The Battle Grounds
The beginning of parenthood seems so chaotic. You feel as though you’re never quiet sure if you’re doing the right things the right way. However, through the chaos there’s a sweet bliss that exists. A powerful emotion of love and awe that only comes from having a child. And somehow you make it work, taking some advice from the doctor, some from your mother maybe even some from your mother-in-law. But nothing replaces that inner voice, that instinct which God blesses all mothers with, that motherly instinct.
I already had a son, a beautiful and well-behaved baby boy. He came home from he hospital sleeping through the night. He very rarely cried. He was smart, independent, a fast learner, motivated, and very handsome, and still is. People would call me begging to babysit him. He held his own bottle by four months old, and began walking at eight months. He was daring, intelligent, confident and possessed all the qualities a mother could hope for in a son. Dominick never met a stranger and was a natural born leader, yet he was gentle and kind. I remember how much he loved going to church. He would dance to the music and learned how to mimic how to pray. I would always dress him in little mans clothes, not baby outfits. And his angel blonde hair would always be styled making him even more handsome. It would be easy to understand why I would long for another child considering how easy and fulfilling Dominick made my life, despite being a single mother. I longed to have a large family with at least six children.
When Dominick was one I married a great man. A man that didn’t judge me for my past and who was loyal to his bones. He didn’t seem to mind my mood swings and accepted my son as his own. He never chased after me like other men did, which made him even more attractive. He was a hard worker, as we were required to work 60–70 hours a week at Citi. He never complained. Once we were married my whole life changed. I finally had the family I never thought imaginable. I bought cookbooks and started learning how to cook. I failed miserably at first but after sometime my meals went from horrible to tolerable to actually good. But something was missing.
I desired nothing more than to bring him a child of his own although he was a wonderful stepfather to my son. Six times we miscarried. Once I was carrying twins. I miscarried one naturally, which lowered my hormones enough that the pregnancy in my fallopian tube was undetectable. I began to have extreme pain in my side and my back. I kept going to the doctor having test after test done with no results. Finally, one morning after taking a shower getting ready for work, I began to feel dizzy and went to sit on the bed and the paid hit. I felt like I was being split apart. The pain was so extreme I was shaking uncontrollably and was afraid of losing consciousness. I was hesitant to go to the hospital telling my husband that they were just going to tell me again that there was nothing wrong and send me home. After an hour of excruciating pain I finally succumbed to reason and my husband rushed me to the hospital. I couldn’t even sit down or stand up. Shaking violently the hospital staff wheeled me in rushing me morphine while simultaneously running test. It all happened so quickly. Within minutes the doctor rushed in a said “you’re pregnant” and explained that it was an ectopic that ruptured and we must do emergency surgery NOW. All I kept thinking about was another poor baby that didn’t make it.
Upon waking up from the surgery, the doctor explained that I was four months pregnant and the baby was already decomposing inside the tube. I was beyond devastated. All I wanted was to have another child and now this feat was close to costing me my life. I became utterly depressed, as I have done so many times before. I knew I had a lot of female issues including endometriosis, adenomyosis, and poly-cystic ovarian syndrome. Pain was a daily issue for me. Numerous times I had been hospitalized for hemorrhaging. The doctors told me when I was eighteen that I would never have children. So I always considered Dominick to be my miracle baby. But still the hole in my heart remained for another child. My husband deserved it. And I was ready. However, the pain of the miscarriages were becoming too much to bear. I felt like a failure. Like I was cursed. I had thoughts of my husband leaving me for not providing him with a child. I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. I wanted to scream, to run away from the reality of the past two years. This darkness surrounded me of which I felt there was no escape. There’s a special spark that happens when you are first told that you are pregnant or you see the two lines on the pregnancy test. Your maternal instincts kick in and all you can think about is your baby. Losing six children took its toll on my son, my marriage and me. It’s an ache that can’t be healed. You want to scream, feeling like it’s just a dream wondering how this can happen over and over again. It isn’t fair; a nightmare you cant awake from that just keeps playing. How was I going to get through this?
