Monday, 28 May 2012

The perils of being the 4th...

Last weekend, whilst in the middle of a sewing frenzy (more about that another day), I forgot to feed The Baby.  Again.  It's possibly not as bad as it sounds - she was whingy and I was trying to figure out why, going through my mental checklist of tired, clean nappy etc and I realised that she was overdue a feed, possibly by about an hour, maybe two.  Although she is almost 7 months old, she's Baby Led Weaning (note the capitals) and so pretty much still exclusively breast fed.

It led me on to thinking about the perils of being the 4th baby in a household where the oldest child is not even yet 6.  All the children have been BLW, but where The Eldest was weaned on steamed vegetables and The Boy on appropriate finger foods lovingly prepared by an Ayah, I knew that the Feral One was ready to wean when she grabbed a piece of pizza off the middle of the table and shoved it in her mouth.  The Baby has been much the same and has already munched on pizza, garlic bread, fish fingers and chips.  Don't get me wrong, they eat a healthy and varied diet (well, sort of, if I hide the vegetables in their food anyway), but there is no way on earth that I would ever have let my older two touch pizza before they were 2 at the earliest.  The same with crisps (The Eldest only had Organix crisps until she was over 3) - turning up at preschool with orange baby vomit down my top I mentioned to a friend that it was the perils of letting The Baby munch on a wotsit.  The Friend had assumed it was carrot and I probably should have let her continue to labour under that misapprehension...

The list goes on - trips to the supermarket instead of baby groups, dog walks and school runs instead of swimming trips, being allowed to chew on her sister's crocs, hand me down clothes and mummy forgetting to feed her or change her (cloth) nappy.  I wonder if she will turn into some sort of sociopath?  More likely, she will be the most well rounded of them all.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Diagnosis Aspergers.

The Eldest is 5 and was diagnosed with Aspergers about 6 months ago.  For a long long time I refused to totally entertain the idea that she might not be straight forward and "normal".  

I put down any differences in her to her slightly unusual upbringing.  She was born when we were living in Italy.  I returned to the UK for her birth and she was born 2 and a half weeks early, which isn't very early, but has had a huge impact on her because had she been a day late she would have ended up in the next school year and had a whole extra year for growing up in before she started school.  

I returned to Italy with her when she was 6 weeks old and at that point she went from being an angel baby, to being pretty hard work.  I don't remember those early days with her much, she cried a lot and I think that I ended up with undiagnosed post natal depression.  Not speaking Italian, I didn't have much access to other mothers in the area and ended up very isolated and alone.  I did my best with her, but I wonder how much of an impact the depression had on her.

When she was 8 months old, we moved to Mumbai.  It was fun in India, we did a lot of swimming and we had easy access to baby sitters.  Life improved for me, I made plenty of friends and life was easier.  The expat community in Mumbai was much tighter than the one in Milan and there were always people willing to meet up and make friends. 

When Bea was about 14 months old, I employed a nanny (Nuri) because I wanted another baby and I knew how horrific my morning sickness was and I didn't want The Eldest to suffer whilst I was pretty much out of action.  Nuri was a fantastic nanny, very good with the children and a sweet lovely lady.  The kids adored her.  I got with pregnant The Boy and then fairly soon after with The Feral One, having them close together so that I could get the sickness out of the way whilst I had help in India.

I was very relaxed about The Eldest's development.  I am not a competitive mother - when she was on the later side to walk and talk, I just said that she would get there in her own time, there was no rush.  She took a long and frustrating time to potty train, but other than that, I didn't feel that there were any indications that there was anything "wrong" with her.

We moved back to the UK when I was 35 weeks pregnant with The Feral One.  The Eldest started preschool and I gave birth about 10 days later.  When the preschool flagged up issues after 6 weeks, I dismissed them, saying that the reason that The Eldest was different to the other children was her different upbringing, that we had just moved countries, she'd suffered a bereavement by leaving her nanny behind and that she had just had a new sister.  She was bound to be making fairly heavy weather of it. As well as that, other people who she met out of preschool were positive that she was "normal". However, after a while I agreed that the speech therapist should see her.  We had an appointment and the speech therapist said that she was fine, and that her speech level was in advance of where it should be.  

