by Michelle Reavis
I sat rocking in the overstuffed recliner. The same chair that I had rocked my two other babies in. Cradled in the crook of my arm, her head, so small and round, was precious. I felt the same tingle in my stomach, like someone had given me a priceless gift. My eyes sparkling with joy, admiring the specially chosen receiving blanket swaddling her body. A hand wiggled free and stretched out towards me. It was a chubby, baby hand, so beautiful and perfectly formed. Then suddenly, the hand scrapped down my eye and cheek. I could feel the sting from finger nails on my skin. I froze… unbelieving. I thought that a baby, developmentally delayed, only one year old, but resembling a five month old, was still unknowing and unaware.
So, filled with hope and determination, I rocked away the hours that summer. Choosing to closely nurse her with a bottle, believing I could redo what might have been missed that first year. I was confident that I could love her out of what ever happened before she came to me. Love was not enough.
By eighteen months of age, Kiki was developmentally on target and intelligent. In fact, she was usually two steps ahead of me. But, I found myself feeling angry much of the time. It was just little things like: pushing me away when I tried to hold or comfort her, grabbing food and items, pushing my hands away when I was trying to help her, and throwing food or items across the room when something didn’t go her way.
I didn’t want to admit that my adult maturity was pushed to the edge by a little baby. One day, I realized; she didn’t want me near her and she was happier alone in her crib than when I tried to love her. I prayed that I would find a way to love and heal her. Then I saw an article about a video by Nancy Thomas. Nancy had worked with many kids who didn’t love or trust their parents. I knew there were answers in what she taught through her video. But, I still continued to struggle with Kiki for the next four years. She screamed, stayed emotionally distant from me, and defied me daily. She even physically hurt me on many occasions and killed our family’s kitten.
I began to fall apart emotionally and my family became very stressed. It seemed that no one really believed me; that this cute little girl could, ‘do what you say’. I spent a lot of time talking to different kinds of therapists, but Kiki’s behavior kept returning to the previous ways. Kiki was just turning five years old, and her behavior was more troubling than ever. I knew that something had to change or she was going to become dangerous. I read Nancy Thomas’ book, “Dandelion On My Pillow, Butcher Knife Underneath”, and realized that Nancy had gone through the same things I had been through. I stopped telling myself I was a failure, I grieved the loss of Kiki’s babyhood and what ‘should have been’, and I buckled down to learn and do what needed to be done.
I renewed my appointment schedule with an attachment therapist and I treated Nancy’s book, “When Love Is Not Enough”, as a college text book. I put myself on a six month, daily program to become a “strong parent” like Nancy Thomas teaches. I was not perfect at it, and I still am not perfect, but I changed each situation around as it came up. In six months I had a little girl with a new heart, a changed brain and I and my family started to heal! Things are not ideal but are light-years from where we were just last spring.
Never give up,
Michelle Reavis 1/11/04