Meltdowns and Ice-cream

I often find myself thinking about our social plans for today, tomorrow, next week.. Like most people, I like to have things to look forward to, for me and my family.

My eldest son has autism and sometimes it doesn’t matter what plans you make.. Autism has a way of changing things.

I try, I really do… So does the Daddy.. Not to let it take over, not to make it alter our plans.. But realistically it sometimes does.

A trip to a shopping centre with the promise of lunch is a no-no.. To be fair that’s probably the same for a lot of children.. With son No.1 no matter the preparation.. The promises.. Let’s face it.. The bribes.. It just doesn’t work.

So I had made some plans for the beach – but there were a few things I needed to do in town first.  If the Daddy had been there, we would have most definitely of tag-teamed and either split the boys up or he would of taken them to the beach.

It’s a 20 minute journey from home- no biggie – but far enough that you don’t want to make more trips than necessary (having said that I’m down there when ever I have an excuse)… Walking by the sea, sucking up the atmosphere.. anyway I digress.

So the trip around the shops was a little fractious – but I really (really, really) try not to let myself get too stressed in these situations… But sometimes it doesn’t matter how broad the smile is on my face or how positive I’m being sometimes the cracks show.

Returning an item to a small boutique, I gave the usual parent chatter “Don’t touch anything”… Only to spot No.2 Son’s little paws on an exquisite sparkling vase “This is pretty Mummy”.. “Yes it is… now don’t touch”.  A little wander around the shop with them, hopefully to curb their curiosity and to avoid the run-around that would have occurred without the pre-emptive walk, and I was satisfied that they had looked and touched everything they wanted to.

At the counter I exchanged my trinket and did the necessary signing, etc.  Son No.2 was hovering nearby. But there was no sign of Son No.1.  Now this shop is small, only the size of the average living room, there is one way in and out, and there is one of those old fashioned tinkly bells – so I would have heard him leave.. Excusing myself to the lady behind the till, I went to see what Son No.1 was up to… In a crate of cushions, – no larger than a baby crib.. I could see a pair of eyes amongst the luxury fabrics of the cushion and a pair of feet hanging over the edge.  This isn’t T K Max… this is a flipping boutique, but it did look cosy and I could understand why he’d done it.  Trying not to draw too much attention to the issue, (Difficult when Son No.2 is belly laughing next to me)  I very quickly extracted him – sometimes I really don’t know my own strength.

You’d think that I would have done the sensible thing then and left.. But sometimes Mummy’s just want to shop.. In the end I extracted him twice more, and left without buying the gorgeous scented candles that I obviously wanted but did not need…  (To the Daddy… there is obviously some advantages to me taking the boys shopping with me)..

Only a couple more errands to run, and I would be home and dry… Well on the glorious beach..

So with the promise of ice-cream.. I ambled on.  We stopped by the waffle shop – so that No.1 Son could chat with the lady behind the counter – I do love the lady here.. she always takes a genuine interest in the children.  She always takes the time to chat and calls them by their names.  Still I detected a shift in No.1 Son’s mood… this can happen.. and it happens fast.. I don’t even know if mood is the right word…

No. 1 Son goes charging off, with the gritted teeth of determination..hands flapping around, he’s running like Phoebe from Friends.  He’s also omitting this sound like a strained car engine.. He’s obviously a train driver or a formula one driver today..

When I catch up with him, he is literally bouncing up and down.. hitting the large beachballs hanging from a shop’s display.  I’m stroking his arm, and he starts kicking out.. I really hate this.  (This is my lovely sweet boy, that I have brought up to be gentle and kind… That I have raised with good manners..).  His brother takes the full force of one kick.. Trying to prevent WW3, and keeping them both at arms length on opposite sides of me really takes some doing.

I console No. 2 Son, all too briefly – as often the case, but he settles before going in for the punch and the whole situation erupts again.  Again taking the time to console him and tell him off for reacting – I calm him down and tell him to wait a couple of metres away from me, so I can get No.1 son away from the busyness of the beach shop and the massive hanging beachball display.

By now people are staring I ignore it – I often do, but I am human and I have a heart.  I do unfortunately get embarrassed.. There’s not many things and all though I am a lioness when it comes to protecting my cubs, I sometimes forget as many parents do, to protect myself.

