Keeping Warm

Mr. Book is going to be able to visit in April—for his birthday, and maybe Easter. This is a lifeline for both of us right now. We had hoped that he’d be able to visit next month, but then our rent went up, and that was no longer a possibility. Even in April, it’s hard to face losing a week’s pay—but we’ve just got to see each other, and the boys have got to see their Pop. My parents are buying Mr. Book’s plane ticket as a birthday gift, for which we are truly grateful.

I’m still having a hard brain time. This is the most boring non-news, but I don’t know how else to explain why I’m not writing much and why I am not getting done as much as I wish that I was. But I’m trucking along, drinking tea and changing diapers.

When we were first dating, I made Mr. Book a scarf—nothing special, just grey and green garter stitch with a fringe. That’s what he was using at the beginning of this winter, but last month it vanished. Since it is still bitingly cold in the Midwest, I’m knitting him a replacement (almost done!). In some ways it’s nice to have the chance; I had asked him to let me replace that scarf before, as I’m a better knitter now with, I think, slightly more interesting taste. But he wanted to keep the old one, being the sweet, sentimental one of us. Now he’s getting a scrap yarn scarf, nothing fancy, but ribbed and wool and almost long enough. I have as my rule of thumb that your scarf ought to be as long as you are tall, but he is awfully tall, and the scarf is about five feet long and I still have acres to go. But soon I’ll be done and I will send it to him, to keep near him.

We’re skyping with Cricket again this weekend; I sent him a Valentine that Kit made, although it probably hasn’t arrived yet. I’m going to write about this skype call, I think, because I feel like I’m letting too much just slip quietly away.

Summing Up

Joey seems to be enjoying school. I plan, once the Christmas break is over, to try to arrang a morning when I can observe the class; I don’t really know what it’s like for him there, and it still feels weird to me not to be present for his speech therapy and so on.

Joey’s occupational therapy assessment happened, and the therapist rated him as doing very poorly in every measurable way . . . so I guess he will be getting OT. She also recommends that he get clinic-based OT, but I don’t think that will happen. I will ask his new worker at the regional center just as soon as we find out who that is. And if she (or he) doesn’t get in touch with us before Christmas, I’l just call the RC after the holidays and try to find out what’s going on.

Kit is also enjoying Joey’s time at school; he and I are going on play dates and outings, and he is getting me to himself for the first time in his life. The two of them are having more pleasant interaction with one another, playing gentle chasing games together. That has been lovely to see.

MY husband and I were talking about the family Christmas letter that my father will be writing; it has been yet another year of hard news. My father’s cancer came back and he went through radiation and also broke his hip a second time; my mother’s stepmother has been diagnosed with breast cancer; my brother is still waiting on his kidney transplant; Mr. Book and I are now in a long-distance relationship; and Joey was diagnosed with autism. But, I said to Mr. Book, Joey is so much happier than he was a year go. It was hard for us to understand how sad and angry he had gotten—and his increasing inability to communicate with us was obviously distressing to him. He has been getting real help since May, and is again the sunny, sweet boy we knew before his regression. Everyone he works with talks about what a happy, likable kid he is.

Kit, too, is better off than he was, now that I’ve identified his dietary sensitivities—and now that he can run and climb and talk. He is ridiculously charming, and less heedlessly adventurous than his brother, which I am perfectly happy with.

Cricket seems to be in a happier and healthier pace as well, from what I can tell. His parents are legally divorced, but Nora has brought more emotional stability to his life than I think had been present for some time before.

My mental health is worse than it has been in awhile, but I am able to hold on to a certainty that things will get better. I don’t know when, but I am sure that they will.


Talk to Me

We finally had Joey’s speech evaluation . . . sort of. Joey absolutely refused to cooperate with the therapist: he shouted; he wept; he threw things. This was not a surprise to me—the surprise was that some children his age would be willing to point at the bird (and so forth) when prompted. Another mother suggested that U ask to have him evaluated at our house—but I’m sure that the results would be much the same. After all, this is what happens when I try to do preschool things with him. Is this not normal?

