(this is a reprint of a post I wrote in May, but I wanted to say it all again after reading my new issue of People. It is, probably, my favorite post that I have ever written, and is for sure the most honest.)
No parent ever wants to hear that something is wrong with their child; that their offspring is not completely perfect.
Realizing the magnitude of being entrusted to care for, nurture, raise and eventually let go of a new life is both mindboggling and awe-inspiring as well as terrifying. Before my first was born, I could barely be considered responsible to care for an aquarium, and rightly so: I was just 20.
Having had no experience with babies, I had no idea that mine was abnormal. He hated human touch, he preferred to watch his mobile spin around to looking at faces. His first word was not ‘œMama’ or ‘œDada’ or even ‘œBaba:’ it was ‘œtock-tock.’ His phrase for ‘œtick-tock’ referring to the grandfather clock in the hallway which he adored. I’d be lying if I claimed that I wasn’t devestated by his total lack of interest in me and his distain for my touch, but I assumed that this was just the way he was. Different strokes for different folks and all that happy horseshit.
Shortly after his first birthday, he was introduced to the planets through a Baby Einstein video. Before he could recognize emotions, he knew 4 of the moons of Jupiter and could identify them from different angles. *I* couldn’t even do that. Rather than wanting to read Goodnight Moon, I took him to Borders and he picked out an encyclopedia of the solar system intended for adults, which he memorized cover to cover. He could spend hours at the Planetarium but screamed bloody murder at the zoo. I’d come home from class to several different ‘œsolar systems’ he’d created out of balls, each true to form. His depth of knowledge was amazing and freakish and I have no real way to illustrate that to you here.
This was all before his second birthday.
I had realized, of course, that he wasn’t speaking as much as What To Expect During The First Year said that he should, but considering the authors militant stand about their stupid pregnancy diet in their stupid pregnancy book, I wasn’t too worried. I just assumed that he was developing at a different rate than others his age. I mean, what 17 month old can tell you what Pluto’s moon is? (mine could). I had also figured that no one had really encouraged his speaking abilities, being the only child/grandchild, we all spoke for him.
At his 2 year check-up, his regular ped was out and his partner told me in no uncertain terms that not only could he not understand him, but that he would be writing a referral out for an evaluation from Early Interventions. I left that appointment not only upset with the manner in which the doctor had spoken to me (‘How dare he talk to me like that?’) but by the fact that I hadn’t even thought anything was wrong.
Several times, different evaluators came out to our house to observe him and speak with me about his behaviors. Many of the questions provoked lightbulbs in my head, a ‘œso THAT’S why he does _____! (only eats 3 things, becomes so overwhelmed by touch that he screams inconsolably, lines up his toys by color on the stairs, has an insane facination with spinning things, knows WAAAAAYYY too much about the solar system, flaps his arms whenever he’s excited)’ which really only made me feel worse about the things I had never noticed, or had noticed but considered quirks.
I drew the line at recieving a formal medical diagnosis however, because as a nurse and the daughter of a mentally ill mother, I am completely aware how these things follow you for the rest of your life until you can only define yourself by them. Does that make sense to you? Let me give you an example: I (myself here) am dyslexic, have Crohn’s disease, and have a latex/iodine/shellfish allergy. But does that make me who I am? Not one bit, but not only do I catch myself excusing away things based on this, it has become a teeny tiny but integral part of my self image. And I do not have any behavioral problems to excuse away (i.e. ‘œI’ll never be able to sit still because I have ADD, therfore I won’t even try.’)
Without a totally formal diagnosis, he was explained to be on the autistic spectrum and speech and occupational therapies began immediately. For almost two years, he recieved both therapies and began to make strides toward more normal behavior. He began to speak more frequently and clearly in addition to being able to deal with more and more textures, consistencies, and tastes. His more interesting quirks remain to this day, thankfully, as they are part of what makes him who he is.
My soon to be husband and I enrolled him into private school when he turned three to enrich his social skills, as he had no children his own age to play with at home. I’m not sure that these social skills will ever be what is considered totally normal, but they have improved by leaps and bounds, possibly to the point that an innocent bystander would not realize how much he had once struggled to do something as simple as recognize basic emotions.
I have still struggled through numerous thoughtless comments from both parents and non-parents alike (‘why won’t he eat anything but junk food?’) who have somehow gotten it in their head that his problems are little more than an issue of bad parenting. I have suffered through years of guilt and regret (had *I* done something to cause this?) I have spent cold meal after cold meal coaxing him to eat something that looks different or *is* different. I continue to worry about what his life will be like as he grows older and begins to interact more with the general population: will they be gentle and understanding of his uniqueness or will they tease and mock him mercilessly? Have we done enough to prepare him for the world? I have spent hours upon hours reassuring him that completing a ritual out of order was just fine, and comforting him from afar while wanting nothing more than to sweep him in my arms and kiss his tears away.
I have had to accept that my child is not perfect.
Is this the worst thing that could happen to a mother? Certainly not; he’s happy, he’s healthy, and above all else he is loved unconditionally. Having seen babies born without brains and hearing them cry (possibly the worst sound in the world. It’s loud and atonal), I am aware that I got off pretty easy here. But competing in the Pain Olympics isn’t why I wrote this post.
As you all know, I am not one to use this blog as a politcal forum, nor am I likely to spend time talking about my feelings here, or elsewhere. But I came across this website where you can help kids with autism. Is it real? I think so. If not, well, the song is kind of cute anyway. Either way, this band has supposedly pledged to donate $0.49 for every time this video is watched. It can’t hurt, it can only help.
We all have hopes for our children. As for me, I just hope that he knows how much I have loved him.
