At 6 weeks old, Holden began having severe breath holding spells. A handful of these resulted in prolonged seizures because he held his breath too long and after that first time, I worried he would have a seizure with every single spell.
With breath holding spells, there is no real diagnosis. You basically rule out everything else with cardiology and neurology and then say if it’s not this or that, it must be breath holding. In the back of my mind, I always worried it was something more serious. Of course I spent so much time researching that I found some scary stuff when googling and some of those stories that I read I just couldn’t ever get out of my head. There are no experts on breath holding spells and most pediatricians aren’t particularly educated on them because children out grow them between 4 and 6 years of age and there are no true or prolonged real health risks. I found it hard to find and trust a pediatrician because I always felt like I knew so much more about what was going on with Holden than the Doctors themselves did.
Sometimes when I told people that he held his breath, they would laugh and say nonchalantly, oh ya I know so-and-so who did that and it was so funny because every time he/she would get upset, she would throw a temper tantrum and turn blue. This was not the same as Holden’s spells. His were severe. He would turn blue, his eyes widen in fear like a person drowning but in mid-air as he desperately gasped, he would claw and scratch my face as he tried to take a breath until his body would collapse and he would pass out. We would shake him and say Holden, wake up! and after a few seconds he would regain consciousness and then begin crying again.
I didn’t ever leave him, I put him to sleep every single night, I didn’t take my eyes off of him no matter where we were, I had to avoid anyone that has even the slightest cold (getting sick made his spells 100x worse), and it was that way until he outgrew them at 4 years old. If I left him, all I did was worry about him so I could never enjoy anything when I was apart with him. It was terrifying and overwhelming when we were going through it. It dictated my life.
And yet, although a very traumatic experience, it shaped and molded who I am as a mother. My child turned blue and stopped breathing ten times or more a day for four years and every time I would wonder if he would take that breath again. This has made me grateful for every single breath and every single moment I have with him (and Gray). It has given me patience during the tough times because instead of getting upset over the fact that he was crying in the middle of the night, I would think to myself, at least he is crying, and remind myself how grateful I was to have the ability to hold him while he was crying. It doesn’t matter what the experience is, I just feel happy that I get to be able to experience every little thing with my children, even the tears, the late nights and the early mornings. I definitely look at life differently because of it.
And it changed the way we parented, choosing to do things that worked for us and our family even if they were outside the norm. I opted for extended breastfeeding and we co-slept with Holden until he decided he wanted to sleep in his big boy bed, amongst a lot of other parenting choices that I might not have considered if it hadn’t been for our experience with breath holding.
We all have different experiences and backgrounds that make us who we are as mothers, determine the decisions we make, and change the way we see the world, but just because they are different from one mother to the next doesn’t mean they are wrong. You won’t hear me complaining about a rough day or that motherhood is difficult because my experience raising Holden has forced me to be overwhelming grateful for it all…every single piece of it. And that’s just me and my experience. Breastfed/bottle fed, co-sleep/crib, rock to sleep/cry it out, stay-at-home/working, etc.
We may all do things differently but we are all just trying to raise these tiny humans to be happy and healthy the best way we know how and we should celebrate motherhood no matter what it looks like.