My New Motherhood
by Penny Williams of the blog “A Mom’s View of ADHD”
When you set out to have children, you wish for a healthy and happy baby. You may hope for a girl or hope for a boy, but you know either is great as long as it is healthy. While you may have fleeting fears of illness or disability during pregnancy, you plan for a “normal” child unless someone tells you otherwise.
I, of course, was no different. With my first pregnancy, I was desperate to have a girl. I do mean D E S P E R A T E! I didn’t have experience with little boys. This pacifist momma didn’t have any interest in revving engines, guns, or explosives. I had an unhealthy fear that I would not know what to do with a boy. I knew I’d love my child, boy or girl, but I was truly desperate for a girl. I had a few issues during pregnancy but Emma was full-term and beautiful. All 10 fingers, all 10 toes and a great set of lungs — a totally “normal” little girl. She had some challenges like colic, but being her momma came naturally, for the most part.
Three years later, I found myself pregnant again. I wasn’t so desperate to have a girl this time, although I still had no idea what to do with a boy. Long before my first ultrasound, I knew he was a boy. All that extra testosterone can really wreak havoc on a woman’s body! I had a lonely teenager’s acne, I was so zapped my knuckles nearly dragged the floor, and I had heart burn that had me sitting up to sleep for the last 6 months! His birth was prolonged and difficult. Definitely a boy! He was already turning my world upside down.
But he was a beautiful, healthy baby boy and he loved his momma like only a son can. Through his toddler and pre-k years, we never noticed anything more than age-appropriate, little boy behavior. Nothing that was out of the ordinary for a child that age. Nothing that was a cause for any sort of concern. Being the momma I knew how to be was still applicable and working well for our family.
It all fell apart when Luke started kindergarten though. He was the proverbial square peg in a round hole. Luke was trying to fit but just couldn’t. He was too active for the classroom; he didn’t treat scissors with the caution they require; he couldn’t write his name legibly; he liked to talk at inappropriate times; he had zero interest in reading. These all should have been red flags. Hell, they were red flags flying frantically, but we all missed them. His teacher frequently pointed her finger at us and our home life and said we just hadn’t prepared him for kindergarten and we should have waited another year. But we knew how super smart he is and that we are great parents — we knew that wasn’t it.
We enrolled Luke in a mainstream public school the following year for first grade. I just knew it was the kindergarten environment, or the teacher, or the loose culture of the charter school, but not a problem with my sweet, intelligent Luke. I was confident Luke would hit his stride and everything would be great in the new school. But just a couple weeks in, I noticed a pattern of bad behavior reports coming home again. Finally, I saw the red flag. I felt it in the sinking feeling in my gut too. That proved it wasn’t the kindergarten classroom situation and it wasn’t the kindergarten teacher. Something is going on with Luke.
I took him straight to the pediatrician to talk about having him evaluated. At the time, I was convinced learning disabilities were causing his behavior problems. I read some about ADHD but never gave it any serious thought as a possible diagnosis for Luke.
It is ADHD.
Life is never what you expect.
The signs were everywhere. From the long, difficult labor, the extra hours on pitocin, the delay in baby milestones, the sudden talkativeness, the difficulty controlling his body, the lack of focus in a busy classroom full of new activities to explore, the bad behavior from a very sweet and kind kid… The signs really were everywhere but I didn’t know enough about ADHD to connect the dots. Each instance by itself can be something entirely different. But, dots connected, it is a clear picture of ADHD. It’s a clear picture of my son.
So there I was thrust into a new motherhood. A world of doctor’s appointments, behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, daily medications, special education laws, school accommodations, different nutrition, guilt, anxiety and even grief. I hadn’t had any training for this motherhood and it didn’t come so naturally. I didn’t expect it nor, frankly, did I even want it. But this job, this new motherhood, came with Luke and I certainly wouldn’t turn that away.
Mothering a child with ADHD is indisputably more difficult and downright exhausting. There are so many more appointments, so many more worries, so much more stress. But there’s also so much more love, strength, courage, resilience, determination, and simple gratitude for the small stuff, because everything a child with ADHD does, they do very big.
This motherhood brought my empathetic nature to the surface too. When I see a child in a restaurant running laps around the table and acting out a fight scene from Star Wars at the top of his lungs, complete with all the sound effects, I now know he is a special child, not just some unruly brat whose parents can’t control him. Now I feel for his parents and know how exhausted they must be. I wonder if they have yet discovered the reason they can’t make him behave no matter what they try. I want to help them. I no longer wish they’d leave the restaurant.
My new motherhood can be trial by fire but it’s made me a stronger, better person and I am so very grateful.