I have to admit it. As I lay in an execution pose, my arms strapped to a "T", mired in a groggy surgery haze, I met Tavi three minutes before her twin. One look at my newborn daughter and I thought: THAT is a mean baby. I had a difficult time bonding with her because she was so irritable. And after already digesting my dog-eared copy of the Sear’s Fussy Baby Book after the birth of my oldest child, Ivy, I fought that exasperated here-we-go-again feeling. It isn’t that Tavi is mean, she just seemed uncomfortable from the minute she was born. Granted, the kid was forcibly ripped from my sloughing womb by her ankles and then thrust naked beneath interrogation-grade lights and multiple probing, blue, latex hands in a frigid room. (And people wonder why they have alien abduction flashbacks – take a look at your birth experience!) But it seemed more than colic or a fussy disposition.
My little chubby cherub was always stoic, but cuddly and cute beyond a mother’s measure. And she shied from strangers and fretted and slept fitfully. By the time she was a year old, I started suspecting her differences were more than the explicable comparisons to her twin and older sisters. No one wants to think their child is not the most brilliant perfect Harvard-bound future doctor/ lawyer; it is hard to swallow the frightening possibility that something is amiss.
When Ivy was 9 months old and taking tentative steps, cruising along the furniture, threatening not to crawl, a well meaning relative warned that skipping the crawling stage was a sign of a horrible learning disability. This suggestion was offered as if I could force Ivy down on all fours and make her crawl. Like intervention would forgo a future diagnosis. But maybe intervention is the key to the allusive behavior I witness shrouded in Tavi’s tantrums.
Our doctor recommended the book, The Highly Sensitive Child , but it left me wanting more substantial conclusions, something more definitive. With a legacy of learning disabilities and social oddities, I became suspicious that the tomes of inherited eccentricies documented in my family mythology were in fact diagnosable and even treatable problems. I asked a good friend finishing her masters in child development for a recommendation about how to seek help. She referred me to the Multnomah Early Childhood Program (MECP). Apparently, every state has an early intervention program that services the same population as their public school system. I was astounded when after submitting a mere one page application, I had an appointment for an assessment less than a week later.
Last Tuesday, two women came to our home, scribbled volumes in their encrypted notebooks and “hmmm"-ed after all of my answers to their discerning questions. I was skeptical that they would see what I might be imagining. But Tavi preformed for them throwing not one, but three enormous tantrums for her captive audience. She ignored invitations to picture pointing exercises when distracted by a delicate wind-up toy whose operation she figured out within seconds of scrutinizing it's mechanics. These women nodded sympathetically and assured me I was not imaging things. I felt both vindicated and terrified.
“She’s quirky.” They stated upon departure.
Is that an official diagnosis?
They left me on my front porch with empathetic smiles, my palm still warm from their consoling handshakes. I felt raw. One of the women called a couple of days later with little more information but an indication that we are facing a sensory integration disorder. The internet can be a hindrance and a blessing, arming me with too much unverified information and even more questions.
But I am not shouldering this confirmation with personal defensiveness. I am relieved in a way and more curious about the value this information will have on our family. Tavi will begin occupational therapy in the next couple of weeks. This journey has weighed heavily on my mind and distracted me from all other obligations. And as for leaving March an empty slot in my monthly archive, I apologize for my absence.