Since Rowen was around eight weeks old I've known something was "different" about her. She was a much less vigorous nurser than her sister and seemed to be startled incredibly easily. She was slower about meeting milestones while still technically being in the "normal" range. At 6 months her Moro reflex was still very much present. When she hit eight months and wasn't trying to crawl, I listened to my mama gut and had her evaluated by an occupational therapist and a physical therapist. They were impressed with many things about her; her ability to eat chunks of whole food at her age, bringing them to her mouth on her own with ease for one. But something was amiss. A sensory processing issue, they said. She qualifies for services, here is your list of rights and responsibilities. We'll be back in a week.
So like any parent I took to the internet. What could I find about this sensory processing disorder? A lot. A lot of conflicting information. A lot about its correlation to autism. Rowen has a sensory processing disorder but is not autistic. Most of what I found was reassuring. A list of things to look for. Trouble feeding. Trouble sleeping. Trouble riding in the car. Check, check, check. Wow. For an infant, those three events make up a significant part of the day. And a significant part of her day had been incredibly stressful. It can be difficult to bond with a baby who spends a majority of the time unhappy. Especially when you can't figure out what is wrong. Many nights I'd nurse her and rock her and walk with her for hours until Will came home and I finally had to hand her off because I couldn't take the constant crying anymore. We'd switch off and on the really bad nights. I was thankful to have an answer as to why life seemed to be so difficult for her.
Her first therapy session was a world of help for me. Maryse, her OT is from Canada and is just adorable. She walked in the house and immediately asked me what I had read about SPD on the internet. I'll never forget her saying, "I have tools that can help you help her not become so overwhelmed, your days will start getting better. They aren't all going to be easy, but they will be better." Sensory processing issues are best explained with a spectrum. We all have little quirks, sensory things that bother us. Some people can't stand to feel the tags on their shirts, or the feel of ankle socks. It often shows in texture issues with food. These quirks are on one end of the spectrum. For some though, sensory issues disrupt every day life. Some have incredibly intense reactions to everyday stimuli. This would be on the other end of the spectrum. Rowen appears to be somewhere in the middle. Uneven touch bothers Rowen. Support over one part of her back and not the whole thing is a huge trigger. Loud noises and fast movement she isn't expecting are also triggers. At her age stranger fear is not uncommon, but her reaction is incredibly intense. Because she becomes scared and overwhelmed quickly trying out new things like crawling becomes more difficult. She of course started crawling right after she was evaluated. Girl is already meeting goals.
We use tools like soft brushing of her skin and vibration to help distract her while she is going through sensory overload. The only consistency with a neurological issue like SPD is that it isn't consistent. The same exact stimuli doesn't always bother her. Riding in the car will probably never be her favorite thing. She may wean earlier than her sister because the constant touch while nursing isn't always enjoyable for her. Some days she absolutely loves to be worn on my back, some days she hates it.
Hearing that your child needs therapy can be a scary moment. What will her life look like? We all talk about how proud we are of our children when they develop typically and follow the pattern that all other children follow. What happens when they don't? How do we feel then? I've had several people tell me, "I'm so glad my baby doesn't/didn't have that." Ouch. We feel blessed beyond measure to be chosen to be Rowen's parents. Undeserving, even. I actually told Maryse that I felt bad that Rowen was born into this family. Not sad for us. But for her. She has two older siblings who embody the word rambunctous. Our home is always loud. Our home always has a lot of movement. No wonder she is stressed so much. Maryse though, said it was the perfect place for her. Perfect preparation for every day life stressors that will come her way, with the addition of a lot of love. And a mama who listened to her instincts when something was "off."