So by this point I am hot, rosy cheeked and holding tightly on to No.1 Son’s arm while trying to gently stroke his other arm and sooth him.. He needs to calm down..  Meanwhile No.2 Son is looking on, he does try to help .. saying to his brother “Calm down, calm down”.

The sweetness of this gesture from No.2 Son is too much, but I suck it up and continue to try and calm No. 1 Son down.  Then out of no where an older lady with a severe grey bob and sturdy walking boots, struts up to us.. My defences are instantly up.. But it’s not what I think..

“Have you had a diagnosis? – You know your overstimulating him by stroking him.. He needs pressure and lots of it” – I look blank and taken aback, before she explains that she’s an occupational therapist and that this is her passion.

Now I’ve been told several times, in fact I’ve lost count of the people who’ve said you wouldn’t know… He doesn’t look Autistic.. (Goodness only knows what that meant to mean).  But part of me in the early days was glad.. I know that sounds wrong.. but I’m being honest.. I didn’t want him to be wearing a label.. I didn’t want people to know.. I didn’t want anyone to judge him.. because people are cruel, and they do.

So back to the lady.. I began nodding and my voice breaking from the kindness shown by a stranger, I whispered a yes.. we’ve had a diagnosis.  In the middle of this seaside town, a lady was giving me advice – welcome advice.  “He need’s pressure, either a tight hug, or pushing down on him, a weighted backpack could help, get him up on monkey bars and get his body weight to do the work”  She then proceeded to scribble her name and a colleagues name down along with phone numbers…

… I was in shock.. because I had learnt something.. something nobody else had told me.. Autism is a constant journey.. By this point he’d started to calm.. it was only me now that wasn’t so calm.. emotion brimming under the surface, we set off for our last shop.. The giant ice-cream shop.

It’s always busy at the giant ice-cream shop – often there are queues out the door.  Both boys went charging in there, the counter was crowded, but there wasn’t the usual queue.  Still their eyes were on stalks and they stood on tiptoe trying to get a glimpse of the flavours.. I was barged out the way then, by a baseball capped pensioner, with Simon Cowell Trousers “Can you please get out the way.. to my boys”.. The chinks in my armour were definitely getting bigger.. But I managed a “I think the words you’re looking for are Excuse me please!”.  He left, but I was upset that he felt the need to speak to us like that..

Eventually we got to the front, but No.1 Son was starting to ‘go’ again.. the shop was crowded and noisy,  the queue had formed out onto the street, as it so often does..

No.2 Son is easy.. Vanilla – he always has vanilla.. He wanted a flake.. stupidly I refused.. why did I refuse?? – so he starts crying – I can handle this – we just need to get the ice creams, pay and get out.. SIMPLE..

No. 2 Son says he wants two flavours and a sugar cone.. Uh No… you can have a child’s cone – the sugar cones are too big.. (And too much money..).  So I ask the lady behind the counter can he have two flavours – to which she tells me no, sorry just one..

..Queue meltdown.. When they come, they are hideous, but I am trapped in a small shop with a crowd of captive onlookers all waiting for their ice creams and my son is being ‘naughty’..  He’s jumping up and down and shouting “I hate you – she’s a stupid lady”.. She looks agog, and before anything further is said I look at her with glistening eyes and meaningfully say “I’m really sorry, but he’s not being naughty”.. she says Ok, and that he can have two flavours, only she gets them wrong.. twice.. (The Meltdown continues) I guess she was starting to feel the stress of the whole situation too..  In the end she says “I tell you what you can have a sugar cone and a flake on me.. and a flake for your brother”.

Normally I would have refused – this behaviour shouldn’t be rewarded, but at the same time, I hadn’t prepared him for the situation.. normally we would have had a chat before going in there about boundaries and what he could or couldn’t have.  But that didn’t happen, and I’m not sure that that would have prevented the situation with the mood that No.1 Son was in.

