My high school senior yearbook has a section next to the photo that asks, Future plans?. In my obnoxious, naive youth, I wrote "Become a doctor, get married, have lots of little boys and live happily ever after." It's laughable now but at the time, that's really what I wanted, although even then, I knew the "happily ever after" part was absurd. The truly telling part of those plans was the little boys I was pining for. I'm one of five girls, I never wanted to parent estrogen-laden humans because I lived in a cesspool of estrogen my whole childhood. Boys. Lots of them. A baseball team's worth of testosterone. That was what I mostly pinned for.
Oh, but for my polycystic ovaries that won't put out eggs on cue. For all my estrogen, my body never did figure out how to make things work correctly. Alas, a house full of leggy, wrestling, lamp-knocking-over, table-breaking, short-stopping or first-basing, loud, ravenous, XY chromosome-laden humans has never been a reality for me. Truth? I cried when we learned WG was going to be another girl. Sissy was all the girl one lifetime could manage.
Tracing back to Sissy's adoption story, Aspie Boy's story quietly and unexpectedly unfolded. In July 2000, Sissy was 7 months old and living with birthmom, my friend died of breast cancer, my dog died the same week and my OB/GYN called and said that without evasive procedures, pregnancy wouldn't be possible. We got our dog Hope and we tried to pick up the pieces. At the end of that month, I woke up with a start in the middle of the night. There haven't been many times in my faith in which I felt like I was truly hearing the voice of God but this was definitely one of those moments.
"Write this down!" I thought to hear the Spirit say. I scrambled for a pen and paper and immediately, I heard a boy's name. I wrote down the name, vowed to look up the meaning in the morning and went back to sleep.
The next day I looked up the name. It means, "Gift from God". My sister was pregnant at the time so I thought perhaps the name was for her. I picked up the phone to call her and tell her the name but instead of suggesting it for the child she carried, I surprised myself and said, "Please don't use this name if your baby is a boy! I think it's a name I'm supposed to use!" I startled myself as the words came out of my mouth because I knew I wanted to adopt Sissy but at the time, I had no idea that birthmom was four months pregnant.
By December, Sissy was in our home and birthmom had asked us to take her unborn child. She hadn't gone to prenatal appointments so she did not know the sex of the baby, she knew only that she did not want it. In fact, she was painfully blunt about how much she did not want the child she carried. A week after we agreed to adopt that baby too, she had a sonogram and told us it was a boy. Finally. FINALLY! I was going to get a son, a complete surprise, truly a gift from God. The Dad bears a family name, the meaning of which is "bright, shining". A first son should be named after his father, yes? YES! Aspie Boy truly is a Bright, shining Gift from God.
Birthmom couldn't wait for his birth, she was that adamant about not wanting him. She complained and fussed and even tried walking ten miles in freezing weather to make her labor come. Her due date, which was also her birthday, was a full moon. She labored so fast she hardly had time to get to the hospital. At 2 am, our phone rang, his grandmother calling to say he'd been born but all I could hear was the beautiful sound of AB screaming! By the time we got to the hospital later that morning, it was snowing, a rare occurrence for our state. I just considered it one more gift.
AB's adoption was easy in the sense that birthmom waived her rights before she left the hospital. It took all of four months to finalize it. In retrospect, despite the challenges birthmom gave us over the girls' adoptions, I wish she'd been as sorry to part with AB. It pains me that she felt so little connection with him because he is so precious.
Looking back on AB's development, I recognize and readily tell his doctors about his delays that were immediately obvious. But when I was in the moment with him, I was so overjoyed to finally be holding a son, I didn't notice. Pick a developmental problem. AB has it. I remember him being six months old, no longer able to take naps, laying on his back in his crib humming in echolalia fashion to his hands which he waved in front of his face. Dead ringer for autistic behaviors but in that moment as I spied on him to make sure he was safe, all I thought was that's my son! right there, in that crib. Those arms, those legs, that humming is coming from MY son! my little gift from God
At 20 months old when he still wasn't walking, I began to be honest about his impairments. By four, we were headlong in the diagnosis process which came to a conclusion this past spring with the genetics results. It's all white noise to me. None of that changes the fact that he's mine.
He kisses me in funny ways, tackles me with hugs, cries, paces, rocks, stims, talks incessantly in mottled speech, wears ankle foot orthotics for his chronic toe walking, has an IEP but passed all of the CRCT, draws amazing pictures for hours on end, stays awake many nights making up stories or panicking about perceived shadows in the hallway or cockroaches on the floor, and irritatingly recites five word phrases from commercials in the exact tone as the announcer, over and over and over until we beg him to stop. In short, he's perfect.
Right now, my little man is struggling. His moods are all over the map, he's angry one second and in tears the next. He's demanding lots of sensory input. His therapist is unsure what to do as am I. I think Sissy's ongoing crisis is taking its toll on him and I'm powerless to stop it. Last week I went to his room while he slept and I laid down next to him.
I was struck by the truth that my heart aches for him in his despair but not for Sissy. Somehow, in all the nauseating convolutions of RADs, I've put emotional distance between Sissy and I when it comes to her mental illness but not so for AB. Perhaps it's the simple fact that despite his very difficult impairments, he still returns something in the parent-child relationship. With AB, it's a two way street, with Sissy, it's a dead end. I cried. I cried because my little man is struggling so much right now and I don't know how to help him. I cried because he loves unconditionally. I cried because I can't bridge that gap with Sissy. I cried because I feel like a horrible parent for being able to see past AB's impairments to the little boy that loves me but I can't do the same for Sissy. I cried because I don't know how to get there with her. I cried because I don't know if I want to try any more. I cried because it is easy for me to pray and ask God for help for AB but when I pray about Sissy, that's not quite how those prayers go. And I cried because I think it is because of Sissy that my little man hurts so bad.
Next week Sissy will be in day camp and WG will be at grandma's. It's just me and AB all day and on Wednesday we get to pick up his new AFOs. I hope this break from his sisters gets him the respite he desperately needs. I hope the unlimited mom/son time will fill his soul to overflowing. I for one, am filled to overflowing with just ten minutes of his laughter.
What is it about sons that makes the maternal relationship so different? What do they give mothers that daughters can't give? I've never been able to pin it down but my son, my special little man, he just makes my heart burst to overflowing so much that it literally makes my heart ache. Don't get me wrong, his impairments make him very challenging and I lose my cool a lot but mostly, I love my son, my one and only, such an amazing little guy. I can't possibly comprehend why anyone would ever not love him too. He's perfect for the simple fact that he's mine. He likes it when I tell him that I wanted a house full of little boys to love but instead God gave me one little boy that needed all the love of a house full of boys. No matter what he does, no matter what the doctors say, he is and always will be, my bright, shining gift from God.
Wearing a weighted vest to help curb his sensory issues
one of AB's amazing pictures