Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting, but always beautiful day of a mom just like you!
I had a NICU baby, actually, babies. I remember the first day that I heard the word ADHD. It was ten days into my twins’ NICU stay. One of my babies had been born with a lot of challenges, and I knew this. As a mom, you always know, you know when there’s something wrong with your kids. And it started on their birthday. Labor came, and no matter what my doctor did, she could not stop it.
I was rushed into the operating room because the doctor had scheduled me for a C-section. My husband barely made it. Baby A is born, Emmi, and I hear her cry. I just remembered thinking in my doped up situation, “She’s fine.”
Baby B comes out, Andy, absolute silence, and I knew that she was in trouble at that moment. Something just wasn’t right. But, all I could think of was to tell my husband, “Follow the babies.”
He was like, “I could stay…”
“No. Follow the babies. Stay with the babies, no matter what!” I responded.
So, my husband stays with the babies. I blissfully get knocked out. When my C-section was over, they passed me through the NICU. I got to see that my babies were intubated. I didn’t freak out because I knew they were preemies, and I had already been aware that this would be a possibility.
My husband had gone home to take a shower, and I was left in my room alone, maybe an hour. And by alone, I meant my mother was there. My sister was there. Someone else was there (forgive me, I don’t remember who it was. My brain was still kind of addled). When I get a doctor’s call to tell me that Baby B, Andy, is in trouble, she was born with pneumonia. I didn’t know you could be born with pneumonia! To this day, it’s something I haven’t thoroughly researched because, frankly, I had other challenges as a new mother.
But Andy was born with pneumonia, and she had a large PDA, a large hole in her heart. I asked the doctor if Andy would be alright, and the doctor said, famous words, “Her long-term prognosis is good.” But I’m not asking about Andy’s long-term prognosis; I’m asking about her short-term prognosis. And the doctor’s response was, “Her long-term prognosis is good.”
So, that was the start. One of the things that my neonatologist told me that day was, “Be grateful that Baby B kicked her way out of your womb, and she wouldn’t let us stop labor. For all purposes and intentions, in provoking your labor, Baby B saved her own life.”
Now, I already knew Baby B would be a troublemaker. When she was still in utero, she decided to change positions twice and dislocated my ribs each time. I was impressed by her strength, her desire to live, but I was terrified by the possibility that she would not. And I remember thinking, “God. Please, God. I don’t care if this child is a stubborn troublemaker. I don’t care if she gives me gray hairs, blue hairs, or pink hairs. I don’t care! Just please, let her be alright. Just no matter what. Please, please, please let her be alright.”
And it was challenging because when you have twins, it’s almost impossible not to make comparisons. Now, I’ve trained myself out of that. But it was hard initially, especially when Baby A was making such incredible leaps and bounds. She was getting bigger and chubbier and was more active. But not my Baby B, not my Andy. Till finally came the day when she was finally extubated, but still she was so weak. She was so, so weak, but my God, she was so stubborn! She was so stubborn even then.
I remember sitting with Emmi, Baby A when Andy was extubated, and the doctor pulled the tube out. She wouldn’t take a breath! She would not take a breath, and the nurse was panicking. The nurse was already getting the stuff to intubate Andy once again.
The poor nurse was like, “She’s not ready! She’s not ready!”
And the doctor was like, “No. Just hold on.”
Andy suddenly took a big breath! My husband and I were freaking out! The doctor apologized because they don’t normally extubate babies in front of parents. He didn’t realize that we were there with our other baby, and he said at that time, “I leave it up to you guys to determine who she takes up after. This is gonna be one stubborn child. She’s always gonna do things on her own time.” Famous last words from that doctor! We never saw that doctor again. But he was right. She inherited one of the traits that have served me the best life, which is my stubbornness. But multiply that by about ten—that’s my Andy! She is stubborn, determined, and things are going to happen at her own time.
Just last night, we got into an argument. I gave Andy coleslaw, mostly carrots because I know that her body can’t handle too many other vegetables. But she demanded to know what was in the coleslaw, what kind of dressing was in it.
I was like, “Just eat it…”
“No! Why can’t I know?”
I mean, this took like fifteen minutes of back and forth, and one of the things I said to her was, “I’m your mom. I’m not gonna give anything that’s gonna hurt you. Can’t you just trust me enough to eat the food?”
Her answer was, “And can’t you trust me enough to eat it after you tell me what’s in it?”
Ugh. No! I did finally just caved in and told her it was mayo. And, of course, she didn’t like it, cause that’s my Andy. She doesn’t like anything new.
But at the time, the doctor said, after he extubated her, “She’s had a lot of direct oxygen to the brain. So, she’s probably going to have ADHD.” In fact, he said, “It’s not probably. I can almost guarantee you 99.99 percent. She’s going to have ADHD.” Now at the time, I didn’t know that my husband had ADHD. What can I tell you? We got married after dating for three months. We’ve been married for sixteen years, so it was a success. But I didn’t know that he had ADHD.
