Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ready as I'll ever be

While waiting for summer commencement to begin last Saturday, two of the undergraduates receiving degrees struck up a conversation in the procession line.  I happened to be standing nearby in preparation for leading the march, so I couldn't help but overhear.  One young lady was talking about how she and her fiancee thought they wanted kids, but weren't sure when; the other was making sympathetic noises.  All the  contingencies about jobs, homes, graduate school, and so forth were brought up in more or less detail.

Oh, girls, I thought to myself.  Don't you know that it's no use trying to figure out when you'll be ready to have children?  You'll never be ready enough, and so in a sense, you'll always be as ready as necessary.

Nine years ago tonight, Noel drove me to the hospital.  Nine years ago tomorrow, Archer was born.  I was 35 years old, Noel was 30.  We had been married almost six years.  I had a good job, and Noel was building his freelance career.  We were homeowners.  Were we ready?  Not by a long shot -- not for what happened.  Not for a baby who spent a couple of days in the intensive care unit after birth, then returned to the hospital less than a week later for failure to thrive.  Not for a boy who screamed at the incessant blood draws until, by the time an IV had to be inserted into a vein in his scalp, he couldn't even produce any more noise.  Not for a son whose odd habits of spinning toys and lack of language led to a diagnosis of autism at two and a half.

We weren't ready for mixing supplements into breast milk, for speech therapy, for IEPs.  Nor for a child fixated on a calculator or a magnadoodle.  A boy obsessed with numbers, then chess, then maps.  A mathematical prodigy who struggles to understand human motivation and emotion.  An alien in our house whose creative perspective on the world stops us short and fills us with wonder every day.

No one could ever be ready for the decision we had to make shortly after the autism diagnosis about whether we wanted to have another child.  And we weren't ready when our daughter was born to have two children, not any more than we were ready to have one when our family grew for the first time, three years earlier.

There is no perfect moment.  But then, afterwards, there are so many perfect moments that you feel embarrassed at how much you are blessed.  Forge forward boldly.  Wait for the circumstances to be advantageous, but don't wait until you are ready.  Unless you want to wait forever.

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