Some months passed by. Finally, I went back to the obgyn that diagnosed me with my numerous conditions. He specialized in infertility and I was ready to try anything. I was desperate. During my visit, I had my son with me. By this time he was three years old. After explaining all that I had been through over the past two years I left my urine sample in the bathroom and awaited the doctor. When Dr. Farmer came in he seemed to proclaim, “You’re pregnant”! I was hit with excitement and a sense of panic at the same time. He explained that I would be high risk and suggested that we perform an ultrasound right away. The ultrasound revealed that I was about eight weeks pregnant and we could measure and listen to my baby’s heartbeat. All I could think about was how am I going to handle losing this baby. I started taking my prenatal vitamins right away and refused to lift anything heavy except my son. I hesitated in telling my husband for a while trying to spare him the pain of yet another lose. Each passing week I prayed and became more hopeful that maybe, somehow, this baby would hold on, would survive. Finally, at fourteen weeks Dr. Farmer explained how we jumped one large hurdle by making it past the first trimester. Constantly checking for progress via ultrasound he assured me that everything was growing normally. I informed my husband and he was ecstatic. Furthermore, we only had a few more weeks before revealing the sex of the baby.
At twenty-four weeks we found out we were having a little girl. I already had her name picked out. Savannah Nicole. Yes, that was a childhood name that I had picked out and was finally able to give to my daughter. By this time the fear of losing my child had subsided and excitement began to set in. Around the same time I started to feel her move. I noticed that she was constantly on the go. The only thing that would soothe her was me singing to her. By the time I was thirty weeks along my husband could feel her kick and move around. Even he noted that she seem to be extremely hyper active, particularly at night. It was then that I started to realize just how different Savannah would be from her brother.
Due to the two previous surgeries, the caesarean with Dominick and the emergency ectopic pregnancy, I had no choice but to schedule another C-section for Savannah’s birth. We scheduled it for the thirty-eight week on February 11. It was scheduled for early morning. First, the anesthesiologist had to get the spinal tab going. Unfortunately, the needles kept on bending in my spine. The pain was excruciating. And the worst part was that I couldn’t move. I began to believe that I was going to feel everything during the operation and panic began to overtake me. After the sixth try, she was finally successful. Regardless, I would have a large and very painful lump on my spine for the next few weeks. My husband was brought in. And everything just seemed to fly by. The next thing I knew I heard my baby girl screaming. But it was no ordinary scream. I kept asking if she was okay to which the doctor replied, “yes, don’t you hear her” and I said yes that’s the problem, she’s screaming too loudly.
The time came when Oscar and I got to hold our little miracle. A sense of relief came over me. My job was done. My prayers were answered. This precious little girl brought me hope for the future. If only I had known what was in store. If only there was some warning. That every hope, every dream, every expectation would be shattered into a million pieces. The heartache that would follow would prove more than I could bare. Everything I thought I knew, every wish I had, understanding I believed I possessed would all be tested to the fullest. But in this moment, in this one moment, all was at peace; all was as it should be.
Quickly, things became difficult. The nurses would come remove her from the room because Savannah was up every twenty minutes ready to feed. Although, she wasn’t really feeding, just crying. One nurse said laughingly said that she was just “strong willed” and didn’t want to miss the action. What a difference from Dominick. But I figured everything would be ok, she just needed time to grow out of it and maybe once we were in the comfort of our own home she would calm down. Three days later we ventured home. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. Still she wouldn’t sleep, barely ate and was highly active twenty-four hours a day. I can’t remember how many times I brought her into the pediatrician’s office. “There has to be something wrong with her,” I would exclaim. The doctor smiled and said she’s just “strong-willed”. Yes, there’s that word again. Strong-willed. I thought I was going to go crazy. I had to stop breast-feeding at three months because I needed my husband to share in the nightly feedings so I could get even a few hours of broken up sleep.