And so the situation calmed down; the lady now told me – don’t worry they’re the normal price.. the rest is on me.  That was it.. I was gone.  Bending down to the floor, with the guise of hunting out my purse from my back pack, I tried to disguise the tears that were brimming, but that’s a challenge when you have no tissues and you’re in a crowded and now hot room.  A hand on my shoulder and another mum bent down “You’re doing a good job..”.  And so I paid with an all too brief thank you and I was out..

Across the road the children sheltered under a canopy, I did not want a seagull to pinch their gargantuan ice creams.. Can you imagine.. I certainly could and I couldn’t deal with anymore today..

We made it to the beach.. No.1 Son has always had an affinity with the water.. It’s where he is at his best.

Sometimes we have days like this – they’re hard..

Sometimes the kindness of strangers exceeds anything and everything I expect.. Who would of thought that during a short shopping trip, that three people would have reached out to our family and made such a difference to our day.

 

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28 Months to walk

The fall out from my baby being sick for the first 20 months of his life was that everything physical was delayed.

The sickness was hideous, projectile and there didn’t ever seen to be any break from it.

As first time parents, it was difficult to know what was normal and what was not. My gut said we will be fine. We’re living in a first world country, with a first class National Health Service, our son will be fine.

Our little boy was sleeping lots – through the night and long naps through the day.  Everybody said ‘Aren’t you lucky! Isn’t he good’…We thought so too.  Reflecting now, I know this was because he had so little energy.

We started to worry when we were asked to bring him every week to be weighed.  I remember the concern and the suggestions from the health visitors.. But mostly I remember the comment written in his little red book (child health record) “Failure to thrive”.

I referred myself to the doctor and we were very soon sent on to a dietitian to look at whether we could do anything to keep the milk down and get our son to put on weight.

There was some trial and error, but eventually we found a milk that No.1 son could tolerate.  It was thickened and seemed to sit in his tummy rather than being projectiled everywhere.

In addition No.1 son was prescribed ranitidine to settle his tummy and Duocal to increase his calorie intake.

It worked!! And so we persevered and No. 1 son started to put on weight.. But Everything else was still delayed..

There was no crawling milestone, and barely a standing milestone.. Eventually as I was nearing the time to give birth to No. 2 son, our darling No. 1 son went from bottom shuffling to walking at the age of 2 years and 4 months.

He was on the move and the reflux had eased.

We were of course delighted; the months of worry, the support from family, friends, medical staff and nursery had finally paid off.

There was one small thing niggling away though.. Son No.1 had always ‘hand twirled’  his arms out stretched and his wrists and fingers dancing in the air.  I briefly mentioned it to the nursery…

…I even asked if it could be Autism – “No look how well he talks”.. He  was exceptional with his speech.. Which we’d put down to me… I do like to talk.. And children with Autism don’t communicate well – do they?

The Daddy and I were not and are not experts.. So how were we to know?

  • Did reflux cause his autism?
  • Did it play a part?
  • Should we have shouted louder and got some help earlier?
  • Could we have known ? – NO

I’ve wondered – I often have… but it won’t change anything for No.1 son will it?

 

 

 

Pregnancy – The Un-Glow

I was lucky – very lucky I fell almost immediately and only managed to spend about £100 on pregnancy tests… Due to extreme excitement tinged with paranoia.

Pregnancy was horrendous and I did not sail through it like some luxury yacht, with a shiny exterior and gorgeous smooth lines..

…No I was more like an overladen passenger ferry full of sea-sick passengers struggling through a choppy sea.

I threw up from the day I found out the joyful news, until delivery day waiting to go back in the delivery suite after a waddle around the hospital ‘to get things going’.

As well as the attractiveness of being sick, (and doing it very publicly), I also had swollen feet, that looked the size of a baby elephant’s.  I developed carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists, so the wearing of attractive beige coloured wrist splints was obligatory for the last three months or so.

I carried on working throughout the pregnancy and that brought some cringe worthy moments in itself.  Like the day fairly early on, when I found myself dry heaving in the work car-park.. Unfortunately I didn’t look like a pregnant lady radiantly glowing with a tiny little bump.  No the bump merged with the cake – and I just looked slightly fatter than usual.

So dry retching – looking slightly fatter than usual and very green – I got some very odd stares – many – to me seemed that they were in disgust .. Then somebody kind said “Are you quite alright?”.  Yes I’m fine I’m just pregnant. – and no it doesn’t suit me.

