From day one, my son has been a miracle. During five long years of trying – I thought having children may be impossible for me. Then, one day out of nowhere I was pregnant. After nine months it had been a healthy pregnancy. One night, that all changed. It was about two weeks before my due date and I was experiencing pain and contractions at the same time. Instantly, I knew something was wrong. A slight terror blanketed me. I had lost a child before. I checked myself into the hospital.
Hours of tests followed. The doctors and nurses didn’t even bother to do an ultrasound. It didn’t matter that I was insisting upon it. One female doctor even had the nerve to tell me it was probably gas. Since when does gas give you a shooting pain in your lower left side? Idiot.
They sent me home. About five hours later I was in the worst pain of my life. I was doubled over, screaming, and I couldn’t get out of that position. My family (who was now thankfully at my side) called an ambulance. I was rushed back in. The morning staff was much kinder and actually knew how to do their jobs. After an ultrasound, the doctor I had waited months to see stood over me.
He explained how I had something very rare going on. My body was producing excess amniotic fluid and was posing a risk to my unborn son and myself. The fluid had somehow started to enter his lungs. I asked what this meant. What could be done? He replied “We have to get the baby out. We need to see if we can remove the fluid in his lungs.” When I asked if it was urgent and this absolutely had to be done he nodded and gave me a firm “Yes”.
The operation was a success. It saved both of our lives. The battle may have been won but, the war was far from over.
Our baby spent three of the longest weeks of our lives in the NICU. (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) Although he was not considered premature because he was about a week and a half shy of his due date, he was still treated as such. He fought for his life in there. He had tubes coming out and going in just about everywhere. We weren’t allowed to even hold him. Still, from day one I felt an instant bond. We spent many a night without sleep in that unit, only leaving to shower or eat. Sometimes we even went without that.
Life may have thrown him a curveball but, our son made it. Three weeks later we took home a healthy baby boy.
Little did we know, this was not the end of our fight. By age two, we had started to notice some developmental delays, mainly just with speech. We sought treatment and kept hitting dead ends.
Nearly three years ago my son was diagnosed with autism. I did not panic. I did not cry. I was however experiencing some fear. I was concerned about the judgment from others that would no doubt be relentless throughout our lives.
There was a viable reason there was no panic felt in the earliest days. I am in fact no stranger to autism. My paternal uncle is severely autistic and I love him with all of my heart. The way he has been treated by the public in the distant past is why I continue to have this fear. People are cruel towards what they don’t understand.
When my son’s story with autism first began he was having extreme speech difficulties. After countless battles with doctors we finally found out about Early Intervention. For those that don’t know, Early Intervention is a wide variety of therapies that help children on the autism spectrum try to overcome some of their developmental difficulties. Even though our son got what is considered a “late start” he did wonderfully in the program and continued on to preschool.
I’m happy to report today that you cannot notice a disability unless you have a trained eye. He talks up a storm. His sensory difficulties are still there but have lessened dramatically. Autism doesn’t go away. He will live with some quirks and minor obstacles for the rest of his life. However, I would like to stress to those that don’t know much about this disorder that it is not a disease to be feared and pointed at and judged. It is a rewiring of the brain that could happen to anyone in the womb. There is still so much being found out about it every day.
These individuals are nothing short of amazing. They are not “slow” or “dumb” or “retarded” like so many old-fashioned beliefs and movies may tell you. They are unbelievably intelligent and talented. They simply learn in a different way.
I ask humbly that the next time you see a child throwing a tantrum in a busy store or see someone severely frightened by loud sound, try not to judge. Try not to stare. That person just may have autism.
They just may be my little superhero.
(This video was taken last summer. It was one of the first times I lifted the veil. The original post containing it can be viewed here.)