You heard the story of when and how I first realized Annie had autism. Now, I want to back up and tell the story of what happened prior to my night of Supernanny hell.
Annie had a rough birth experience. My epidural was turned up way too high causing her a lot of distress. Her umbilical cord was knotted and way too thin (diameter of a pencil when a normal cord should be the diameter of a finger). She was born with a MEGA cone head. I am talking Saturday Night Live Cone Head. The hospital staff, thinking they were doing me a favor, molded her head to look normal over the course of a few hours. Now I know they should have taught me how to gently mold her head to look normal over the course of a month. They applied way too much force to a newborn skull. All of these things, I believe, contributed to Annie developing Sensory Processing Disorder.
I didn't notice her quirks because I was a first time mom and had no one else to compare her to. But my mom noticed right away. "She's so sensitive," my mom kept saying. Gradually, I realized what she meant. Everything was too bright, too loud, too windy, and too itchy for Annie. But I found ways to work around it and as she got older, she seemed to be outgrowing it.
Cut to Annie as a one year old. She was the happiest baby ever. Just a bundle of smiles and laughs. So interactive and bright eyed. She could point to any animal, color, or body part you asked her about. She waved, blew kisses, and played games like "so big" and "peekaboo." Strangers would routinely stop me and say, "Your baby was smiling and waving at me, so I just had to come and say hello." Annie had hit all of her developmental milestones (crawling, walking, talking) right on time. This was one of the happiest times in my life. If only I had known what was to come... I would have cherished those moments even more.
Shortly after Annie's first birthday, I took her to the pediatrician for her one year vaccinations. Prior vaccines made her develop a low grade fever, swelling at the injection site, crankiness, and sleep issues, so I wasn't looking forward to our visit. Annie received the varicella (chicken pox) vaccine along with three others that day. Within 48 hours of receiving the shots, Annie came down with a full blown case of the chicken pox. "Very unusual," her pediatrician said. But he told me there was no cause for alarm and I believed him. She got over the chicken pox after two weeks and all seemed well.
At 18 months, I took Annie to a Discovery Toy party with tons of other toddlers in my neighborhood. Twenty four hours later, Annie had a high fever and diarrhea. My baby's second major illness. I figured she would recover in a week, but a week passed, then the next, then the next... I kept taking her to the pediatrician and calling to ask, "Is this normal? Is it okay that my daughter has had explosive diarrhea and a fever for a month?" I was informed that this was the normal course of rotavirus. It was NO BIG DEAL.
Finally, the diarrhea stopped and the fever went away and we had two glorious weeks... my sparkly, happy baby was back!
I took Annie to the park and she was filthy from playing with the other kids in the sand. Into the bath tub she went. I was scrubbing the dirt off her ear when I noticed... "That's weird - what are those two puncture marks on the top of her ear? Are those fang marks?" I asked myself in horror. I started to panic. "What horrible creature bit my child?"
By the next morning, her ear had swollen to twice its normal size and turned purple. I gave Annie some breakfast and she promptly vomited. She had a fever and chills. I was now officially freaking out.
Back to the doctor we went. We all suspected this was the work of a brown recluse spider. But since nobody knew for sure, we were given a topical antibiotic cream and told once again, to let it take its course. "This is so close to her brain," I told the doctor. "Will it affect her brain?" I asked. He chuckled and said I had nothing to worry about.
During the next 2 weeks, Annie's ear looked completely disgusting. I was genuinely worried it was going to fall off. The tissue turned black and looked like it was rotting away. But somehow, my little trooper fought off the venom and eventually her body healed itself. Once again, Annie was back. Hooray!
We took it easy for a few weeks and stayed close to home. Then, a friend invited us to meet them for a play date at a local water park for children. Annie hadn't been out of the house in weeks. She deserved to do something fun I told myself. I agreed to meet them there.
The kids had a blast running around in the four inches of standing water in their swim diapers. Occasionally, Annie would fall down and take a big sip of the water. I tried to explain to her why she shouldn't drink the water, but it didn't seem to register. I was disgusted, but I figured, don't all kids drink gross water at some point in their life? I know I did and I survived.
By the time Annie was 20 months old she had dealt with:
- Oxygen deprivation in utero
- Head trauma at birth
- Severe negative reaction to varicella (chicken pox) vaccine
- Month long bout with rotavirus
- Brown recluse spider bite
I believe it was all of these things together, occurring in a short period of time, that weakened Annie's immune system to the verge of collapse. She was no longer able to deal with the insult to her health that came next, the "straw that broke the camel's back."
For Part 3 /part-31.html