After completing an assessment on my clients, which focuses on prenatal, labor, and delivery, I find that many of my clients have the same background. Most of us do not think about how our time in-utero correlates with our growth after we are born. Research shows the embryo’s brain develops around week 7. Senses begin to form around week 8 with the sensory of touch. Touch receptors start to develop around week 12 on their palms and soles of their feet. Around week 17, touch begins to improve on their abdomen. Some research shows the fetus starts to react to pain around week 20. Other research involving brain scans suggests the fetus senses pain around week 30 when somatosensory neural pathways finish developing.
Lethargic, pale, and nauseated, Ashley makes a doctor’s appointment. When the doctor asks her if she could be pregnant, she replies: “No, I don’t think so? Maybe? Why?” Ashley walks out of the doctor’s office, devastated and confused. She is not sure what to do. She mentally reviews her options. Abortion is not a real answer for her as she had had two before and left her morning the child years later. She reported to a friend she felt empty and lost. She still felt like what was ripped out of her life she could not get back. She let the thought of adoption float across her mind only to push it out. She concluded she was going to keep this baby.
Keeping the baby would mean some lifestyle changes she was not ready to do. She engaged in illegal drugs and struggled with addictions. She was a smoker; however, in her mind, it was not enough to harm the baby. She might cut back to three or four cigarettes a day. She did not want to gain weight or get fat. She cried for days. She lost her job. She used drugs to help with depression. She did not eat because of nausea. Finally, she was getting a handle on this pregnancy and she was already 5 months along.
When she went to the doctor, they gave her a drug test. She also had other testing done for paternity. They informed her the child may have brain damage, low birth weight, or cognitive delays due to the drugs and smoking. Again, she cried. She tried to stop smoking but could not quit. She leveled off from illegal drugs.
This may sound outrageous; however, this scenario is not unusual for kids in residential facilities or with SPD, ADHD, or lower functioning. This does not mean all children who have these diagnoses had mothers who smoked, used drugs, or eating disorders. Research shows all these things add to health problems, cognitive delays, or learning disabilities.
Prenatal alcohol or drug exposure can damage the parts of the brain responsible for sensory integration according to some research.
Prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke is also linked to various health issues including low birth weight, circulation issues, lung development, Sudden Infant Death, feeding problems, attention deficit or hyperactivity, auditory processing, cognitive delays, learning disabilities to name a few, few known problems the child may develop.
Lack of nutrients may happen with mothers who smoke or have drug problems. These infants may show the following: stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight, Sudden Infant death, neurological issues, respiratory difficulties, circular disorders. They may also have brain damage, thyroid issues, or eating difficulties.
Pud’s life in-utero was different from most. He struggled to stay alive. He fought for all the nutrients he could get. He chose the day of his delivery. Even in delivery, he was a fighter. His heart stopped, he was in distress, but he fought to live. He was born with a yell and scream!!! Yeah!!! I am alive… I made it. His birth weight was under 5 lbs., he had poor circulation as his hands and feet were cold and blue, he passed the infant testing to say he was able to eat. He refused food. He came to this world only to struggled with failure to thrive. Put on IV, he was able to take in some nutrients. The test for drugs was negative. That made Pud happy because he would be able to leave with his mom when she left the hospital. Some children I have worked with have tested positive for drugs at birth. The hospital notifies the Children’s Division, and the baby put into kinship or foster placement.
Pud struggled with the sounds, sights, and smells of this new world outside his momma. He chose to eat and settle in. Pud loved the soft and warm blankets. He like the little gloves and socks on is feet. He felt warm and happy. He did not like his mother’s milk and cried from hunger when she tried to breastfeed. His doctor asked mom to try formula, and boy was that good! Pud started to gain weight. He stretched out often to let his body feel long and free. He curled up when held and wrapped tightly. Pud had a comfortable first 6 weeks.
Ashley decided to go back to work early. She had to find a job. Pud would stay with family. She knew this was going to be a challenge, and she was unsure if she was up to it. Going back to work was the only thing in her control right now. Letting someone else handle her baby during the day was a relief. She knew this baby was different than her other children, but she was not sure what was wrong. Allowing someone to babysit would give her a break, and maybe they would figure it out. Perhaps they could help her move forward to loving and caring for her child. Understanding his needs would give her freedom from the guilt she was feeling. Knowing how to help him would give her peace. She needed peace right now.
Next Pud’s First Year