Along with the various pregnancy related illnesses the biggest trauma for the Daddy and I was when we were informed that I had received a high risk triple test result back for Downs Syndrome.  I was in total shock – as at the age of 29 I hadn’t even thought that I would be at risk.  We barely had enough time to let the gravity of the situation settle in (although it doesn’t settle, does it?) – We then had to face the next decision – amniocentesis or not.

Just the description of the procedure was enough to make me run for the hills, then there were the risks, a 1:100 chance of a miscarriage… this particular hospital had a better success rate and the odds were 1:200..  It’s then that you really can’t help but compare the whole thing to a lottery.  And I really didn’t want to gamble with my unborn baby’s life.

Still advice was sought from those closest to us and unsolicited advice was received (some welcome – some not).  The decision and the gamble was finally down to the Daddy and I.

On the day we decided to go ahead and have the test – I was still not 100% that I would go through with it.  With two medical staff in the ultrasound room, the procedure was explained.  I knew afterwards that I was a bit sore and uncomfortable.  The size of the needle would have been scary to anyone – but at that moment I didn’t care about anybody else except for the little human growing inside me.

I focused on the flickering black and white image on the portable screen, and before I knew it – it was over (I didn’t feel anything).  Accept it wasn’t – at the time the NHS in my area could only get the results back within 6 weeks, we paid and got them back within the week.

The results came back negative and we decided to find out at that point what we were having – our first born; a little boy! – We were over the moon!

It later became clear that the triple test result was skewed, due to undiagnosed gestational diabetes… I was a trainee midwife’s dream – I literally had everything going!

And so began the regime of blood tests and four injections a day – as well as watching what I ate – really difficult when I was feeling constantly sick (it was like a permanent hangover, without the fun from the night before).

I also developed the mask of pregnancy – a beautiful condition that along with the stretch marks has never completely gone away.  Basically I have patches on my face that are light and dark – not obvious unless I have a tan.

Arriving at my mother’s one day my sister-in-law asked “Have you been Gardening?”- Thinking “Yes, finally I am starting to look healthy – maybe even developing a slight glow!!” I answered “Yes – Can you tell”… before she answered “You’ve got mud on your face…”… “No…. That’s my skin… I am a pregnancy babe!”.

I think the final thing was a positive Strep B result – which basically means that  I carry a natural bacteria in my body’s ‘flora’ – on one hand sounds beautiful, almost like a bouquet of flowers – but yes it is a ‘germ’ – gross.

This positive result meant that I would need antibiotics immediately and during labour – as there was a risk to the baby developing respiratory distress as a result of the bacteria.

I think that’s it:

  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Streptococcus B Positive
  • Swelling
  • Stretch Marks
  • Melasma (Mask of Pregnancy)
  • Hyperemesis Gravidarum (Severe Morning Sickness)

Happy Days! – So yes I was a non-glowing pregnant lady – and of course the end result was totally worth it. – But I still have the question in the back of my mind, did any of this contribute? – I guess I’ll never know and I don’t need to know…

 

 

The Dentist

So, as you may have read a new dentist, in a new town…  Both with a potential to cause issue with No. 1 son.  We rocked up a good ten minutes early, which for anybody that knows me is a cause for celebration, popping of champagne corks and gasps of amazement!

Then proceeded ten minutes of form filling and questions on how happy I was with my smile… Well when I’m smiling I’m happy… does that count?

Children relatively well behaved – only a glance at the box of toothpaste samples, in the child attracting mini-tubes.  Even I would have been tempted to fill my pockets – but no we all resisted.

Once again this was a “Going it alone” trip as the Daddy was working and he’s actually a child when it comes to the dentist – so it’s always best that he goes by himself or with his own Mother.

We entered the dentist’s room, full of the stuff of nightmares – I always think it’s a bit like the scene from an alien movie when you wake up and realise you’ve been abducted… Don’t worry I don’t share this nightmarish vision with my own children!

