Thankfully Ella was a healthy, happy baby girl when she joined our family. We left the hospital 3 days after she was born and I couldn't wait to get home to my girls and family. Given that it was my 3rd c-section in 5 years, I kind of expected to be sore and tired. After 1 week at home, I realized that the bruising I had around my incision wasn't getting any better. It was actually getting worse. I got up to take a shower and I started bleeding from my c-section. It turned out that I had a massive collection of blood that hadn't drained. For the next 7 weeks, my amazing husband had to help clean out my incision several times a day and repack it.
Ella was almost 4 months old by the time I was completely healed from her delivery. During that 4 months, we began to realize that while Ella was a smart, connected, active baby girl - she was also not responding to pain that most children would have. She didn't cry when she got her shots. She didn't cry when her sisters would drop a toy on her or when the bathwater may have been too cold. The little "mom" alarm bells were going off. Of course they were already going off because of the two older girls, so I thought that was just me being a neurotic mama.
Things were slowly moving along, I healed up and I found a good rhythm with the girls. One afternoon, Riley's therapist came to the house and she looked me in the eye and said that we needed to have a talk about the girls. I thought it was odd considering that she was only there to work with Riley, but she wanted to talk about Maggie and Ella. I remember looking at her and automatically feeling defensive. Who was she to think that she could say anything about my other kids when she was only there to work with Riley? What right did she have to say anything about what kind of mother I was? Of course she hadn't really even said anything at that point, but I was already spewing off retorts in my head to what I thought she was going to say.
I don't think I really heard anything. I was too busy having a conversation in my own head disputing anything she hadn't said yet. I vaguely remember her pointing out how it wasn't "normal" for Maggie to be almost a year old and that she wasn't sitting up on her own. Maggie wasn't feeding herself or drinking out of a cup. Maggie wasn't crawling or moving around. She kept talking about how "delayed" Maggie was and how it wasn't "normal" for Maggie to not really be "speaking" yet. Than she started to talk about Ella and her "abnormal pain response". I can remember in detail feeling this switch in my head and flashing back to doctors telling me that my daughter was "malformed".
The absolute rage going through my head and my bloodpressure flying through the roof had to have been visible to this therapist sitting across from me. I'm really surprised that she didn't run out of my house in terror. I'm sure that I wasn't the first parent that she had this conversation with. And I'm sure I'm not the first parent that flew off the handle and started screaming and cursing at her for thinking that she could cast any judgement on my children. I'm probably not the last parent that she had had that conversation with. Despite my absolute defense and rage - and despite every fiber of my being wanting to kick her out of my house - part of me knew that she was right. And that broke my heart.
I didn't want to admit to myself that there was something different about my girls. It almost feels (even today) like I have this split personality part of me. Part of me knew that my girls needed to be checked out and to see someone who could figure out what part of them wasn't working right. Part of me saw that they weren't like all the other kids in the neighborhood. Part of me saw how "little" Maggie seemed compared to where Riley had been at 1 year old. I remember watching Riley try and stand up and walk on her own when she was almost 1. I remember Riley holding cups and trying to figure out which end of the fork to eat from. I remember celebrating Riley crawling and sitting up on her own. Even with all the antibiotics and testing - Riley still met some basic developmental goals.
Maggie was almost 1 year old and wasn't sitting up. She wasn't trying to. She was barely babbling and wasn't trying to cue me to watching what she was doing. Maggie wasn't really "growing" in her development. She had to have things just so. I truly believed that every child was different. Their needs were different. Their interests and growth patterns were different. I wanted to believe that that was the case with Maggie. I felt like such a horrible mother comparing my children to each other. I didn't want to be "that mom". I didn't want to hold one child as the "standard" to another.
I didn't want to believe that my Maggie wasn't ok. I didn't want to believe that this therapist was sitting across from me seeing these challenges in my girls and I couldn't see it. I could see it. I just didn't want to believe it. I didn't want to see that Ella wasn't ok. She had already defied the odds by being born "normal". Her brain was fine. Her heart was fine. Ella had to be fine. But she wasn't. Ella wasn't fine. Ella didn't react when she got shots. Ella didn't seem to feel pain at all. She didn't seem to feel discomfort. But Ella had to be fine. In my head and in my heart Ella had to be fine. I didn't want to see it.
Even though part of me couldn't see these differences in my girls, the other part of me saw it and knew that something needed to be done. This therapist sitting across from me was telling me what i already knew. But it didn't make it any easier to see. It certainly didn't know how to take the divider between what I knew and what I could see, out. How in the hell does someone remove a part of themselves that they didn't even know where it was?
How was I supposed to handle the reality of 3 little girls with challenges? How did I end up having 3 special little girls? How was I going to raise these 3 little girls that all seemed to have higher needs? What in the hell was I supposed to do now?
This therapist kept talking through all these thoughts running through my head. I couldn't understand how she didn't see all these thoughts and fears running around. They couldn't all be in my head, but they were. She kept pulling these pamphlets and papers out of her bag like a magician pulling scarves out of his sleeve. I don't even remember what most of them were for or what she was saying. I felt like I was listening to that "mom" character in "Charlie Brown" or "The Little Muppets". "Waahhaaa, waahhahaaa, waggaawaggahhaa". They weren't words that were coming out of her mouth as much as sounds that were supposed to have meaning to them.
It felt like it was hours upon hours of her sitting there trying to convince me to do something or like she was waiting for me to confirm everything she was saying. I had checked out of that conversation long before she said she was leaving. Maybe I was staring at her like deer in a headlights or like she was speaking some foreign language, but eventually she left without whatever it was she was waiting for. And I was left with this heavy block on my chest and fear in my heart.
What in the hell was I supposed to do now?