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Please can you reassure me my illness hasn't affected my daughter

(38 Posts)
happygilmore Fri 30-Sep-11 13:27:27

or if not, please be very gentle! Apologies for how long this is.

My DD is 16 months old and to say things have been tough since she was born is an understatement. I had an underlying health condition that I didn't know about and after I gave birth this led to huge (life threatening) complications. It's taken months to even get a diagnosis as the condition was rare, and it was virtually impossible to find anyone to listen when I was ill long after she was born. I ended up with a brain injury (after she was born) which I am still recovering from. I have also had to have surgery to correct the other underlying health problem, which seemed to be a success. I have ongoing health problems but am fine in terms of higher level brain functioning - it makes me feel ill, rather than affects my speech or anything like that.

Because of my health we have not done the things with DD that we would have wanted to, and I'm very conscious she spends nearly all of her time with just me or DH. I have no friends with children and we have no family to help us. She is very happy with us and used to be very sociable with strangers but now is very wary, but ok if we are there. She gets very upset if we leave her on her own, which I know is probably just normal separation anxiety, but has lasted a long time now.

I'm trying to take her to two groups a week, which is really all I can manage due to my health. We've been going to one for about 3 months, and she won't crawl off and explore (can't walk yet) but gets very upset if I'm not next to her. The other group is a music group, which we have only been going to for a couple of weeks. She seems to get very anxious if not on my lap, but is normally fine just as it is ending! All the other children are crawling or running around, and she normally is on my lap clinging to me.

She's quite timid in some ways, e.g. scared of doing things herself and doesn't explore too much without me around, although this is increasing a bit. If, for example, I;m in the shower she will generally stay in the bathroom with me, rather than be off in the bedrooms or whatever.

Gosh this is long. Anyway, is this normal? I'm so upset that my health has affected DD but there's nothing really more I can do. She is a very happy soul with me and DH but I do worry I've affected her confidence and/or made her very wary of others.

AKMD Fri 30-Sep-11 13:40:10

I think you are doing the absolute best you can and taking her out to toddler groups is a good idea. DS is 19mo and a very confident little boy but even he will be a bit quiet at toddler groups and prefer to stay with me for most of the time we're there. I would stick with the two you are going to and see how they go.

With walking, it isn't particularly unusual for toddlers not to be walking by 16mo. Some just aren't interested. You can encourage her to get the feel of steps by holding her hands and walking with her, maybe with you on one side and DH on the other with one hand each so you can play 'swinging' with her too.

DS also hates staying in his room while I have a shower but our bathroom is right at the top of the stairs so unfortunately he just has to put up with it while I get washed as fast as I can. We've put a baby gate across his bedroom door so he can see what's going on but even so, he spends my entire shower time trying to climb over it and crying hysterically.

Don't feel guilty, you are doing great smile

happygilmore Fri 30-Sep-11 13:44:10

Thanks for replying. I know she probably needs more social interaction with others but there's so little I can do - it's pushing me to my limits just doing this. I just hope it is a phase and passes.

I'm not worried really about the not walking, I know it's in the range of normal. She's very big for her age and I think that hasn't helped getting on her feet, but she's standing now which is progress! She also isn't speaking much (if at all, sometimes i think she says things but doesn't say it again for ages) but she understands nearly everything I say so not worried about that either.

Just wish I was better health wise, I really feel she deserves better sad

CombineArvester Fri 30-Sep-11 13:49:53

16 months is still vey young to be independent - DS2 would always stay with me att that age unless the toys were particularly brilliant. They used to come with me in the bathroom for a shower or I waited until the morning nap. DS2 would not even let me go to the toilet without him til about 19 months!

Neither of mine could walk at that age.

Two groups a week is enough for her imo, she doesn't need to be around other children all the time. For most children the worst of separation anxiety is over by the age of 2 but it can come and go, and for my youngest 16-18 months was the peak.

So I don't think any of the above is due to your illness, I think its just your DD's character AT THE MOMENT. DS2 (or 'the clingy one' as he is known in the family) is now the bolshiest little sod at the toddler groups. He will wander off with anyone who has a biscuit.

