This topic is a touchy one for me. I think it is because it ties in to my opinion of myself as a mother. I was always good with kids. Good with babies. I had lots of younger cousins and entertained them at family gatherings well before I was old enough to babysit. Once in high school and through the first two years of college I did a ton of babysitting. Then I chose to work with children as my profession.
I just assumed I’d be a wonderful mother. Before Michael was born I imagined bonding with him as an infant. I imagined he’s be comforted by my arms, voice, and face. I imagined playing peek-a-boo, singing songs, exchanging smiles and baby-talk. What I got was a baby who cried almost nonstop for 8 months. He didn’t seem to be comforted any more by me than by anyone else. He didn’t smile on schedule. He didn’t laugh on schedule. He preferred looking past me at the lights behind me rather than looking into my eyes. We never played peek-a-boo. He didn’t babble. I thought people were exaggerating when they talked about bonding with their infants. I thought they were reading things into their children’s behavior that weren’t there. I just didn’t realize exactly how different Michael’s early development was.
Ava followed only 15 and a half months later. She was a little more typical. She didn’t have the fascination with lights and the eye contact avoidance. She didn’t cry as much. She did seem to prefer her parents somewhat to others. In comparison, she seemed like such an easier baby. In retrospect, she still didn’t smile, laugh, coo, or babble on schedule. We still didn’t have that give and take, that positive feedback loop that leads to the early bonding so many people have with their infants.
My husband and I just thought we weren’t baby people. We didn’t realize that we were having a perfectly normal reaction to the fact that our children weren’t as socially interactive as a typical infant. It’s hard to bond with a baby that doesn’t smile at you. It’s hard to bond with a baby that doesn’t play the typical back and forth infant games like peek-a-boo and other finger plays. Without that interaction, bonding is just more difficult and will happen slower.
When I was watching home videos I came across one of Ava when she had just started to smile. She was almost 4 months old. It was difficult to get her to smile, and when I did it was in response to tickling (a physical stimulus), not in response to a social overture. She almost seemed to be struggling. I can remember that Michael’s first laugh was in response to being thrown up in the air and caught again – also in response to a physical stimulus. And he was much older.
Looking back on it now, I think much of this could be related to the apraxia. The late smiles and laughs and the lack of babbling are all early red flags for apraxia. I never really reflected on the impact that has on the parent’s relationship with their baby – and their confidence in themselves as a parent.
Has anyone else had a similar experience? It would make for an amazing research study.