At his last appointment, Joey’s pediatrician asked whether he is an unusually difficult child. I have no idea. How could I?

The speech therapist (who works at a center that serves the needs of children with special needs of all kinds) told us that there would be no point in getting Joey speech therapy, because he is too uncooperative to benefit from it. She said that we could have him reevaluated in a few months, if we wanted, and told us that we should talk to him about what we’re doing during the day in the meantime. I weakly told her that we do that already, and then we drove home. Mr. Book mentioned that for almost a year now, he has worried that Joey might be depressed.

At one point, when I was in college, my mother (who was reading When Someone You Love Is Depressed at the time) called me and blurted out: “Susie, I think you were depressed as a toddler!” I told her that while I don’t remember, yeah, that sounds right. My husband, as young as four years old, was prone to long stretches of seemingly unprovoked crying. His parents would ask whether they could help, and what was wrong and he would say “No, it’s just my problems.” We’ve both struggled with depression for most of our lives, is what I’m saying, and so it shouldn’t have been such a shock to hear and see that Joey might have inherited more than his father’s pretty blue eyes. And my strong desire to protect Joey—much stronger and less rational than my similar feelings concerning Kit—makes more sense when connected to a fear I was not articulating even to myself.

I am fortunate to be a part of a diverse and excellent parenting group which started elsewhere and now lives on Facebook. After the failed speech evaluation, I finally talked in detail about Joey—and moms of autistic children bluntly, gently, told me that I needed to get him evaluated for more than his speech. I was given phone numbers and handholding.

And then the speech therapist called and left a voicemail. If I can read between the lines a bit, she sounded like a person who had gotten a scolding; she said that the director of the clinic wanted Joey to be seen, and as soon as possible, and that she had a parent-report evaluation to perform when I had the time. I called her back the next day, and answered a long series of questions that started “Does Joey . . . ?” and “When Joey was a baby, did he . . . ?” Almost every “correct” answer was yes—I could tell that the evaluation covered deafness, autism, and developmental delays of many kinds. Joey is not deaf, and so I got those questions “right”—but too often I was answering no to the others. “Does Joey imitate you?” “Does Joey engage in pretend play?” “Does Joey take an interest in other children?” No. When she was finished, there was a follow-up question: “Have you had Joey evaluated by a behavioral psychologist?” No. “I would very strongly recommend it.”

Today we are seeing Joey’s pediatrician to get a referral to a behavioral psychologist.

