of absence, which turned out to be seizures.
Enter public school: Kindergarten, grade one, and grade two were no different, the problems kept surmounting. Meetings with school administrators and teachers were a regular occurrence. Several trips to the neurologist and he had diagnoses of epilepsy, attention deficit disorder, and developmental coordination disorder. Even with these diagnoses there was no extra help. My husband and I were on the rocks; we had no idea how to raise this child the way the world was telling us to. We were all living in our own personal hell, our son included. He didn’t mean to hurt other children, he didn’t want to be in trouble, he just wanted to be a normal kid and participate the way all the other kids did. It was a very dark time. Then the summer heading into grade three we decided to try out ADHD medication. There were some instant improvements and we were thrilled. But then things started to slide slowly. By March of grade three, we made the decision that he would attend private school where there were smaller class sizes and he could get some extra help. The school was extremely supportive and the principal managed to culminate a designation for him and he began to receive ministry funding. Despite the efforts of the school and our family, he was still struggling, now more than ever. The mood swings, the defiance, the meltdowns, the inability to function in a school setting and at home was overwhelming. Our life was unmanageable, utter chaos. We became affiliated with our local youth mental health agency and a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist started manipulating his medications, which completely exasperated all his behaviors. I felt so alone, how was this my life, how was I going to keep going. I had two other children by this point and my whole life was consumed and centered around this one person. This child who I loved so much but didn’t know how to raise, this child who I desperately wanted but at the same time couldn’t live with. We were seriously lost and disillusioned by the system. We had social services called on us but there was no help; calls us if he gets an autism diagnosis then we can help you. Seriously frustrating that there are these golden ticket diagnoses and the rest of the kids are left in the dark.
And then the day came, another visit to the psychiatrist and another medication bump. I kept him home from school for a few days after and while I went into the school with my daughter he started to seize in the car. That was it; we were done. No more medications, no more school, just no more!
And there it was right in front of us, a new beginning. The next few months were amazing; we witnessed a miracle right in front of our eyes. Our son started coming back to us. Everyday his eyes were brighter and mine were a little less swollen and red. This child that we remembered, this spirit that had been dampened by the box system started to emerge from the dark. It was beautiful and still is. Of course we were faced with new challenges, what now and fielding all the questions from the naysayers. We started to navigate a new territory but the pressures were gone and we had our son back. It took us some time to figure things out and for a while I didn’t think I could make it work, but we have. I have adopted the motto “Do what works now. If it stops working we will change it then.” Basically, live in the present, don’t worry about the future. Since leaving the system, he has been diagnosed with further learning impairments which I strongly believe attributed to his behavioral issues back in elementary. He is thriving in grade eight, has created a peer network, is responsible, self sufficient, and extremely caring and loving. Yes there are still challenging days but that goes without saying, who said raising kids was a cake walk? I am incredibly grateful for our journey. It has and continues to mold our family and has definitely leveled me up as a mother and human being.