My mother came to visit when Savannah was about three months old. She too noticed Savannah’s cranky demeanor. She laughed when I told her that the only thing that would keep Savannah silent was the vacuum cleaner. But sure enough, without fail, whenever I would turn on the vacuum cleaner she would quickly quite. So for just five minutes each day, for the sake of my sanity, I would turn on the permanent fixture in my kitchen otherwise known as the vacuum cleaner. My mother was in amazement. Savannah wasn’t enticed by her numerous toys. She never took to any pacifier or her fingers or blanket. She was never really fully engaged in any activities with other people. I would cry at night praying and trying to understand. I tried everything from soothing music, to essential oils to changing formula. Nothing helped. I couldn’t conceive how I went through all of that pain waiting for a child, and then when I was finally successful it would be so damn difficult. My husband worked two jobs, so I was utterly alone taking care of two children one of whom took all of my energy and time.
I began to notice that she was slow in developing when compared to my son. She didn’t sit up until eight months old, nor did she hold her own bottle until nine months old. She didn’t walk until fifteen months and couldn’t hold a conversation with someone until she was about three years of age. By the time she was two years old it was clear to me that there was darkness about her. Something was clearly different. She would throw temper tantrums that lasted for hours. Kicking, hitting, biting, pinching and scratching became an every day occurrence. I continued to take her to the pediatrician searching for answers. Dr. Jackson suggested reading the “Strong Willed Child,” by Dr. Dobson. So I did. I read it. And its content didn’t quiet fit Savannah’s mold. She was different, more extreme, and more complex. There was this one incident at a local CVS pharmacy. Savannah wanted M&M’s and I had told her the worst word in the English language, “NO”. She began kicking me then proceeded to knock down all of the candy and gum from the counter. Trying to be a good mother I forced her to pick up every piece as she was flailing around the store taking an hour to clean up the mess she had made. Tears filled up my eyes as everyone just looked at me. They must have been thinking the same thoughts that my husband and mother suggested to me, which was that I needed to discipline her more. That this child was simply out of control and just needed a good spanking. But you see I had already tried that route. I attempted several times to spank her and she literally laughed in my face, and it just made the whole situation worse and more prolonged.
When she turned four, I finally sought out professional help. I found a therapist that worked with children her age. I walked through the door, defeated, isolated and broken down. Searching for answers I deferred to Gena’s expertise. She worked with Savannah and myself taking turns between the two of us. I dumped all that I was holding in, all the struggles and the hardships. I explained what a typical day looked like for us. At the time Savannah was attending preschool a few days a week. She was getting in trouble almost daily. From refusing to talk to the teachers, to throwing her papers on the floor and standing on her desk, it was always something. Not to mention the fact that she wasn’t getting her work done because she always seemed to be “out in space”. Using a means of play to work with Savannah Gena came up with a few ideas of what might have been going on with Savannah. She suggested high functioning Autism and a mood disorder of some sort. There was several times where Gena suggested that I take Savannah to the hospital, but I couldn’t bare the thought of leaving my child with complete and utter strangers for an extended period of time. I wasn’t ready to let go and face reality. I thought I was enough for her; I thought I could control her. I thought seriously wrong.
I was adamantly against medication. I tried aromatherapy, acupuncture and chiropractic care. I changed our diets to all organic, then to gluten and casein free. I gave her top of the line five star rated natural organic vitamins and fish oils. All to no avail. Finally, our therapist suggested trying a psychiatrist and just trying a medication or two. She suggested an older man Dr. Zrnic, who was not in network with our insurance but we tried him anyways. When I first met him he was very attentive and listened to my concerns and the problems that we were facing. He automatically diagnosed her with ADHD and suggested that we take Ritalin. Because of my reservations he started Savannah on a very low dosage and hoped that it would work. Unfortunately, it didn’t. It caused the opposite effect. She was more hyper, aggressive and destructive. We went back to Dr. Zrnic, this time I had recorded Savannah’s behaviors and shown it to him. Holding back the tears, he politely said, “ I think it is time to take her to the hospital”. Again I was faced with this decision, unfortunately making it on my own. My husband still didn’t believe me, thinking that I was simply exaggerating and just needed to be sterner. By this time Savannah was six. Still I couldn’t bring myself to take her in to the hospital. My heart ached just thinking about it. But I was lost, not knowing what else to do, as everyday just became worse and worse.
To be continued…