A couple weeks ago, Danny was in a foul mood. He was crabby, which is quite unusual for a Saturday, and he was getting upset over the strangest things. The kids had a church party to go to at 10:00 that morning, but when I asked Danny if he wanted to go, he said no. Since he was close to tears, which is also unusual for Dan, and since it seemed like an overstimulating party was exactly what Danny did not need, I let him stay home, while Charlotte went with Bil.
Instinct told me to leave him alone, to let him come to me, to give him some space. And that is exactly what I did. He sat quietly by himself for at least 15 minutes, until he finally came looking for me. He joined me on the couch and we talked very softly about what we saw out the window. I knew Danny needed peace and calm, that whatever was bugging him would not get fixed unless I ensured he had some quiet.
Danny did eventually start to feel better and we had a good day after that episode. Every so often, something like this happens, and more often than not, if I am listening to my gut, I know what to do to help him.
Contrast this to one night at least three years ago, when Danny woke up screaming. This had happened before and was starting to worry me. Bil and I had no idea what was wrong; nothing we did seemed to ease Danny's distress. We tried gas drops and Tylenol, teething drops and singing. We tried holding him and caressing him, but he would just arch his back away from my hands. My very touch appeared to hurt him physically.
Danny himself didn't seem to know what he wanted. He would motion for us to pick him up, but as soon as one of us did, he would scream to get down. Though he sounded like he was being burned alive, we could never find any source of pain. These night meltdowns didn't happen often, but when they did were so intense, at times I considered taking him to the ER.
This particular night, exhausted, I sat on the couch as Bil tried unsuccessfully to soothe our poor little boy.
And I sobbed.
It wasn't just my concern for Danny that made me cry. It wasn't just my frustration or fatigue. I was convinced there was something wrong with me. What else could explain a sweet little boy being repulsed by his mother's voice and touch? Why could I, who spent the most time with Danny, not figure out how to comfort him?
All the parenting books that claimed a mother knew the cry of her baby and could determine exactly what sort of cry it was taunted me as I heaved and bawled . Not only could I not figure out what had started my son's crying, I seemed to actually be making it worse. What did that say about me as a mother?
Where was that mother's intuition everyone talked about?
It wasn't long after one of these night episodes that Danny was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, and eventually years later, with high-functioning autism. We started putting the pieces together and figuring out (at least some of the time) what set Danny off. We got him into therapy through Early Intervention, I did tons of research, kept a behavior log, started brushing protocol for him, among very many things.
Over time, I realized I did know how to help him. I knew that something wasn't right, so I pursued the answers. I knew when a particular OT was the wrong fit (she spent the entire hour with 2-year-old Danny screaming in a high chair--she wouldn't let him down, because she had to "show him who was boss") and was able to give his preschool teacher lots of ideas on how to help him stay focused. When he was still having those tremendous meltdowns, I knew that taking him for a car ride would help, but that no one should ever, ever sing to him. I figured out that watching Baby Einstein calmed him down, while any other videos riled him up.
I started trusting my instincts. It turns out, I do have a mother's intuition, which if listened to, never leads me astray. Some of what I figured out was probably through research and trial and error, but still, I know Danny and understand him better than anyone else in this world. I can sense when over stimulation is imminent; I usually understand what is motivating some of his more confusing behaviors, and I am the one who is best at getting him to calm down when he has had a bad day.
I know mother's intuition may not be what you would consider supernatural; there's no telekinesis or premonitions involved, but I still think it is a gift, one that I value so much probably because for a while there, I was sure I would never possess it.
For more tales about sixth senses or supernatural powers, visit the Spin Cycle.