I met with the early childhood behavioral therapist again, sans M. I described the behaviors I found concerning in greater detail, she asked me questions, and we hashed out some goals and how we’re going to measure progress. She does see some indicators of sensory disregulation and disorganization, but what really stood out for her were the behaviors that may be pointing to an attachment disorder. I was pretty struck by the way some of M’s aggressive behavior towards me, and overly-affectionate behavior toward perfect strangers, pointed us in that direction. This is why I’m seeking the help of professionals!
My heart was breaking as she described the research that shows that early disruption in the normal attachment of infant to birth mom (primarily) and other primary caregivers leads to a pattern of disorganized attachment down the road. M spent the first five weeks of her life being passed off to random family members and friends, sometimes on a daily basis. She was supposedly found alone in a utility closet when she was removed from a relative’s home by CPS. Her needs were not consistently met, if they were met at all, and the normal process of attachment that began in utero was completely interrupted and dissolved, and then damaged continuously for the duration of those five weeks.
M was born into the 16th percentile for her height and weight. After spending months in my care, with consistent physical and emotional caregiving, she hit the 80-90th percentiles in height and weight and has been there ever since. She was meant to be a larger child, and was malnourished from birth through 2 months old. She was not only exposed to multiple substances in utero, she was exposed to them continuously. Her birth mom fled a dangerous and violent situation just before her birth, and therefore her little fetal brain was constantly flooded with birth mom’s stress hormones, including cortisol and the hormones responsible for “fight-or-flight” reactions.
In spite of the fact that I have nourished and mothered M more than adequately for normal development since she was 5 weeks 5 days old, she seems to struggle as a result of her brain’s first 11 months of over-exposure to the wrong stimulation and lack of exposure to the right stimulation. She is attached to me, but her brain has not developed the necessary hardware for her to trust our bond. She will reach for me and then hit me when I reach back. She will throw herself into the arms of a stranger and cling to her instead of me. She will test me, test me, test me.
I haven’t read enough on the subject to know exactly what the game plan will be here, but I know for sure that I’m in this, 110%. If all of my education up to now can help me to find her the resources she needs, to be the mom she needs, and to help her succeed in becoming a happy, well-adjusted person in life, then it will all have been worth it. M, I got you. Mommy’s got you.
My goal is to bring together her “team” (me, the therapist, the new pediatrician, and maybe an OT) to work toward the goal of helping M learn to use tools and strategies to manage her own complicated emotions and impulses in healthy ways. We will use psychology, medical research, social sciences, therapy, nutrition, and loving guidance to achieve these goals. By the time she’s a third grader, I want her to be able to recognize some of her own warning signs and use simple techniques to self-regulate. By the time she’s a teen, I want her to have a deep understanding of herself, as well as a laundry list of resources and tools to help her cope with big feelings. By the time she’s an adult with a job, maybe kids, maybe a spouse, and a life of her own, I want her to know that her mom is still there for her, still her #1 fan, and always just a phone call or drive away.