Almost a year ago I was at total and utter rock bottom.
Max’s lack of sleep had reached an all time low and as of the beginning of 2012 he was consistently waking between 11pm and 2am and that was literally him UP FOR THE DAY.
By last November I was beyond running on empty. I was totally and utterly exhausted.
I broke down at the school in a meeting of all the people who were involved with trying to support Max and me.
I was so close to calling his dad to say I couldn’t do it anymore, that he’d have to take him or he’d end up in foster care.
At the absolute verge of a complete breakdown.
Not exactly the sort of thing anyone wants to admit, is it?
And not the sort of thing you’d expect of me, the person with a smile for everyone!
Definitely not something you’d ever want to admit, especially to the professionals. They could take my baby away from me. They could label me an unfit mother.
That meeting, that breakdown. It turns out that was what needed to happen to really get the ball rolling for us to get the support that we were in desperate need of.
All of a sudden we were finally assigned a social worker, who came out to the house to talk to me, to find out my story, to figure out what was needed to really help Max and I get through this.
We were officially labeled a family in crisis.
Here’s the thing: despite what you may hear, “the social” don’t want to put your children into care.
They actually do want to help you be able to fix whatever needs fixing and to help you get things back on track – no matter how far off the beaten path you’ve ended up.
My son was 5 years old and slept worse than a newborn, and had been sleeping badly like that for longer than most babies do.
My social worker asked what would help more.
Would it be better for Max to go into a foster home for a couple of weeks to give me a break and a chance to recouperate a bit? Or for us to be assigned an outreach worker to tackle the massive sleep problems and the resulting behavioural issues we were dealing with?
I’m not going to lie, the idea of having a break was seriously tempting, but I knew that Max wouldn’t be able to cope being in different surroundings in the state he was in at that point, and I knew that I could never live with myself if he was to go into care.
I mean, jeez, what would I tell people?
Yeah I couldn’t do it anymore so he’s in foster care.
My little man.
My wee dude.
My forever baby boy.
No, despite the exhaustion and desperation I couldn’t let it come to that.
So I opted for the outreach program.
On the last day of January this year, our new support worker came to our home for the first time at midday.
She stayed until Max was in bed, at around 7pm.
She saw his reactions, my reactions, his aggression, my exhaustion.
She saw it all.
Including me being headbutted in the throat and then struggling to catch my breath afterwards while still trying to calm down my wee man before going through to the other room to cry.
And supported me throughout the day to see if we could get him tired out enough to sleep through the night.
Yeah, that didn’t happen.
He still woke that night at about 2am.
But that next day, and night, I decided to keep him up later.
I had managed to grab a nap with him in the afternoon as it was at the weekend, and so kept him up for an hour or so later than usual.
We’d also set up a visual bedtime routine for him to follow the night before, and started integrating his PECS (picture exchange communication system) at home.
That night he slept through for the first time in a long time.
And then he did it again the next night.
And the night after that.
He started sleeping through the night say 4-5 nights in a row, then he’d have an all-nighter, and then back to sleeping through for another 4-5 nights.
I was in shock.
My little boy was sleeping through.
Though I was sure it wouldn’t last.
It took us both around three months to be completely “cured” of our collective exhaustion.
It took me longer to not flinch and start to panic every time I heard a noise coming from upstairs.
But he’s doing it.
Nine months later he sleeps through most nights, till easily 6-7am.
Maybe once every 7-10 days he has an early start of around 4am, but they are few and far between.
His behavioural difficulties have become almost non-existent.
He’s happy and fun and enjoying his wee life.
He even started school this august and is really thriving in their ASD base.
My gorgeous happy little guy is back and doing better than ever.
In the space of one year, our lives have completely changed.
I was so scared that “this was it”. Max wasn’t going to get easier, he was never going to sleep through, his behavioural issues would become worse and he would get bigger and stronger throughout it all.
There was no light at the end of the tunnel by the end of last year.
No future at all.
Now we’re not even in the tunnel anymore.
We’re outside and it’s a beautiful hot sunny day.
The future looks wonderful and promising and hopeful.
It really is amazing what difference a year can make when you can get the right help.
It’s genuinely changed our lives.
I have a completely different, engaging and fun little boy, and he has a mum who has the energy to keep routines in place, to be consistent and to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible for him.
Our lives are contented and fun and full of belly laughs and regular-kid style tantrums.
Of Max starting to become verbal and actually joining in with other kids.
Of Zack enjoying spending time with his little brother, showing him new things and teaching him new handshakes and the like.
Oh what a difference a year can make!