Just over six years ago now , the boy was just over two weeks late and I went into hospital to be induced. Once things started kicking off he came out in a bit of a hurry (for a number one baby), in just over seven hours. I was off my head on gas and air, the cord had got wrapped around his neck and forceps were used to get him out. (When the doctor was making his repairs after the episiotomy I remember thinking it was odd they used red string for the stitching….it was only a couple of years later I realised that it was my blood turning it red.)
So after a somewhat dramatic arrival, the boy turned out to be a really happy little baby. Not a great sleeper, but not much crying and a great eater. Placid.
And over the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to put my finger when it changed. When did the placid baby become the angry child? When did I start feeling unable to cope with his behaviour, and feeling it was different to his peers?
I remember talking to my GP about him a couple of times; but that was more about how I was feeling. I wasn’t feeling great mentally, and mentioned to her about how clingy he was and how I felt at bit trapped. But that was different; that was my mental health. He was just a clingy baby, a clingy toddler.
I struggled at home on my second maternity leave during the summer before he started school, I remember that. Was it the birth of his sister that did it? Was he jealous? Did we not give him enough attention? Was I unable to cope with two kids at home?
It was the beginning of last summer, when I finally went to the GP and spoke specifically about the boy and the challenges we were facing with him. Anger; irrational over-reactions; general low mood; uncompliant; blaming others for his actions; violence. Spending time together as a family was a thing to be endured. We were referred to a private child psychologist; the cost for an introductory session was €500. This was prohibitive for us, so we soldiered on. Sometimes you’d have a relative period of calm and think things were improving. And you just get used to it. Get used to the bad behaviour and it becomes normal – your normal, anyway.
It was when the boy started Senior Infants that the real turning point came. I got a phone call from his new teacher after the first couple of days where she described him as violent. My heart broke. Even though I knew what she was saying was true. I felt angry with her; she didn’t know him, how could she say that about him? She had to give him time to settle in, he was just back off the summer holidays. And that’s what we’ve always done with the boy, made excuses for why he was acting a certain way. But this teacher proved to be his greatest ally and showed us that what we were experiencing wasn’t normal. That it was hard, but it wasn’t supposed to be this hard. The boy is in a class of 19 boys and 10 girls. The boys are mostly, I believe, ‘spirited’. But amongst these spirited boys there was something different about ours, she thought. He was hard to motivate, inattentive, violent on occasion, impervious to punishment, distracted. He was falling behind in his reading and writing. She felt he had low self-esteem.
And so, I returned to the GP and asked for a referral within the public system and at the beginning of this year we were in the Lucena clinic which deals with Child and Adolescent Mental Health, including ADHD and ASD diagnoses. I couldn’t believe this is where we were with the boy, our boy. That this was happening to us. The other part of me felt huge relief –someone, a professional, was going to tell us what was happening and how we could make it better. We were on the way to becoming a normal, happy family!