However, issues continued to dog her at preschool and then at school - things like not making eye contact, not communicating her wishes clearly, making inappropriate noises during carpet time.  These issues didn't seem to occur at home, but in frustration I took her to a GP and asked for a referral to a paediatrician.  

Initially it seemed that the paediatrician couldn't find anything "wrong" with her, but she sent The Eldest for the standardised test for Autism.  Although I was present during the test, I wasn't allowed to prompt The Eldest, so she was shorn of my usual support.  It was quite an eye opener and I began to see what the teachers at school were seeing.  She was diagnosed with Aspergers at the appointment.

It was, to be honest, a bit of a blow.  I was very upset about it for a while mainly, I think, because I could see that this was a lifelong condition and that she was going to have to deal with it forever.  I had hoped that her life would be reasonably easy and straightforward and this was a complication that she was going to have to deal with.  However, once I accepted it, I found I was actually able to relax.  I realised that there were many things that I was subconsciously doing in an attempt to push her to be "normal".  

She has mild Aspergers.  If you met her, especially if she was in my presence, it is unlikely that you would know.  She's bright, she's already reading WAY above where she "should" be for her age.  She struggles to hold her attention at school, but when she puts her mind to it, she can do whatever she has been set, and she does it with ease.  One on one, she is delightful.  Mainly her problems are social - at home she is far too quick to lash out at her siblings (which is my biggest frustration) and she struggles to see things from the point of view of others.  She has a lovely group of friends at school who seem to accept her for who she is and who support her through the day.  Her teacher is very good with her and understands her issues.  She will succeed in life I am sure - many many of the traits I that see in her, I see in myself (and I haven't done too badly so far).  We just need to capture her imagination with her academic work and she will fly.  Socially too, she is bright enough to learn strategies, in fact she already has.  It may not come intuitively like it does to many, but it will come with learning and practice.

She is my delightful, frustrating, beautiful, dementing, wonderful daughter. 

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Hello? Hello? Can anybody hear me? Is this thing even on?

1, 2, 1, 2 Testing testing 1, 2, 3...

So I've decided to make a foray into the world of blogging.  I'm slightly wondering if I am doing the right thing and even my husband asked "Why?" when I said that is what I was going to do.  Will anybody actually be interested in anything I have to say? Probably not, but I'll say it anyway and if anyone listens, then great and if no one does, at least I can pretend they are.

I'm 34 and a Stay At Home Mother to 4 children.  In a previous life I was a primary school teacher and before that I was a cytogeneticist. As a child I lived in various countries around the world with my parents and as an adult I continued to travel with my husband, although we're currently in the UK.  

The Eldest child is 5.  She has Aspergers and delights and dements me in equal measures. She is in school full time. The Boy (we have only the one) is 3 and is at preschool for 15 hours a week.  He is probably the one who drives me the most crackers, but he's also probably the most loving.  The Feral One is 2 and her nickname tells you most of what you need to know about her.  She is totally determined - so determined to be born that she arrived at home with only my husband to catch her and is equally determined to keep up with her older brother and sister.  Then there is The Baby - she is 6 months old and a very easy going soul - you have to be when you are the 4th baby in just over 5 years.  The Feral One and The Baby are at home with me full time.

Added to this we have 2 dogs, lurchers.  Their most favourite pastime, after chasing deer in the woods, is to creep up on to the sofa and pretend they are not there.  We also have 2 cats who have done a fair bit of travelling with us, living in both Italy and India.  Then there are the guinea pigs - named Goat and Wilbur by the Eldest (she has a talent for naming things) and finally the fish.  Oh, and I shouldn't forget the Husband who seems to spend most of his free time clearing up after me, both literally and metaphorically.

I don't think that I can classify my/our parenting into any particular style.  We do what works for us, taking the things that we find helpful and useful and discarding the others.  Common sense with a whole heap of love.

So this blog is really going to be a bit of a rag bag of things.  Some things parent-y, some things crafty, and, if we end up moving again, some things travel-y.  Who knows, someone might even read it.