Worried for Nothing? Delayed walking, Panic attacks and stress leave

Carolyn Trecartin

6/6/2022 4 min read

“Oh! Look Adrian’s walking! See? Worried for no reason!”, my mum greeted me as I walked in behind my 21-month-old daughter.

Adrian only began walking without assistance maybe two weeks ago. She’s been standing with assistance since before a year, but has struggled with balance and, maybe, confidence while toddling around since then. As somewhat of a newborn expert – a self-proclaimed title I feel I merit after being a breastfeeding counsellor for two years, and a doula for one – I never did particularly worry when Adrian wasn’t walking by her 18-month appointment with her family doctor. When our doctor asked if she was walking, I said “She takes a step or two, here and there.” We were referred to speech services. But it took me two months before I called. I didn’t think she needed any extra services. I thought she was just taking her time, and, you know, everyone knows kids are unique. They meet milestones in their own time. So, it generally doesn’t make sense to stress if your child isn’t doing something perfectly by the time they ‘should’.

But one day on an acquaintance’s Insta stories, I saw a video of her daughter – younger than mine – very confidently walking around her home, dodging all the toys on the floor. She even stepped onto a couch cushion on the floor and walked on it and stepped off, and again, around more toys, all without falling. It was that moment when I became worried. The fear struck me. And I’ve been on a deep Google rabbit hole about possible causes since.

Could it be autism? I’ve wondered about that for myself before. I still wonder about this, with Adrian too. She is gifted, in my, admittedly biased, opinion. She knows so many letters and numbers for a one-year-old. I’ve also wondered about cerebral palsy. Google tells me it’s the leading cause of physical disability in kids. The only one that seems to fit for my daughter is Ataxic Cerebral Palsy, the type with a wide gait, and poor balance.

I began taking Adrian to a private pediatric physiotherapist since my worries about her walking began. At that time pretty much everyone in my life was like, “Really? You think she needs physio? Ah”, waiving away their hand, “She’s fine!”

I’ve suffered from postpartum anxiety since I became a mom three-and-a-half years ago. I’ve been on medication since my eldest child was 10 months old and seen various mental health therapists on and off since.

So I wanted a professional to see my daughter and let me know if they saw anything to be concerned about and get her the access to services she needs, if she needs them.

Her physiotherapist, Sue, at Archstone Physiotherapy, told me after meeting Adrian there was lots of promise and potential but it was good that I brought her in to get her delays addressed and to help bridge the gap between her and her peers. She’s been seeing Adrian every week nearly since then, and Adrian is finally really doing well with her walking! She got to take her picture in front of Archstone’s “I can do it! I can Walk!” sign last week. I was ecstatic!

This has all been a really stressful mental load to bear, wondering if there is something “different” about my child. And, yes I know, we’re all different, but you know what I mean. It was a big part of the reason my doctor put me off work on stress leave last week.

So when my mom greeted me with “See? Worried for nothing!”, it felt like a slap in the face.

My husband has been working Shutdown at the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station. That means he is working 12-hour shifts, 6 days a week, working overnights. His one day off a week is on Mondays, when I was working, and the kids are in daycare. The kids and I are really missing him. This is his first time working shut down. His regular job is in the office. Thank God. I am not cut out to be the wife of a shift worker.

Being a full-time working mom with two young kids as a baseline is hard. So now doing the weekends with the kids all by myself is challenging. It’s getting nice out and the grandparents help when they can but are often busy with their own lives, opening up their cottages, out golfing, or doing other projects.

The most challenging part of it all is the sensory overstimulation. The incessant, loud noises, the foul smells, the sweat dripping down my forehead, pouring sunscreen into my eyes and causing them to water, the hands tugging at my shirt for more milk, and the dog whining at the door to boot. It’s too much sometimes. By the time 2 p.m. rolls around on Saturdays, I find myself irritable, and practicing whatever positive self-talk I can muster to get me through until my husband wakes up and can give me a short break before he heads off to work.

Since becoming a parent, I have found myself wondering “What is wrong with me?” more than ever. I’m on the waitlist for a psychological assessment to determine if I have ADHD. And yet I talk to others who tell me all moms and primary caregivers feel overstimulated. This is just par for the course.

Well, who fucking knows? All I know is that I’m #SorryNotSorry for taking some time for me. Modern society makes parents, particularly moms, sweep their needs under the rug until they are suffering, in my case, frequent panic attacks, resulting in migraines, huge embarrassment and increased anxiety. I’ve cancelled plans with friends and family, and left stores in tears before I was able to get what I needed.

It's pretty bullshit. How can one person be expected to do it all? If you’re a mom dealing with a small circle of support, a partner working crazy hours, or you’re supporting a child with delays or suspected disabilities, just know you’re doing the best you can. And if literally no one in your life is giving you the break you need, it’s okay to demand it. Hang in there.

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Carolyn T.