I did know that one of my nephews had ADHD, and I did know that he once pulled apart my sister’s telephone and then tried to put it back together (unsuccessfully, by the way). It was one of the many little stories that I heard from my sister. To me, that was just being busy, being curious. I really don’t know what it meant.
And as the girls grew up, I continued to be blissfully ignorant. Andy, to me, just seemed like a busy child. And up until the point that I had a partial bowel resection, I had always been called the energizer bunny. I was always full of energy, full of curiosity, always busy. So, I just thought Andy had inherited those traits.
It turns out that my other sister, one of her boys, also had ADHD. And she took it so hard. I remember the day that she had the parent-teacher conference about her son having ADHD. She was distraught, and I was trying everything I could to help her through it. But the bottom line was I didn’t get it because, to me, her son was such a sweet boy. He had such a great disposition. Frankly, he was not that busy. He could be a little curious. He pulled our hot tub apart and could not put it back together. We had to pay a repairman to come in and to reassemble it. But he had such an easy-going disposition. And again, I remained blissfully ignorant.
It wasn’t until Andy hit kindergarten. And it wasn’t actually in the first school, because they spent six months in one school and the other six months from the other school. In the first one, they were primarily playing, and they’re having a good time. There was no emphasis on actual academic learning. We were delighted with that. But something came up, and we had to change the girls’ schools.
Their new kindergarten teacher taught them to read and write before going to the first grade. She was an amazing teacher, but she had high expectations. And I remember that every day we would go into her classroom, and she would say that she would pray for patience to work with Andy because Andy could be such a challenge. She was so busy, and she just couldn’t focus. At that point, the doctor’s words about having ADHD came back.
I didn’t feel devastated. I didn’t think it was a big deal at all. Frankly, my reaction was completely different from my sister’s. I was kind of like, “Okay.” I remembered the promise that I had made to God; I said I could handle it no matter what. No matter what, I wanted her to be okay. And then she was, she was fine. She was a busy child, very, very busy—just couldn’t focus. So, we spoke with our pediatrician, who said really the best way to diagnose ADHD and what type of ADHD she has is to have her tested when she turned six. So, unfortunately, for this poor kindergarten teacher, she had to live with Andy the way things were because they wouldn’t test her until she was six.
When Andy was six, we took her to a children’s hospital in Michigan, which then sent us to a pediatric place specializing in diagnosing kids with ADHD. And yes, she had ADHD just like that her NICU doctor had predicted she would. And Andy has highly inattentive, very hyperactive ADHD. She is in the moderate to severe range. The interesting thing here was that after the report (very detailed information with her IQ, strengths—they told us her strength was going to be in mathematics; that was indeed the case), they didn’t provide any kind of support or solution—nothing!
When I returned to our hometown, I visited our pediatrician, and her only advice was to medicate Andy. But that’s another show. So, it was a process: 1) really understanding what ADHD is, understanding that it’s different for every child, 2) understanding that there was a familial connection (so she had a double whammy because she had a familial connection and, as the doctor in the NICU pointed out, had oxygen too close to her brain for an extended period), 3) deciding how we are going to approach this four-letter word, ADHD, and 4) how we were going to turn it from what people saw as a disadvantage, into her superpower, which is what we have done.
We have been very successful at channeling her hyperactivity and her inability to focus. It was easier when she was a child, now she’s a teenager, and she’s being swamped with hormones. We have a lot of fluctuations. But we were prepared because all of those things that I didn’t know, that I didn’t understand about ADHD, once I knew my child had it for certain, all of the blissful ignorance was replaced with research, knowledge. Nothing has taught me to be my child’s advocate more than ADHD. As a mom, I’ve learned a lot because my child was diagnosed with ADHD.
I’m grateful for this skill because the lessons I learned through Andy have also applied to Emmi. Later, Dora and Bugaboo, a busy, busy bee. No, he does not have ADHD, but boy, he is a very busy little guy. So, all of those lessons, I have been able to apply to the other kids. ADHD has also taught me immensurate patience. It has taught me to give myself timeouts when I need them, and it has helped me be a better mom. And ultimately, that’s what it’s all about when it comes to my kids. I always want to be a better mom, and anything that points me in that direction, I see it as a benefit.
So, not only has Andy learned to be a superhero, but she’s also my superhero. Yes, we still buttheads because yes, oh my goodness, she’s stubborn, so stubborn! But I keep reminding myself; stubbornness worked out well for me. It will work out well for her. I just have to keep reminding myself of that, and everything will be alright.
So, I bet you know how challenging it can be to have a child that people consider different. And on top of that, being an older mom. Please help me create a safe space for women like us by sharing our link on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter if you have time, all three! We would deeply appreciate it.
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