My Sweet Little Dementor

When E was a baby, he was really easy going, I could take him anywhere and seemingly push him past other babies’ limits. That is, he was really easy going until he wasn’t, until he’d had it and start screaming. And I am not talking about some mewing newborn who’s cry is “so cute I could eat you up! Yes I could!”. I am talking about a cry/scream combination that hits my ears and blocks my very ability to make a thought. I lose track of time, ten minutes feels like an hour. I forget what I was just doing, I don’t remember whether I’ve changed him or fed him. I feel as if every one of my senses is being assaulted and I don’t know whether I’ll ever make it back to the sane world again. Maybe I’ve been sucked up by the darkness and am in purgatory or hell or prison. My fight or flight instinct says to fly, run the hell away from this screaming that seems to suck every ounce of air and joy from the area, run from this Dementor disguised as my baby boy. (i’m a big Harry Potter fan) But I can’t run, because RESPONSIBILITY. F&%#. So I frantically do everything I can think of. Check his diaper. Screaming. Shove my boob in his mouth. Screaming. Bounce him. Screaming. Hold him on his tummy like he’s flying. Screaming. God, I’m dying! Sing to him while sitting on an exercise ball bouncing him. Less screaming. Ok keep going, remember every song you ever sung and never stop. Eventually the baby is still again, as if nothing happened, and I am left feeling like I fought a war (because I did). The cruel trick of this child is that he only exhibits this behaviour when I am alone with him. “It’s because he feels most comfortable with you, like he can really be himself. It’s called attachment,” say well-meaning friends. Oh wow, thanks kid. It gets to the point where my own family don’t believe me about the intensity of these crying fits. They hear him cry a little bit and say “well, that’s not so bad! The way you describe it makes it sound much worse, Jenny. He’s just a baby.” So one day in my desperation, I pull myself out of trying to calm him down from his screaming and I call my parents on speaker phone. And I just leave that baby crying on his change pad and yell “See! This is what he does with me!” and then hang up. I will not let this child make a liar of me! Another time he is screaming and I am crying so I put him in his crib, call my husband at work and say “Our son is safe and I am leaving. I am going to go for a 5 minute walk outside to breathe, then I will come back” I feel like I have to call my husband and get his ok, if only to quiet the voice in my head telling me that I am abandoning my child, that I am an unfit mother because I don’t know how to get him to calm down. Of course my son’s screaming blocks out all thought from my brain but makes this insecure, negative voice all the louder. sonofabitch. My husband okays my temporary abandonment and I walk quickly, still feeling guilty, but knowing that if I didn’t get out of that apartment I might harm my child. I never understood how anyone could ever shake a baby, why nurses ever felt the need to give you literature warning you against it and giving you strategies to avoid it, who in their right mind would do that to a itty bitty sweetie pea of a baby? But now I know I came seconds away from doing just that and that these cute darlings drive you straight out of your right mind into your desperate mind where you’ll literally do anything to make the crying stop. A month or two later when all my mom friends were talking about sleep training and letting your baby cry, I thought, “I am never doing that because this child could probably go for an hour and I will want to die.” Until one day I realized my baby would only fall asleep if I was pushing him in the stroller so I ended up walking around the city for five hours. Five. Hours. Walking. I knew I had to try anything to get him to fall asleep in his crib, so I decided to let him cry it out. I would put him in his bed then go downstairs and watch my timer tick away as I waited for 12 minutes to be over, my heart breaking, my body uncomfortable, my anxiety at an all time high. But he stopped crying and I persevered with letting him cry. And then a few days later something insane happened – he went from being the baby I pushed in the stroller for five hours to keep him asleep to the easiest child to put down to bed. Once we started putting him down at a consistent time and showed him we weren’t going to go to him at every cry, all we had to do was put him in his crib and leave him to fall asleep. People would babysit and go on about how easy he was and we would beam with pride at our good little sleeper. Now looking back, knowing what I know now about the way his brain works, knowing that he has Asperger’s (an old diagnosis that now falls under the Autism Spectrum Disorder umbrella but a term I still use because it makes sense to me) I see that as the first significant sign that our boy loves predictability, order, and routine, that he responds well and quickly to it. It’s a reminder to me that no matter what words doctors and psychologists, teachers and Occupational Therapists use to describe our boy they are only shared language to understand how he was made, how he has always been. Ya, the qualities that he has fit a medical diagnosis called Autism Spectrum Disorder, but they also just describe the way my boy’s brain processes information and always has since he was tiny. There was no trauma or parenting style or chemical in a vaccination that caused him to transform into the person he is and to exhibit the behaviour he exhibits, he was born this way. He drives me crazy and I have trouble understanding him and I don’t always appreciate that he was made that way, but I know that my son’s presence in the world is purposeful and meaningful to so many people.

3 thoughts on “My Sweet Little Dementor

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  1. Thank you for sharing this. You are a fantastic mama and I look forward to reading more about what life is (and has been) like for your family. Especially if it continues to include Harry Potter references. Obviously.


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