Sunday, August 19, 2012

Eleven years ago today

Eleven years ago yesterday, I had gone into first stage labor with our first child. It was exciting. Noel and I took a walk together, just like we had seen in all the childbirth videos and read about in advice books.

Eleven years ago today, right now, I was recovering from an emergency c-section. My son was put in my arms briefly after I got out of the recovery room.

So much of becoming a parent these days is trying to predict the unpredictable. We read books, we watch shows, we slurp up all the advice we can, and it's all in an effort to peer around the corner and see what's coming, so we can be prepared.

We weren't ready for what happened to Archer. He wouldn't nurse, and after his first-week checkup he was immediately hospitalized for failure to thrive. We were sick with worry. And for my part, I felt angry. I felt lied to. All the preparatory apparatus we had consumed that told us everything was almost always all right -- well, it wasn't.

Strangely enough, I didn't feel that way two and a half years later when Archer was diagnosed with autism. That news didn't come as a blow crumbling some ideal developmental expectation we had to dust. Instead, after the initial shock, it was a relief to have a framework to put around his idiosyncracies, to have some steps to take to help him integrate into a neurotypical world.

When I think back to those days of crippling uncertainty, I'm so grateful to Noel for the way he stood behind me. We had to make some tough decisions. Honey, you know what I'm talking about. You didn't hesitate. You supported me in responding the way I felt was right.


Now, years later, we look at each other on a regular basis and just shake our heads in wonder. How did we end up with these brilliant, delightful, surprising, and incandescent children? Archer makes us see the world differently. When he makes a special effort to join our world temporarily, we're so touched. His challenges are singular, but we learn along with him as he faces them. And there's nothing in the world like watching him trying to contain his happiness when it spills over his emotional reserve. His cheeks distort under the effort to control his smile, his spinning and wandering turn into an exuberant dance.

Happy birthday to my handsome, happy robotboy. Gold star for you.

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