A Rundown

  • Part of my problem with PPD is that as I start to better, I give more to the kids—I started to feel better, I got warmer and more active with the kids, and then I stopped feeling better. I’m overspending emotionally, I think. But shoot, that’s my job, right? I’m not seeing a perfect solution here.
  • Mr. Book was deeply skeptical that it was actually my going dairyless that had helped our Kit, despite the fact that he had his best week so far while he had a cold starting when I had cut out the milk etc. a few days before—but yesterday Kit got a bottle of milk expressed and frozen this summer (oops) and then spat up all day and couldn’t sleep for about twelve hours. So that was a lousy mistake, but it has convinced the Mister that it really was the dairy in my diet making Kit’s life so difficult. And don’t worry, I’ve started pumping new milk and am looking for someone who might want the freezerful of dairyful milk for his or her baby. Kit only gets a bottle maybe twice a week, when I’m out either grocery shopping or taking a little personal time (…to work), but I’m going to build up a stockpile of milk all over again.
  • Have I mentioned that Mr. Book has a job now? Because he does! It is a crappy retail job, but after a year of looking, it’s nice to have even a small check coming in at predictable intervals. This is especially handy since we’re switching Joey back to paper diapers 100 percent of the time; he just pees so much now that even if I change his (cloth) diaper once an hour, he’s soaked and getting rashy at least a couple of those times every day. He can tell when he’s wet, but won’t tell us anymore, because he doesn’t want a diaper change. I think we’ll go back to cloth diapers once we’re trying to toilet train him, if they still fit, but right now I just can’t see buying a whole new stash of bigger diapers and raw silk liner and so forth. Paper diapers are happening, and I barely feel bad about it.
  • Joey has been really affectionate with Kit these last few days, despite having a brutal head The other day, he was sort of swooping at Kit and brushing the baby’s face with the top of his head—it took me awhile to realize that he was giving his brother kisses. (If you ask Joey for a kiss, he will offer you the top of his head. He hasn’t quite worked out this kiss thing.) Today he was wrestling with him incredibly gently, curling up with him, and smiling at the baby who was smiling back. I’m carefully not assuming that this is a permanent change, but I’m grateful for the change in weather. They’re both just sweet as anything, so I do hope that long-term they’ll love and be loving with each other.
  • I guess that most parents say their kids are sweet. And I don’t really know the oldest one very well, and his mothering mother seems to feel that he is not sweet. But the two I know are genuinely laid back and affectionate kids. Joey, even in the grips of toddler freakout, still shows signs of the person he was before and hopefully will be again; he sobs and shouts no and runs away, but even when he is very angry, he doesn’t hit anymore. (I know, this could change, but he doesn’t and hasn’t for some time, and I’m very appreciative.) When he was much smaller and did start hitting, I would tell him that while he could not hit people, he could clap his hands together if he felt like he needed to express his anger with his hands—and sure enough, when he’s mad, he will usually give a single angry clap. It’s weirdly adorable.
  • No word at all on the adoption front. The picture I posted some time ago I got after I texted a Kit picture to Ruth at random—had not done that before and haven’t since—and she replied with a picture and “more soon.” Would that it were so. Mr. Book and I are pretty angry about adoption stuff for the last . . . several months, now that I come to count back. Oh, well.
  • I want to end on a positive note, so: Kit likes it if you rub his belly. Just like a gator!

Dark Spots

I’ve been reading about breastfeeding and antidepressants. Apparently standard procedure is to have the mother start taking the meds and then just watch to see whether any side effects turn up in the baby. I find myself flinching away from any sentence that contains both “side effects” and “baby,” so it’s been an awkward education. A woman I know slightly online has just started talking about her feelings—her daughter is Joey’s age—and she’s having to come to terms with having postpartum depression and work on getting better. And I keep thinking, That poor woman. She has to do all of the hard things that anyone with a newborn would (comforting a baby when you want badly to sleep, blown-out diapers, the works) and she says that she feels no love for the child. It takes a particular kind of dedication to keep slogging under those circumstances, and I can’t wait until she’s well enough to enjoy her little girl.

Fortunately, I’m pretty sure that I don’t have PPD. Less fortunately, I think that my normal depression is creeping back. That may sound like a distinction without a difference, but I don’t think so; Joey is my poopy little ray of sunshine, and I’m delighted by him. Sure, it is hard to be running through elaborate back-patting and gentle-bounce-while-shushing routines at four in the morning, but I don’t feel anything but love for him even when I’m a bit desperate to con him into sleeping. I don’t see an endless and dreadful future stretching out in front of me. I’m just fried and too often sad. So now I get to figure out what happens next. Mr. Book thinks I should try an afternoon away by myself, since I haven’t had one of those, and I feel guilty for feeling interested. It’s not that I want to get away from Joey, I explain. I’d love to take him with me if we could just leave the diaper/burp/nurse/diaper routine behind. But of course that’s not possible yet, so now I’m wondering about possibly leaving the house alone for a couple of hours tomorrow while the Mister stays home with the baby.

So far, my best effort at cheering up has been making breakfast for the Mister; I bake at night so he can eat in the morning. Nothing healthy yet—pumpkin bread, oatmeal chocolate-chip coffee cake—but my offerings have gone over well, and I do enjoy the making of them. They are not fixing my brain, however.