We were introduced to Ezzo materials in 1995 through our church group of young adults. By the time we were pregnant (Sept 95) many families had been through the course. Everyone kept telling us how we HAD to do the program--it's the best, it works, it's incredible, you won't be sorry, you'll feel so much better about being a parent. The positive statements never ended. We took it early in 96, and finished a few weeks before I was due.
My son was born, and had a very traumatic birth. I began breastfeeding him once he was out of NICU (about 3 hours), but he was too spent. We charted the program in the hospital - every 3 hours, diaper changes, etc. After we got home we had to wake him up to feed as he was very tired from the birth and they were not ready to let him sleep all night.
The first week he hardly ever cried - but he slept a lot. He was difficult to feed - he was hard to wake up and even getting him to feed every 3 hours was hard.
But at the end of that week, my entire life changed. He "woke up" so to speak, and things got harder. He had his own pattern - he wanted to sleep all morning (until around 1 pm - only waking for feedings) and then he tended to stay awake the rest of the day. We started him on the Ezzo schedule which was so contrary to his natural routine that we had to have him cry it out many times. However, he never really got the hang of the program - some days he didn't cry, some days he cried a little, some days a lot.
By the time he was 6 months old, I still never knew what to expect. I dreaded waking up, I did not like being a mom; I did not feel "motherly." I was so certain he NEEDED to be on this program because "after all, he's not falling into it and doing poorly". It was a twisted confirmation for me.
By a year, he still cried himself to sleep about twice a week--either at nap or bed. Occasionally throughout the first year, about once a month, he'd cry for an hour. I would check on him, talk to him and do things, but it never worked. He was already a raging and upset infant and I *finally* decided it was time to go outside of the book recommendations and hold him or rock him. He'd fight me, kick me, scream, arch his back and just completely freak out. I interpreted this as confirmation that the Ezzos' hands-off approach was right, and that holding him was not what he needed.
At around 18 months, he was a very difficult toddler. He had no fear; he seemed never to notice whether my husband or I were even around. He'd get angry when I played with him, talked to him or read to him - any interaction created extreme distress in him. I was so torn. This didn't seem right to me, but each time I asked my fellow Ezzo friends and the GFI Contact Mom for ideas and help, they all insisted everything was fine and I was doing just a dandy job of being a mom. But at night after he was asleep, I'd go in his room and pick him up and cry and pray and beg for things to be better.
When he was almost 2.5, we had our second son. At that time, I was too tired to pull out the book, and decided on my own two things. First, that I would not leave him to cry (I was certain I'd really screwed up) and second, that I would not be so obsessed with the schedule. I did again implement a 3 hour feeding schedule - but nothing else.
Something happened. I felt like a different person, I was happy to be a mom! I was still struggling with a very angry toddler, but my newborn and I had no problems. It didn't take long for me to realize that the difference was that I was bonded/attached to one child and not the other. I was devastated. I began to search on the internet for help - and that's when I found article after article raising concerns about the Ezzo method and story after story similar to mine.
I began to ask for professional help. We went through many diagnoses, including autism. At age 4 however, we had a comprehensive evaluation done. Over a 4-5 month span, he was seen by 4 doctors, many professionals and I was interviewed over many hours.
During these interviews and evaluations, they began to see what I had suspected all along. Finally, they asked me if his infancy might have been traumatic in any fashion, medically, emotionally or if he'd suffered abuse.
I froze. I had already been learning about the problems in the Ezzo materials. I had already done enough of my own research to know that extensive use of "crying it out" could cause major damage. And I began to talk and talk and cry and told about how we had implemented Ezzo methods with him.
The first question to me, after talking about the program was "do you think that during the times he was left to cry, that at any point he may have felt abandoned or hopeless?" I said "of course, I never thought it could hurt a baby, but now that I'm learning more, I know it can and I know he must have felt terribly afraid and alone." They sent him for a last evaluation. The psychiatrist did a few "silent" tests on him for attachment issues and unfortunately, he passed them all.
I was brought back, and told "he is not autistic." I was told that first and foremost, he had extensive ADHD and anxiety disorder. And that they were likely tied into his lack of attachment and bonding to me. I was devastated. I sat there, looking calm, but inside I was crying, screaming, begging to just be struck down and taken.
However, he gave me hope. He told me that with the right change in how we reacted with him, and how we perceived his behaviors and issues, he could get better. But, that there was a possibility that there had been some brain damage and that the ADHD was permanent (adhd isn't curable, it's a brain issue) and that possibly the anxiety disorder was permanent as well.
He felt certain that my son could bond to me, even at age 4, provided we let go of some ideas the Ezzos' program had taught us. My first instructions were to allow him to co-sleep. Our second instructions were to overload him with affection, physical touch (hugs, kisses, etc), AND to begin to find better ways to stop the extreme behavior. He also recommended medication to start out with to eliminate the severe anxiety, so that he would be able to function enough to accept our changes.
He's 6 now, his brother is 4. He's bonded now. He's confident, affectionate, compassionate-- an exceptional kid. Before, he had no conscience, because without bonding, conscience cannot develop, and he could not be compassionate or any of those things.
But he's never going to be normal. He does things that perplex us all, but we know it's how he copes with overwhelming feelings. He's very confused on what love really means because he didn't feel any of it early on. But he's learning, and if you met him, your FIRST statement to me would be "what a brilliant, incredible boy". He is so fascinating to be around, you can't get enough of him.
My youngest is doing just fine. He's a normal boy, he's spirited, funny and very much a 4 year old. He suffers some signs of stress from going through toddler years with a lot of turmoil and stress - but things are settling down and I think in time all will be well. We are all doing well, and expecting a child in July this year (2003) and this child will be attachment
Other things that we suffered due to the materials:
With both boys I lost my milk between 4 and 5 months. I was unable to get it to come back, I tried all the tricks. Every 3 hours is not enough stimulation for my milk supply in the early months and it affected my supply later on. We were also very heavy into using punishment
(spankings) but now we are not. Our children are now better behaved since we stopped using those tactics with them.
What was the worst we suffered from the materials?
Believing that every night waking, every phase, everything our kids did, was because they were trying to manipulate us or control us, or defy us. That everything had to be "handled". It's a twisted, sick mindset against your own children - and it's simply not true. We have come a long way - and still have a long way to go. We are far removed from that mindset now, but it haunts us. We find more and more that the truth is that children are new, all that they do is experimentation, and normal. A good dose of guidance, understanding and teaching goes 10 times farther than one punishment.
Attachment disorder is not fully curable. It is also a function of a brain change. They exhibit restructuring of the brain, and while they can learn to bond, it is always fragile. Infants that either did not bond in the first year, or who have a broken bond due to abuse, will always have triggers they cannot control. They will have reactions to things that they are not able
to rationalize and overcome. We are doing a lot of things to help him, and he's such a strong kid - I know he will be OK. But we are not done, he will have regressions again.