22 years ago today my second son Zack was born. He is away at university right now but his story inspires me and I wanted to share the short version with you on his special day. 🙂
I had NO CLUE what I was getting in to when I became a mother. I did not have the chance to raise Marcus due to his untimely death so Zack was my first real opportunity to try out this whole “Mom” thing. I thought I was so mature, so ready, so competent and completely ready to pull off this feat but truthfully? I had no clue.
After a VERY long 78 hour labour and delivery, I had my little boy. He started to cry and didn’t stop for very long… for 2 1/2 years. He cried so hard that the doctors assumed SOMETHING had to be very wrong and tested him for everything from cancer to strep throat. He even spent an extra week in hospital because they were so sure something was very wrong. In the end, no reason was found and I was sent home with my screaming baby with an encouraging word from his nurses. “Good luck with that one. You’re going to need it.”
He hated to be held, didn’t like clothing touching him, got terribly upset in the light of day, startled very easily, and almost never slept. In the average 24 hour day, he slept 4 of those hours and cried/screamed for most of the other 20.
He did like music and being rocked rather “powerfully” so I sang to him in a dark room while he lay naked inside a tightly bound blanket while I rocked the glider back and forth as fast as it could go. This was not really what I thought motherhood was going to be all about but I did my best. He would actually seem happy (or less distraught might be a better way of explaining it) for so long as I could manage to do this so I spent HOURS at it daily.
As he got a bit older, he refused to speak, would not look at anyone, did not react to many of the things other babies seemed to care about. He did not crawl until he was far over a year and walking came a long time after that.
He was diagnosed at 2 and a half as having autism and the doctors words are words I will never forget. “Don’t have high expectations Heather. He will most likely never walk properly, never talk, never be able to go to a regular school, or have any truly meaningful relationships.” 😦
I left that office so upset and walked downstairs and out to the street with a very heavy heart. When I reached the street something in me clicked and I said out loud “LIKE HELL! That is not going to be my sons fate. It’s just not!”
I won’t go in to all the details but the next 10 years were my version of hell on earth. He screamed, cried, kicked, punched, bit other children, tried to stomp on his sisters heads with boots on, he set our house on fire… it rarely ever stopped. I was called to his school 3-4 times every single week to discuss issues they were having with him and at the end of grade 1, I was told he needed to go to special ed. I refused.
I am not saying everyone should refuse but I just felt like there was way more to this child than what we could see. After refusing the schools request for the next 3 years, they refused to have him back to attend grade 4 unless I agreed to a special needs class. So what does a mom who thinks she just knows her child needs more than that do? Moves 3,000kms away of course!
All of a sudden he was in a class with a teacher that saw what I saw. This child was smart. Really smart. He was refusing all the work given to him because he was bored to tears. Not because he was incapable.
So that was the beginning of Zacks rise to the life he has now.
Autism never goes away but if you work really hard, you can change many of its effects over time (A LONG TIME). Zack now speaks, walks, talks, and goes to a regular school 🙂 It wasn’t easy and sometimes it still isn’t. He struggles socially and always will to some degree.
He also lives on his own, has a girlfriend, attends university (5th year), has an excellent job part-time right now and 2 firm offers for when he graduates in a few months. He is very well spoken, runs group projects, and calls his Mom regularly for a really long chat where I solve all of his problems and answer his social dilemmas. ❤ I’m not really THAT good at all that stuff but he thinks I am and that is what matters right? 😉
That little baby boy born 22 years ago was more hard work than I ever imagined and gave me heartbreaks than I ever even knew existed but he also gave me more joy, pride and love than I ever knew possible. I hope I get to enjoy the next 22 years watching him as he lives the life he worked so hard to get.