Still No. 1 son amazed me – (he does this often, and I have to remind myself during the dark moments of these amazing moments) – No.1 son had declared that he was going first! Up he hopped onto the Dentist’s chair – there was a moment where I thought he was going to do a runner, when he leapt out and declared “I’ve changed my mind”.  But with some gentle persuasion from the dentist, he sat back down.

I have to say the Dentist was amazing – patient and kind, I had explained – as I do.  But nothing seemed to phase her – even when No.1 son asked what country was she from (she had a beautiful Spanish accent).  My worries about his teeth were soothed and his big teeth are coming , they’re just a bit delayed (one less thing I have to worry about).

No. 2 son also sat down like a little dream and then it was me…  First there were the x-rays and the boys stood outside and watched in awe – lots of questions – all good  – we had this nailed…

Then there was my descale and polish that awful winey, screeching sound. Nope No.1 son was having none of it. Hands over ears a childish “la,la,la,la I’m not listening” and he was out the door.  No. 2 son (he’s only five) is soon on his tail with a “Don’t worry Mum I’ll get him”.  My mouth still full of equipment and my face covered in those attractive dark safety glasses reserved for American octogenarians, welders and apparently dentist patients; the dentist asked me “Is he OK?”, I managed a thumbs up.. thinking just get this over with, so I don’t have to come back and so I can stop holding my breath and praying that No. 1 son hasn’t actually done a full runner.. down to the sea..

She opened the door and No. 2 son appeared “It’s OK Mummy he’s on the stairs”. Another thumbs up from me and soon the job was done.  No.1 son appeared “Mum did it hurt”.. I’m always honest with him but sometimes you have to filter.  So I simply answered “A little, but I’m OK”.

Downstairs the bill paid and a relieved Mummy is out the door, the three of us with healthy teeth.  Off to the giant ice-cream shop for our reward… and that’s a tale for another time!

Planning a trip to the Dentist

A new dentist in a new town.. This could go two ways…

No. 1 son was late with everything physical, he didn’t walk until he was nearly 2 1/2 years.  He had severe reflux as a baby and was very tiny.. Consequently along with a low weight and height his teeth arrived later too.

At the age of eight he still has only lost two baby teeth and gained two adult ones.. So I have a fear about today’s visit.. Will he need any out to make way for the big ones??

I have chosen a dentist practice near the sea.. I’m hoping that a visit to the beach afterwards will be enough to bribe compliance from the boys.

In preparation I am telephoning ahead, No. 1 son has asked whether the dentist is a lady or a man.

… Phone call made, we are seeing a very nice lady dentist so the helpful receptionist has informed me…We’ll see what happens…

 

Mortified

It’s been hot.. very hot.. unseasonably hot.. for England.  After all it is July and this is meant to be a British summer.  With the mercury rising to 30˚C+  I cajoled the Daddy into putting the paddling pool up.

An hour later and oblivious to the small stream developing in our lawn the Daddy indicated the now obvious; that the ten year old paddling pool had seen better days and that it was indeed destined for ‘Paddling Pool Heaven’.

It’s at these moments that ‘The Look’ is passed between us – The look reserved for our  oldest son.  This look was the mutual realisation that preventative pro-active action would be required to stop a melt-down of nuclear reactor proportions.

So google was quickly spun into action and a replacement was located.  All will be well we sighed as the Argos reservation number beeped through on my phone.

After school, and the usual trauma that is pick-up time, we set off to the out of town Argos and happily collected the new pool.. Everything cool, only the usual niggles and gripes from two young boys.

Dare I… dare I.. Oh yes we’ll just pop into the supermarket – still no trauma.

All is good with the world the radio is singing out Fleetwood Mac,  the birds are darting in and out of the hedgerows.  Maybe I should have seen it as a sign.. but oh no.. I was blissfully unaware of the mortification ahead.

“Boys I just need to go to one more place before home… everyone OK with that?” Two sweet little boys chimed “Yes Mummy!”.. Again the signs were all there.. the calm before the storm.  But still I drove on… After all I only needed to pick-up some vouchers from a local hotel for the teachers end of year gifts.

