A Special Package
My son Patrick arrived three days early. He’s been very thoughtful since day 1, as he was actually due the day of Mick’s brother’s wedding and not wanting to hog the limelight. He decided 3 days was the perfect space between a new baby and a wedding.
When in labour with Patrick, my epidural didn’t work and being a total drama queen who wants an anesthetic for a broken nail, I told the midwife I thought I would need to have a C-section. She just laughed at me, and handed me the gas mask. Luckily, he didn’t hang around and all 9lb 8oz of him appeared on a rainy Wednesday in October 2008. My life would change for ever, just not in the way I ever expected.
Mick and I were both convinced we were having a second girl, to accompany Saoirse our daughter, so we were surprised and delighted at a boy child. Mick said he knew he was a boy as soon as he saw his head, but didn’t say it to me just in case was actually a manly looking girl.
Being off my head on gas and air, I remember drawling about a looooooooovellyyyy littttttttttttle boooooooooyyyyyy, whilst trying not to fall off the bed. Commenting on his unusually round head and lack of hair.
He was the biggest of my three babies and everyone kept telling me how huge he was. I didn’t get it, I thought he was teeny. That was until I saw him beside other newborns, then I realised he looked like he could have eaten one them for a snack.
Despite regularly suffering reflux akin to a volcanic eruption, he grew rapidly and soon became a little chunky monkey. I used to love his fat thighs and would blow raspberries on them calling them his little squishers. He would squeal with delight and to this day is ridiculously ticklish.
Just like with Saoirse, my intense love of him wasn’t immediate – it isn;t like the movies! It was a slower burner, but by the time he was 4 weeks old, I was totally smitten. I have always said that this little man carries my heart around in his pocket. He had a smile that would light a town and a glint in his eye that perfectly complimented his sense of mischief.
Saoirse couldn’t say Patrick and for ages he was known as ‘Package’. Sadly, an over-zealous carer in the creche decided to teach Saoirse the correct way to say his name, I was gutted when she refused to call him Package anymore. Nowadays, he goes by ‘Dude’.
Patrick has always been the child that has caused me the greatest level of worry, along with his reflux, he had glue ear and a shocking dose of chicken pox all before his first birthday.
Then at fifteen months old, after 12 days without water in our home when the pipes froze, during a terrible winter, he contracted the Rota Virus from drinking water than wasn’t completely cleaned. We became alerted to it when he suffered a terrible seizure that caused him to stop breathing.
Mick was changing his nappy and he screamed for me to call an ambulance. This is the one and only time I have ever heard panic in Mick’s voice. Mick breathed for him and he eventually vomited and started to breathe again. For about two minutes that day I thought we had lost him, it remains, the worst day of my life.
After 2 more seizures, a week in hospital, an MRI, a lumber puncture, litres of blood being taken and a pharmacy full of anti-viral and anti-biotic drugs being pumped into his tiny body, he was allowed home. All of the drugs meant he was now very healthy and super energetic,
A week in the hospital with a toddler with, at that time un-diagnosed ADHD, was like trying to wrestle an octopus in a bath tub. So, getting home, brought true joy and a decent night’s sleep.
You will read in a later blog post, how after 4 years of being ignored by the health service, we arrived at Patrick’s diagnosis of Autism and ADHD in 2018. But I want this post to be about Patrick and not his diagnosis.
He was a little live wire and from an early age, and has been into absolutely everything, as a toddler he used to crawl around the floor eating mud out of plant pots.
The day of Saoirse’s 5th birthday party, I was preparing lots of the ‘healthy yet fun’ food (who knew what you could do with beetroot!), intent on impressing my newly acquired and very shiny, school gate mummy friends.
Patrick, who was 3, said to me “here you go mummy” I turned around and he handed me my oven door!! WTF!! He was in super power mode obviously, and that was before I’d even given him the sneaky sugar filled haribo I had tucked away.
Then, there was what he did to my car when he was 4! After a very big night out the night before, I was feeling a little fragile. I’m not a big drinker normally, but this was one of those nights that had run away with me. Mick had popped out, and Saoirse and Patrick had been playing in the front garden, whilst I left the front door open listening to them, lying very still on the couch to reduce my nausea.
Saoirse ran into the house to tell me Patrick had broken the car. I dragged myself out to see what had happened with his car, only to realise it wasn’t his car, but mine! In an effort to clean it for me, Patrick had taken the yard brush into the back seat and had shattered the back window. Amazingly it was still intact. I gently lifted him out of the car and as I shut the door the glass went everywhere, fortunately he was fine and just beamed at me, feeling proud of his cleaning skills. FFS!
When he is calm, Patrick is a gentle giant. He is kind, loving and engaging and I just love to get cuddles from him, he gives great ones. Like any typical child of his age he loves rugby, Minecraft and nerf guns (ok he loves Fortnite too, but I’m not supposed to admit that.) He can tell you in animated detail about all of the things he loves. Dinosaurs, sharks, and each of the emergency services. Especially the Police.
The thing that makes me so sad about Patrick’s diagnosis, is that often it robs us of this beautiful boy. He has virtually no emotional regulation ability, the slightest thing can set him into a rage.
It is always so important to remember that Patrick has absolutely no control over this. If he is distressed in any way, which can happen often because, anxiety is a huge part of Autism, then he can have an explosive reaction because he cannot verbalise how he is feeling, even though he is completely verbal and if you were to meet him in the street you may not even be able to tell he is Autistic.
Professionals have told us to imagine the most scared we had ever been, then try to understand that is how Patrick feels most of the time. Continuously in a state of high alert.
Just take a minute to imagine how that actually feels!
Patrick always feels intense guilt after a meltdown and chastises himself for a long time after, even though we don’t. As a parent, seeing your child so distressed is heart breaking.
Violent/Challenging behaviours in People with Special Needs are still very much a taboo subject, no one wants to think of children acting this way. I don’t want to create fear or a pity party, my aim is to educate on how to help and support people in this situation. How to reduce anxiety in situations, us neuro-typicals take in our stride.
The next time you see a child having, what you may perceive to be a temper tantrum, please have a bit of compassion and try to understand, that there is really no such thing as a ‘bad child’, their behaviour may be bold or naughty, but as a person they are not.
Help however you can, clear a space, watch the parent’s bag or other children. Most importantly, if you have children with you, explain to them what is going on and why. Develop acceptance.
The person having the meltdown, is likely just reacting to something upsetting or even painful to their brain, reacting the only way they are able.
Anger and rage are a form of communication for some, that struggle to communicate any other way. I would guarantee than underneath their behaviour that child is a loving, caring, wonderful child – exactly like my son Patrick, who despite his challenges, I love to infinity and beyond.