FWIW I was very ill when DS1 was around 14 months and quite restricted in what I could do until he was 2. We didn't go to toddler groups until he was about 19/20 months, I certainly had no friends with children. And he was always the confident one who would have a go at anything, very sociable, chatty and friendly with adults.

Once you have been going to these groups for a while you will find some friends with children her age who can come round to your house and play, they often feel safer in their own space.

ohanotherone Fri 30-Sep-11 13:57:18

How wouuld you feel about her going to a childminder or nursery, not now but in a few months time? This would give you a break and her a change of scene. It would have to be the right environment though. Have your asked your Health Visitor about it all?

AchtungBaby Fri 30-Sep-11 13:58:00

I think that you're doing a great job in difficult circumstances happygilmore. All children are different, and your DD might just be a little shyer / quieter than others at the moment.

I worry about DS being shy / quiet at toddler groups too. He goes to a couple / week with the CM, and I often take him to one on Fridays too. DH and I are hardly social butterflies, so it's easy to worry that that's why DS is the way that he is, but I just try to remember what I said above, and to keep putting DS in lots of different situations, while always being there for him if he needs me.

happygilmore Fri 30-Sep-11 13:58:29

Thanks combine I'm crying at your post, soppy sod that I am. I just love her so much (don't we all) and it breaks my heart to think it's affected her.

The ILs aren't great people, and although we haven't seen them in ages, they always comment on how she is scared of others because of me. It hasn't helped things!

I've always thought "things are a phase" but recently have doubted myself a bit. I think it's seeing other children at groups who seem so very independent that has made me wonder if my health has affected her. It's good to hear that people think that isn't the case (although it would be pretty hard to tell me otherwise, I guess - unless your my ILs of course).

happygilmore Fri 30-Sep-11 14:01:29

HV is useless - service round here seems rubbish. Not seen her since she was a newborn and was just told to see my GP as my health probs were physical rather than PND.

In terms of nursery/childminder, I would consider it but haven't been up to properly checking them out, which puts me off. Also (and this may sound selfish but it's the truth) I don't know if I could cope with dropping her off crying and going home on my own. If it was to work, fine, but just to watch tv/rest, not sure. It would only slightly help health wise, so that puts me off a bit too.

happygilmore Fri 30-Sep-11 14:02:42

Thanks all for listening it helps so much to talk. Can't stop crying actually.

AKMD Fri 30-Sep-11 14:06:56

Your ILs are very thoughtless. All children have their own personalities and some are quieter than others. There's a group of mums I'm part of who meet up every week or so at eachother's houses. DS is the smallest boy but also the most adventurous hmm, even though I am very shy and find it hard to interract with people I don't know. The biggest boy is also the most clingy, even though his mum is the loudest.

Everyone thinks their DC 'deserve better' at one point or another. Your DD has a loving home and parents who do their absolute best for her. She is getting everything she needs and no baby could ask for more.

AchtungBaby Fri 30-Sep-11 14:09:26

Just to add happygilmore - DS is usually fine when he's dropped off at the CM (he started going at ~11 months for 4 days / week when I went back to work). It does sound like he's a bit shyer / quieter when he goes to toddler groups with her, so she's just started to take a little comforter with them, and apparently that's helping.

happygilmore Fri 30-Sep-11 14:11:56

Thanks AKMD, you're right we all want the best for our children. My ILs are strange people, DH is nothing like them thankfully. I think the reason they try to insist DD is shy because of me is because on the (few) occasions they have seen her, she doesn't want to be held by them. This was at a time when she was actually fine with strangers, but she just didn't want to be held by someone she didn't know - fair enough, particuarly as she was teething quite badly too. ILs therefore made a huge play of how it is because I didn't take her to lots of baby groups or get out enough.

