Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Julianna, Part 2: The Denial Phase

As Julianna got closer to age two, I was happy with the progress she'd made. She began walking, using more and more words, and though I was still fearful of the little behaviors, I made up my mind that she only needed physical therapy, and nothing more. Because she had met her goals in that area, and with her teacher that came, she had improved as well, I felt like enough was enough. She no longer needed this help, she would be just fine. And so I made the biggest mistake I've ever made as a parent:

I actually called the wonderful physical therapist and told her Julianna would no longer need services anymore.

I can remember standing in my kitchen, looking out the window, and saying this to her. She had met her goals, therefore she no longer needed the help. The therapist was quick to respond, asking me to reconsider, and that Julianna could still go a lot further with her help. But again, I said, no, I really think she'll be just fine. I even went so far as to tell her to cancel her file at the regional center. Now that she wouldn't stand for. Not the regional center early intervention program. But I was insistent. Julianna would be fine now, she's walking. She doesn't have autism, like you told me. So please terminate all services.

And so began the phase I like to call "denial." I had somehow pushed all my fears to the farthest corner of my mind, and decided to completely deny the fact that anything was wrong. Even reading back in my journal, all I can find are positive, happy things that we did as a family. Not once did I ever talk about my worries or concerns. But I wasn't thinking rationally, at all. I pretty much just fired all the wonderful people who were working with my daughter, all because I thought I knew better than them, and didn't want to believe there was anything more to work on with her. Now those of you with children on the spectrum know how precious this help is to your child. It's life-saving, crucial, and completely necessary. And I had just turned them away, after all they had done. I truly didn't want to believe anything could be wrong with Julianna, that she needed any help at all. It was easier that way, better that way.

And so she turned two, continued improving in speech and other areas, but those behaviors were still there. They would go away soon enough, I rationalized. Besides, she played okay with the other kids. And she knew how to feed herself. But she did need help in many gross motor areas, and fine motor, too. I still remember after she had mastered walking, how scared she was to step off a curb, even holding my hand. She would not put her foot forward. Instead, she would turn all the way around, and back both feet off the curb with her hands on the ground. And she liked to put EVERYTHING in her mouth, still, at 2.

When she was 27 months I discovered I was pregnant with Blake. Julianna liked to touch my tummy and say, baby. And like any mom would, I wanted to potty train her before the next baby came. So at 2 1/2, I got all the gear, had a plan, and went for it. My first attempt ever at potty training. I don't even know if she had all the readiness signs, I just tried it because that's what you do with a 2 1/2 year old who's about to have a new baby brother. It was a complete failure. She wanted nothing to do with it, and even became so constipated that we had to take her to the doctor. From this one potty training attempt, she became completely fearful of the toilet, and we had to put her on laxatives to keep her regular. But still, I brushed this off, saying that she just wasn't ready, and we'd try again later. And soon after that came the tantrums, and the hand biting, new behaviors of which I had no idea to help her or console her. Things were getting better in some areas, but worse in others.

Blake was born in November, just before she turned 3. And when Blake was born with his own set of challenges of a completely new and different sort, I just kept right on denying with Julianna. I couldn't do both at once. I now had a baby with medical issues to care for. But lest you worry that I'm a horrible, neglectful parent, know that Julianna of course was loved, and played with, and cared for in the best way I knew how to at the time. However, denial can only last for so long. I reached a point where you can't hide those fears forever, can't deny what's right in front of you. And so began the next phase....

No comments:

Post a Comment