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Mama Guest Post #3 – Parenting Through Sensory Processing Disorder

 

Hi!  I’m Shauna, a 31-year-old wife and mama of two, Hailey (6) and Colton (almost 2).  I am a nursing student but when I have free time I enjoy long walks down every single aisle of Target, iced coffee and spending time with my family. I have been a fan of Hanging With the Huies for a couple of years now and love that Kendra has created this lovely little place to invite all of us to see beautiful glimpses of her life, because y’all she is one beautiful person inside and out and I have grown to really adore her and her little family.  I hope to one day hug her neck and catch up over a cup of coffee.

When Kendra asked me to join this week’s guest post, not only was I flattered and somewhat nervous, but an idea immediately came to mind on what to write about… infertility.  For so long it was my identity and my world that it seemed natural that I would use that to reach others.  But something kept pulling at me to go in a different direction, telling me I had a more important story to tell.  So, here I sit, in a raw state of emotion still not sure how I will get through this dry eyed – I am sure I won’t.

Becoming a Mom. I will never forget that morning.  The morning I woke up at 4 AM as I often did to obsessively run to the bathroom to see if today was different, and on this morning it was, because for the first time after years of trying, failed fertility treatments, a lot of tears, and a whole lotta pregnancy tests, there it was, that second pink line I had always hoped for.  I remember waking up my soundly sleeping husband yelling, “THERE ARE TWO LINES… TWO LINES!!” It is one of my favorite memories.  As most mamas do, I began dreaming about who this tiny person would be, what he or she would look like and who they would become.  Of course, when Hailey Jo arrived, she was perfect.  I loved being a mom from the moment I held her and my days were filled with pouring into this tiny being.

 Photo Credit: Ashley Rocha Photography

Parenting. I had been around enough kids to know that parenting would be hard.  I had researched, read every book, and discussed discipline views with Tim, the whole nine yards.  The late nights, the millions of diapers, the challenges, we were ready.  We were going to rock this parenting gig.  I don’t know that there is a person, or book, or experience in the world that can prepare you for the trenches we have gone through with Hailey because what none of those books could ever prepare me for was raising a child with anxiety and sensory processing disorder.

Challenges. It must have been at about age three when we really started struggling.  Others didn’t really notice a difference in Hailey but we noticed.  The challenges we faced were nothing I had ever dreamed.  At first, and for a long time, I thought I was doing something wrong, that Hailey was poorly disciplined and that this was all behavioral.  Then, we got pregnant with our sweet Colton.  At the same time, Tim began working out of town so it was just Hailey and I on our own.  I began noticing times when Hailey seemed overwhelmed with anxiousness and fear and times when she seemed overwhelmed with excitement to the point that she literally couldn’t control her actions.  All of her emotions were big.  When she was sad she was really sad, when she was angry she was really angry and when she was happy she was really happy.  I also began noticing that she would cover her ears if I raised my voice, she asked for headphones if we were watching fireworks, and she flinched at any loud noise even if it didn’t seem loud enough to startle someone.  Hailey also made it very clear when she wanted to be touched and when she didn’t.  She seemed to get better once “bubba” came along, he loves and adores her unconditionally and she seems to see him as her “safe” place and someone who she can freely be herself around, often hugging him or just laying near him when she is upset. Then when Hailey started Kindergarten, we really noticed an escalating behavior pattern and this is when we really started seeking help.

Being Different. The day we finally got the answers to why our beautiful little girl was “different”, why every single morning was a fight because everything I picked for her to wear was “too itchy” or “too tight”, why too much noise or yelling caused her to get overly excited or overly anxious, why she was struggling to get through the day at school without incident, and, hardest of all, why she only leaned in for my embrace when she wanted to and pulled away at other times, that day everything began to make sense.  Though I didn’t completely understand what we were facing, we knew two things; that Hailey was suffering from anxiety as well as Sensory Processing Disorder, specifically tactile (touch) and auditory. I spent hours that night sobbing on my bedroom floor and even cried myself to sleep.  Why hadn’t I seen the signs that she needed help sooner?  But wait there was HELP.  Tears of sadness that she wasn’t “perfect” and also tears of relief that this was something manageable poured from my eyes.  I still have those nights, on bad days, or days where there are stark reminders that the world doesn’t accept and doesn’t understand.

Judgment. I know many of us deal with judgmental women, especially when it comes to being a mama, and that I can handle.  What I have had the hardest time dealing with are the judgments and unkind ways Hailey has been treated. Adults that have been in her life that are supposed to love and nourish her have caused her immense heartache and trust issues by making her feel unwanted, unloved and even more different then she already feels.  This has proved to be challenging for me to handle because of course I have felt sadness, anger, hurt and even at times some hatred.  This is my baby, she is a child, and how could grown people not only treat me negatively at times but also do so to an innocent child?

Forgiveness and Grace. I feared the thought of bullies as Hailey entered Kindergarten.  We hear about it daily in the news and I wasn’t naïve to the fact that Hailey may face that.  I prepared her for it, we talked about and the one thing I tried to instill in her was that no matter who she was up against, no matter how unkind they were, no matter how hurt they made her feel, that all we can do is guard ourselves while also loving and forgiving them.  Luckily Hailey is a lover, she has the biggest heart and wants nothing more than to have all her friends near playing and having an amazing time.  While I had all these angry and hateful emotions inside me for those that were exacerbating what was already a challenge to handle, my little girl was using words like forgive and love. Isn’t it funny how we sometimes learn what we tried to teach our children, from them instead?  Sometimes they are the best teachers.  I had to find a place in my heart to let go of all of those thoughts and pains and offer grace and forgiveness for those who will never know how many tears I have cried on their behalf.  They don’t understand, they don’t see what I see in Hailey.  They simply don’t get it.  I wish so much they would or could understand things from my perspective, but I can’t make that happen so, instead, I have to do my best to show them the love and kindness that I hope for in return for myself but more so for Hailey.

Choosing Joy.  Hailey has changed me.  She has made me a better person in so many ways.  I am more kind, more calm, more understanding, more patient, more loving, and most of all, more forgiving because of her.  Out of all the trials, hurt and tears, this journey has taught me, the biggest lesson I have learned is that it is up to me to choose joy.  I make a daily choice not to let others defeat me or take away my happiness and I am able to do that because I see my girl do it every single day.  I choose to love, I choose to see past what others see, I choose not to judge that mom in HEB with a baby strapped to her crying as she’s trying to check out and her five year old is laying in the floor mid-tantrum, and I choose this because I was once that mom.  Instead, since I have been THAT mom, I now choose to joyfully ask her if she needs help, or simply say “you are doing great mama, you got this, don’t give up, this too shall pass” in hopes of bringing her a moment of relief.  I hope you, sitting there reading this, will also choose joy for yourself and to bring that same joy others.  Choose to be the one who sees that mama for the bad day she is having and the moment she is in and not for what may seem like bad parenting or lack of discipline, because while it may be those things, she may also just be fighting a battle that you aren’t aware of and she may need a couple words of encouragement instead of glances full of judgment.  Be the one to give her that sigh of relief and the extra push to make it to her car without breaking down.

Defining Perfect. I will leave you with reasons in which I have discovered that my sweet Hailey Jo is perfect.  She is funny, smart, kind, beautiful, strong, a natural leader, creative, energetic, honest, compassionate, and most of all this little ball of spunk was made for me, I was chosen, hand picked to be her mama, made to help her navigate through this life and because of that she is and always will be perfect for me.

Photo credit: Ashley Rocha Photography

For more information on Sensory Processing Disorder SPD please visit the links below:

What is Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD

Common questions asked about SPD

For further SPD support

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