AKMD Fri 30-Sep-11 14:13:29

FWIW I went back to work when DS was 8mo and so put him into nursery at the supposed peak of separation anxiety in the first year. He has only ever cried once when I've dropped him off and that was when his keyworker was ill. The settling-in process took a month so he knew that it was a safe place to eb before I left him for the full length of time. I appreciate it as a place where he can interract with other children, get horrendously messy and have access to a wider range of equipment than I am able to provide for him, under the care of people who are qualified to bring out the best in him. Although I work part-time, other mums I know who don't work send their same-age DC to nursery once a week or so just for the social side of it and they like having a day or morning to catch up with housework or just have a bit of time to themselves. They have all said that it makes them appreciate their DC more too smile

Your HV team sound a bit laissez-faire. Have you taken your DD for her 12-month check?

happygilmore Fri 30-Sep-11 14:15:50

Comforter helps here too, thanks achtung. That's good to know that your DS is fine being dropped off. Only other problem is the cost as money is very tight.

catsanddogs Fri 30-Sep-11 14:16:45

I don't think there is anything to worry about from what you say. If you think about it from her perspective, it is of course intimidating to be in such an environment if you are not used to it, and you cling to the person you know and trust. I personally don't get the idea that young babies and toddler have to become independent as soon as possible - I think they do just fine if you let them be as dependent as they need to be for as long as they need to. 16 months is soo little still! You seem to be doing a great job under very difficult circumstances.

happygilmore Fri 30-Sep-11 14:18:24

We saw a different HV for I think a 9 month check or something around that age, can't remember. Was useless really but did get some books for DD. I was told at that check they don't offer any more checks or anything like that.

happygilmore Fri 30-Sep-11 14:21:53

Thanks cats. Not sure I'm doing that good a job really - I get cross too quickly (short tempered because I feel ill) and don't play enough with her, but I am doing my best and what else can you do.

I know DD loves me and DH to bits and is happy at home, but sometimes I do wonder if it's a bit like stockholm syndrome, she doesn't know anything different grin

AchtungBaby Fri 30-Sep-11 14:27:47

Hmm, I went to a toddler group this morning, and I'm not sure it was all that much fun (for DS or for me).

I much prefer it when my friend with a similar age baby visits my house, or when DS and I visit her house. It's also nice to see that DS can be relaxed and have lots of fun in an environment that he's not used to. I like to think that all of the things that DS and I do together - going to a supermarket / fruit shop / friend's house / cafe / park etc, are much more important than how many toddler groups we've been to.

RedHotPokers Fri 30-Sep-11 14:28:00

OP - please try not to worry, you can only do what you can do.

Its a bit of a different situation , but thought I'd share a family story with you. My DM lost a baby to cot death. When she then went on to have my DSis (I was first born) she never left her side. And I mean, NEVER! She was so fearful that she would lose her too, that DSis was never out of my DMums sight for YEARS.

When DSis started school, she was very shy and didn't want to go. Clung to my DM, wept the whole time she was there. But it got better. After a few months she was as confident as any other child. She is now in her 30s and one of the most confident people I have EVER met, one of those people that knows everyone, and can keep a room entertained!

Your DD will be fine. The most important thing is she is happy with you and knows she is loved. Everything else will come out in the wash IYSWIM!

(Btw 2 groups a week is plenty IMO).

AKMD Fri 30-Sep-11 14:31:21

You are being really hard on yourself. Last year I had awful PND and all I wanted to do was stay at home and read books. I forced myself to go out and to play with DS but I still felt shocked that I wasn't the mum I had imagined myself being before I had him. This year I was diagnosed with a rare and more-or-less untreatable form of cancer and had to go through months of investigations. Some days I was so terrified that I could barely walk, let alone play with DS and he just had to fend for himself for a bit while DH was at work. Luckily for me the first diagnosis turned out to be incorrect and I had an operation a few weeks ago to remove the tumour. I physically cannot look after DS by myself: I can't lift him and I get tired very very quickly. I do what I can and I know I am doing my best but I accept that I need help from my family and friends. I can't say that none of these things have affected DS at all, but I know I am doing my best and he is just fine.

