I'm excited to launch what I hope will be an occasional feature on my blog: essays by writers who don't have blogs.
This piece comes from my good friend Wendy, whose son goes to Moe's school. Drew is a few years older than Moe, and Wendy and her family have been a source of information and hope, as well as lots of laughs, especially when our typical kids play together. Today she writes about a topic that I know is near and dear to many of us: raising an autistic child and a typical sibling.
Before James was even conceived my husband and I were so terrified to even consider having another child. Our firstborn son was 5 years old with severe Autism, and we had so many concerns about what having another child would do to him, to our marriage, or if we could handle the possibility that we would have a second child with Autism. I had a million questions, a million reasons not to take the leap. And I was still dealing with the guilt that I had somehow caused our son's regression into Autism. That I had eaten too much tuna, or drank too much diet soda, or that the dental work I had to have done in my second trimester somehow damaged him and set his fate.
So when the day finally came that I felt I had healed enough to take the leap and add to our family I was even surprised myself. I never thought I would get there, but it is amazing what therapy and a group of supportive people can do for your heart and soul.
I decided that if we were going to do this, that I was going to do everything right. Which meant everything opposite of what I did the first time around. I was going to eat as clean as possible. No artificial anything, organic as much as possible, DHA and multivitamins religiously, etc. Exercise, no unnecessary procedures, I even had my mercury fillings removed before trying to conceive. That also meant a drug free birth, no vaccines, and breastfeeding from the moment he left the womb. Cloth diapering, limited exposure to hazardous chemicals, and anything else I could think of that would be completely opposite from what our son endured. I am sure that those things were not necessary, but in my mind, I was going to give this baby the best chance to have a "normal" life as I could. Obviously the guilt had not completely left my mind.
James was conceived within 2 months of trying and after a healthy pregnancy and drug free birth he came into the world exactly as I had planned so meticulously. I am grateful for that, though I know ultimately it was in God's hands that all went well and I am just blessed that their were no complications.
He is now 20 months old and as far as we can see, he has dodged the Autism diagnosis and is not presenting anything unusual at this time. While we are so relieved and ecstatic about this, it has brought on something I never expected. The painful realization that he is typical. That his brain is functioning as it should and that there will come a time in the near future where he will become the big brother even though he is 6 years younger than Drew. I was completely blindsided by this knowledge as it had just never entered my mind.
Now I see what a toddler who isn't battling sensory, comprehension, and auditory processing issues is able to do, and all the memories of Drew at this age come flooding back. The pain of seeing what was stolen from him when he regressed at around 18 months. Seeing James point at things to communicate which Drew still cannot do at 7 years old. Watching James seek out other children to interact with. Seeing that he can follow directions and has a comprehension of language that Drew still doesn't have now. The pain cuts so deep in my soul.
Our home used to be the place we could run for safety. Away from the judging eyes of the world that can be cruel and heartless. Home was where we could, if just for a while, forget that Drew struggles with Autism so much and is so far behind his peers. We could just enjoy him for who he was and relish in all his amazing qualities that I would never trade for a moment. Autism has given him so many things that I love about him. He is so very loving and affectionate. He gives the best hugs and kisses and longs only to be with his Dad and I...playing and flapping and enjoying our little world.
I never fathomed the fact that now with a typical developing child we would no longer have this world to escape to. Away from the children that were so much younger and so much more developed than him. Gone are the days of leaving a park for the solace of home....crying because a 2 year old came up to my 6 year old and asked to play with him and he could not respond because he is non-verbal. Going home and just hugging my child and willing myself to forget the pain of what has been robbed from Drew. Now, there is a precious little boy in our world that is going to be one of those kids. Asking why Drew doesn't talk to him, or play with him, or why he flaps and stims and seems as though he doesn't see him at all.
And I wonder how much Drew understands. Will it hurt him to see that his little brother can do things he just can't do? Will he feel that pain and wish for the days that he could just be at home with us and forget that he isn't like other kids. Part of me hopes that he will have that kind of clarity, and part of me prays harder than anything that he won't. That he will be blissfully unaware of the differences between him and his brother and the rest of the world.
This is a heartbreak that I wasn't ready for on this journey. And it is only the beginning. I just hope that I can deal with it in the best way possible. Parenting two children that are so different in every way is such a difficult thing. Finding the balance and meeting the needs of both kids in the best way I know how is going to be a learning process. I am grateful that I have some amazing friends that have gone before me in this journey. Theirs will be the shoulders I can lean on and their wisdom will help carry my through the process.
Know someone who has a story to share, but doesn't have a blog? Have them contact me!