July 21, 2010


Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , at 6:31 am by autismmommytherapist

I taught for a dozen years prior to entering the domain of motherhood, five years in the District of Columbia Public Schools, and seven in the suburbs of Virginia, which in their own way were just as challenging as the years I worked in the nation’s capital. I was immersed in the lives of children at least 180 days a year, enmeshed in their triumphs, their tragedies both real and imagined, and their stories. I had thought in some respect this proximity to the under eighteen crowd would prepare me to be a better mom, one who would remain inured to the demands of parenthood, perhaps not seduced by the anxiety foisted upon us by the insecurities of my generation. In the end, I was more prepared for both the joys and the drudgery that define raising a family, but alas, I was not immune to the worrying.

The vast majority of my friends passed on their own genetic legacy at a “reasonable” age, producing offspring at thirty or a few short years afterwards. I can easily recall cradling their babies in my arms, listening to their murmured coos or cries of outrage at needs unmet, and I’d wait for my ovaries to rise up in anger at being synthetically suppressed for so long. They never united in protest, and eventually I would return my borrowed infant to its rightful owner without regret. Perhaps it was the whole concept of infancy, of which I’m not particularly fond, or perhaps it was that my brain knew this child was only a “loaner”, and would have to be relinquished eventually. Perhaps I just required that first insensitive ob/gyn to inform us that our chances of having a baby naturally were about as great as having two children on the autism spectrum.

We all know how that turned out.

I will never regret waiting to start my family. I don’t register pangs of envy at the sight of the dewy-skinned moms in Zachary’s pre-school class, and I feel no remorse in knowing that for them the eighties was a quaint era reminiscent of big hair and silly songs, not, in fact, THE BEST DECADE EVER. I needed those years of my twenties (and most of my thirties) to accomplish my goals, enjoy half a career, finish a few rounds of graduate school, and have childless, unfettered fun. I required time to mature enough to be able to put my needs aside to raise a disabled child without resentment or regret, at least on most days. I needed to learn how to feel more confident in my ability to mother my own offspring, to diminish some of the “surprise factor”. Those years, particularly that exposure to children, accomplished these goals for me.

While I did feel more prepared for what lay in store for me after giving birth, even after accepting the news that my child’s brain chemistry is forever altered, there was one surprise I did not, could not anticipate. I could never have known that the action of my oldest son pulling me down for repeated kisses of gratitude coupled with eye contact, or my youngest’s gleeful cry of “mommy” after a few hours of separation, could greatly eradicate my needs, my losses, my angst. I wish I could have known how fulfilling those moments could be, how they heal, temporarily ameliorate the sting of those wounds entirely. I wish I could have known how watching my sons smile and recognizing I played a part in the joy emanating from their countenances would be more fun (at times) than shopping, or a day at a really good spa. I wish someone would have told me, but perhaps that knowledge can’t be truly conveyed until it’s experienced.