AchtungBaby Fri 30-Sep-11 14:31:28

happygilmore, what about a different solution to nursery / CM like paying someone to play with DD in your house while you have a couple of hours to yourself? Or paying a cleaner? It would hopefully be cheaper than childcare, and you might feel happier with it.

lingle Fri 30-Sep-11 14:36:26

"I'm very conscious she spends nearly all of her time with just me or DH."

lucky little girl - just pottering knowing you are near is great for this age.

real interaction with other children (as opposed to just getting familiar) starts at about 3. She hasn't missed out at all. She might even have benefited!

I'll be amazed if you find anyone who doesn't run a baby group who will tell you that your daughter's development could be affected by not going to enough baby groups.

of course you can start the groundwork at some point so that when she is ready to interact with little children, there's a strategy to help her do this that doesn't overstrain you. But you've oodles of time for that. Start looking for people in the same street with buggies and prepare to make casual remarks about the weather..... smile

ohanotherone Fri 30-Sep-11 16:34:19

That's a good idea achtung, cleaners are more expensive than childminders though. These people might help as well. www.home-start.org.uk/needsupport/need_support

happygilmore Fri 30-Sep-11 18:02:48

Thank you all so much for helping me today, I can't tell you how nice it has been to read these messages. It has made me cry quite a bit, but in a good way, so thank you.

Sorry to hear about the loss of your sibling Redhotpokers, no wonder your mum kept your sister so close. My own sister lost her first child at birth and was very, very protective (understandably) of her subsequent children, they were hugely clingy for years but are both now very confident teenagers.

Achtung, I agree with you about the groups, in all honesty I'm not sure I'd want to go to many more. I suppose it's more that DD is with just me or DH the rest of the time, we don't see many other people at all (god how sad do I sound? But it's the truth). I do try to get out of the house every day if I can, but it's often just to walk to the post box or something like that. I think a cleaner would be a good idea, poor DH does nearly everything in the house and also works full-time, plus looks after DD at weekends. He is an amazing individual but knackered. I would be a bit embarassed at the state of the house, but presumably a cleaner has seen it before?!

AKMD, gosh that must have been so, so scary about your illness. How are you now? Do they know what is wrong with you? That must have been terrifying, the thought of leaving your children so young is just awful. When I got very sick after I had DD, I honestly thought I was dying and I will never forget that pure, unadulterated fear. It was terrifying. I really hope you are doing OK now and slowly getting better. I too had a tumour removed when I had my surgery but was lucky that it was benign.

Lingle - thanks so much, what a nice thing to say. Funnily enough MIL helps out at a baby group and is of the opinion that unless you go to lots of them your are somehow a rubbish parent. hmm

Would home start really be able to help someone like me? Sounds silly but I feel pretty wary about all kind of services as they've pretty much been crap from the start. I was discharged from hospital/HV/GP etc with no support whatsoever and pretty much told by several drs I wasn't really ill, for months. HV was fairly sympathetic but pretty much told me they couldn't/wouldn't help it was a GP matter.

I am not that hard on myself really, I know I'm doing the best I can, but like everyone I worry it's not enough. What upsets me the most is I know I'm not me - I'm generally a very patient person, but haven't been since I got ill. I certainly never thought I'd shout at a baby, much to my shame. I suppose the fact that I've always been ill (and kept thinking I'd be better soon but never have done) as been really tough, together with being quite isolated. Some nice women at the group I go to did invite me out on a night out, but unfortunately I just can't do anything like that. I suppose it doesn't help that I don't look ill, and I try to act normally (don't we all!) in public despite feeling rotten. also I said to a couple of people that I'd had a brain injury and they looked uncomfortable - not sure if it was because they didn't want to say or just tmi or who knows - and tried to tell me I didn't look like I did; I guess people associate that sort of think with severe cognitive impairments, which thankfully I escaped.

Gosh I'm wafflling. But, really, thank you all, so much.

AchtungBaby Fri 30-Sep-11 18:05:31

Well, yes, cleaners charge more / hour than CMs, but I wondered about just getting a cleaner for an hour / week, therefore freeing up happygilmore and her DH a bit.

We tend to find that we're often behind with the housework, and think that we're going to get a cleaner until we feel more on top of everything.

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