Arriving at the hotel’s brand new shining sign, glinting it’s gold lettering in the sun.. should have given me a rather large indication that this was not the place to chance “Going it alone”. The long windy driveway.. there should have been a siren going off in my head by now… But no, Fleetwood Mac belted out ‘Everywhere’ and the birds still   swooped and flew happily around the hedgerows, and I still blissfully unaware continued on.

It was only as the manor house arose in it’s perfect splendour at the top of the hill, did I begin to realise my mistake.  No.1 son asked “Ooh Mum, are we having dinner here?” No. 2 son asked “Ooh Mum, can we play in the gardens”.

So with an all too brief preemptive lecture, holding both sons hands we walked from our car to the grand entrance of the hotel.  Admiring my surrounding I said a silent prayer that I could slip in, pay for the vouchers and depart without incident.

As the opulence of the place took my breath away, the fluttering of trepidation rose in my throat as I finally asked the question – why are you risking it?  The boys dressed in the grubbiness that is their school uniforms after a day of craft and playing in sandpits, were the polar opposite of the hotels very chic and clean look.

I was immediately greeted with a ‘How can I help you?’ from a smartly dressed  bar tender.  Spotting his scruffy converse, I relaxed a little, explained why I was there and was directed to the adjoining room.  The boys, fascinated by the antlers on the wall and the open fire made their way back into the entrance bar.  I looked on silently urging the ladies behind the desk to hurry the hell up.

No. 1 son declared that he was thirsty, having already clocked the price of cocktails at near on £10 a pop and a lager at £5 a pint, it was clear that I was not going to entertain the prospect of watering the boys here… In addition it would prolong the visit, increasing the risk of meltdown and breakages.

And finally, apart from No. 1 son unfurling the neatly rolled menus.. we left with the vouchers and without incident.

My guard down and the trepidation back in its box we made our way sunnily back to the car.. I even took some shots of the view.  My mistake.. eye off the ball.  No. 2 son is still on course, bobbing along under his sun hat towards the car… when No. 1 son makes a break for it…

…Having been in this situation a million times before, I know that there is no point making a run for him.  He will twist and turn, dart and dive like a professional footballer, and evade me every time.

No. 1 son has come to rest on a swing seat.. he has in fact decided to plonk his little bottom next to a lady and her daughter, who are sat… not swinging under the tree.  No.1 son decides that swinging is the order of the day and with two feet dug into the ground begins to push the swing chair back and forth…

Mortified I look for the best route to him, he had simply darted over the rope fence like a gazelle, I now lifted it up and very inelegantly climbed underneath.

With twenty or so pairs of eyes on me, supping their £10 cocktails and £5 pints,  I prayed that I wasn’t about to provide the entertainment.  I stalked my son, like a hunter and reached him with a metre left to spare – praying that a rugby tackle wouldn’t be necessary!

And so the brief but painful mortification happened.  I reached out and just managed to grab No. 1 son, and smile politely at the lady who to her credit had not passed comment and was simply looking bemused beneath her designer sunglasses.

No.1 son at the top of his voice blew a large raspberry that sounded very much like somebody breaking wind.. before shouting “Get away Fatty”.. time stood still… His voice echoed round the ancient walls of the manor house and the surrounding hills.

Mortified (I am carrying a bit extra… So don’t really need it shouting about).. I then proceeded to excuse my son to the lady..”I’m really sorry.. but there is a reason..” She was gracious and understanding and dreadfully polite… at least she wasn’t rude.. my mortification would have been wholly completed then.

And so behind my sunglasses the hot salty tears began to fall.. and my rosy cheeks glowed in the sun from the burning embarrassment I felt.

Getting to the car No.1 son asks “Why are you crying Mum?” Before No. 2 son appears covered in black oily dirt from the wheels of the car.. What can I do? – Wet wipes out, and No.2 son cleaned up they get strapped in to the car.  I finally answer No. 1 son “I am crying because you said a mean thing to me – words can sometimes hurt as much as hitting someone”… “I’m sorry Mum, it was an accident… I didn’t mean to”.

Why was I crying?

  • I was crying because I was ashamed
  • I was crying because I felt shame that I was ashamed
  • I was crying because I never know how to explain
  • I was crying because I always feel I have to explain
  • I was crying for the what if’s
  • I was crying because I’m a Mummy

 

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