As grateful as we were and are that Daniel’s birth mother chose to give him life, her choice to use drugs and alcohol while pregnant frequently made us angry during those early days as we saw Daniel suffer the consequences. We went through a constant process of choosing to forgive her and being grateful for her choice for life.
The drugs and alcohol Daniel had been exposed to in utero caused significant developmental delays. He wasn’t hitting the typical developmental milestones for infants. And he had another serious physical challenge. Every muscle in his little body was tight and taut, and he had enormous sensory-stimulation issues. He would often scream at the slightest touch, as if the sensation was magnified far beyond what he could tolerate.
But it also seemed as if he knew he needed to be held. As long as I held him, he was happy, but if I put him down, he’d scream like nothing we’d ever heard before. We’d always held him at Debbie’s home, not only when we first met him, but through the entire transition period. When we took him home with us and real life set in, we had to set him down, have him nap, get him into a routine, and so on. But putting him down led to the high-pitched screams that shattered our nerves and seemed as if they could shatter glass.
Our nerves weren’t the only things that shattered after we brought Daniel home. Once again, our cushy life crumbled before our eyes. We went from deciding which movie to watch or which coffee shop to visit to caring for a small, screaming, completely dependent baby. All new parents know the feeling. And those with colicky babies or babies exposed to drugs or alcohol know the amplified feeling.
As I mentioned, Daniel wanted me to hold him at all times. Suddenly I had no other use for my arms. Thanks to the flexibility of my employers, I was working from my home office now, talking to folks on the phone, and carrying Daniel. (Tragically, I didn’t know about baby slings until later.)
Why couldn’t I put him down and watch him coo like babies I’d seen on television? He would sleep soundly on me for hours at a time, but the second I’d try to put him down, he would immediately wake up and – you guessed it – begin screaming.
As you’ve probably gathered by now, I’m not a natural with some of this parenting stuff. In fact, any supermom-types who are reading this may be completely baffled by what I’m about to confess: Daniel’s constant screaming and his need to be held at all times were killing me.
I was home all day with our new baby boy while John was at work. He received countless calls from his frazzled wife telling him how hard everything was – the physical therapy, the occupational therapy, the appointments, but mostly the screaming. I was a wreck. But John was consistently there for me during this time. He would encourage me over the phone, letting me vent and assuring me that things would be OK.
Shortly after we brought Daniel home, my mother flew to Hawaii and met her grandson for the first time. I had put Daniel down for a nap, and, of course, he was screaming. She assured me he would stop screaming and eventually fall asleep if I didn’t give in but let him cry it out instead.
The screaming went on for hours, and Daniel never stopped. When we needed to leave the house, I finally had to pick him up. The minute I did, he stopped crying.
I remember calling John one day in tears and asking him, “What if this never changes?” He tried to reassure me and calm me down. Don’t get me wrong. We were madly in love with Daniel. I remember how, despite everything, we’d wake up every morning wanting to see him first thing because we’d missed him during the night. Just writing this makes me chuckle.
And John … well, you never saw such a great daddy. He rushed home from work every day and couldn’t get enough playtime with Daniel. It was a beautiful thing to behold.
After a couple of months, Daniel started to become more independent and scream less. I was so thrilled. Finally, he could entertain himself, and I got my arms back. I was beginning to feel normal again.
Occupational therapy helped tremendously with Daniel’s developmental progress, and after several months, he was on track.
A therapist would come to the house to work with him, and I did baby massage and other exercises with him regularly during the day. Daniel began to catch up developmentally, hitting age-appropriate milestones like sitting, crawling and grasping at objects.
Soon we were developing what seemed like a more normal schedule. In fact, when I read about baby development, Daniel seemed to be ahead of schedule in reaching certain milestones related to independence.
John and I were cruising along in life, feeling pretty happy once again. We took lots of walks, pushing Daniel in the stroller and thanking God for our happy little family.