When I was pregnant with Ben 6 years ago now, I was utterly floored to find out that he was indeed a he, so floored that it was a miracle I had been laying down for the sonogram because if I hadn’t been, I’d have fallen over from the shock of it. My intuition is terrible, almost as bad as my ability to sing on key, which is pretty horrifying. I’ll admit it now, I was pretty upset by it as I had really, truly, madly, deeply wanted to have a daughter (let’s be honest here so that I can tell you that it was a damn good thing that I found out then and not later in the delivery room. I’m sure the doctor and nurses would have been a little freaked out by the sight of me crying over the privates of my perfect little boy, as apparently I had been judged to be an unfit mother. I guess I must have a poker face when it comes to OB appointments, because my ancient little doctor who barely said a word to me in the nine months that I saw him, kept coming into my postpartum room and saying “Wow, you REALLY love that baby!” which shocked me. Of COURSE I loved my ickle baby!)
When I got pregnant with Alexander, I was much more laid back about it, likely because it had taken quite a long time to get pregnant, as long as It was healthy, I genuinely didn’t care if It was a She or a He. I found out before Dave did, as the sonographer refused to let him come into the room until she had completed her assessment of the fetus, which I wasn’t so happy about, I mean, what if something had been wrong? Did I really need a stranger to tell me some bad news alone?
Anyhow, she asked me if I wanted to know what flavor baby I was having without Dave’s hulking presence (hahaha) and of course, I’m impatient so I found out. I can still hear her in my mind, “It’s a little boy and he’s perfect.” Ah, sweet sweet relief, the baby I had wanted so much was well (to be fair here, having had the misfortune to rotate through the NICU at a major children’s hospital, I took nothing about the health of my unborn child as an assumption of the best. I saw many, many horrifying things there, most of which will never leave me and STILL haunt me even now), and now I could gloat: I had won the bet.
Instead of having to wear a “Chicks Dig Linux” shirt, Dave was going to have to wear a Britney Spears one. In public. Without covering it up. Which reminds me…I need to make him DO that and THEN I’ll post them on the internet for him! I’m such a nice wife.
The discussion of having another baby has recently come up, as my initial intent was to not go back on birth control and just wait-n-see what happened, get the newborn/baby thing done with and get Dave’s nuts snipped (again: aren’t I a SWEET wife?), and while our other friends were dealing with midnight feedings and diaper rash, we’d be sipping Pina Colada’s by the beach somewhere, laughing knowingly. Unfortch, Lake Michigan doesn’t exactly count as a beach in my book, AND I think if I were to have an Oops! Baby! now Dave’s head might explode and Alex might try to strangle me in my sleep.
So no babies for awhile (besides you need to actually ovulate to have babies, and the one benefit that I can see to Alex’s need to wake up at all hours of the night and eat is that I haven’t had my period since last July.) for us. A long while, actually, because the prospect of physically being pregnant again freaks me the hell out. I’m a TERRIBLE pregnant woman, a fat, obsessive, unhappy, and sick as hell.
But (isn’t there always one with me?), I have a new problem. Suddenly, I really, really, really want to have a daughter with every fiber of my being, in order to balance out all of the testosterone raging rampantly throughout my house. I want to play house and dolls and put her in cute ickle dresses and OOOHHH PATENT LEATHER MARY JANES! I want to choose a name that I really, really like for her and not have to worry about it being too trendy or frilly or not manly enough (plus, between the two boys and their 209 middle names, I’m clean out of good boys names), I want to not have to cut off her hair because it’s “too long” and “too girly looking”. I want someone who maybe just maybe looks somewhat like me and have it not be an insult to them later in life, because what boy do you know WANTS to look like his mother? I don’t want to have to train yet another young boy how to pee standing up WITHOUT losing aim because Oh! Look! A Mirror!
It’s okay to have wants, although I am highly afraid of what I would feel if/when we have another baby and it turns out to have yet another penis. Because frankly, I have enough of them to worry about.
Last Thursday, Dear Internet, I told you that I was done whining about being fat and was going to start really DOING something about it. And, because I cannot tell a lie to you, darling Internet, I did. I joined Weight Watchers Online. I’d done a hacked up version of it before, after my wedding and I’d lost about 10 lbs (but I was obviously much thinner then). It’s a diet I can live with and (apparently) works for me.
Tuesday, I weighed myself and I’ve lost 2.5 pounds, which is a little over 10% of the upper end of what I’d wanted to lose before Christmas Eve. If that isn’t motivation, I’m not sure what is. This doesn’t mean that I won’t offer up a silent prayer before I get onto the scale each week, because I happen to be superstitious like that, but I am hoping that the numbers continue to go down in a reasonable manner, because I cannot do those low-carb diets (one word: anal leakage. Oh wait, that’s two words. My bad. Now I’m fat AND dumb!)
The kicker of all of this is, is that I’m actually eating MORE than I was before (although I am frankly AGHAST at the points values of some of the things I’d thought were pretty decent for you. Who knew that the huge tortilla that you get at Chipotle ITSELF has 7 points? Asinine, really, especially considering I don’t even really care for the tortilla part), which honestly goes against everything that I’d thought about dieting. Dieting = eating LESS, not MORE in my head, or at least it used to.
So I am not hungry, I don’t feel as though I have to subsist on boxed meals, and occasionally I have to force myself to finish my points for the day. (Ohmygod, did you know that creme brulee has about a million calories in it? I DIDN’T. That sucks, because it is BY FAR my favorite dessert. I loves me my creme brulee.)
Now I just need to secure some babysitting so my ass can get back to the gym and burn some more of those damn calories off (did you know, because I didn’t, but with breastfeeding, you need an additional 10 points per day!?! That’s awesome. I may never wean him.)
Week One of Operation Get Rid of My Fat Butt is done. Let’s hope that Week Two is as awesomely awesome.