Updated: Dec 31, 2021
Part 2: Son On The Spectrum (Part 2)
Part 3: Son On The Spectrum (Part 3)
I remember it like it was yesterday – when in fact it was over 5 years ago.
My clearest memory is of a night I just couldn’t sleep. I lay in bed with my husband, our toddler between us, and I shifting and uncomfortable because of the growing 7-month baby in my belly. I was used to sleeping through pregnancy discomfort – it wasn’t my belly that kept me up, but I couldn’t sleep through the word that kept ringing in my head. “Autism”. It was almost audible. And looking back now, I think it was the moment I knew, even before I really knew.
Something was different about Gio. No one had told me so, but I knew. Since finding out I was pregnant with him over 2 years prior, I had been mildly obsessive about every stage we’d been through. I devoured books and blogs on everything concerning pregnancy while I was pregnant, and then when he was on the other side of life, I continued to feed on everything related to motherhood. I would consume information all day, and all night, on everything from baby products, sleep training, breastfeeding, developmental milestones and more.
For the first year, he seemed right on track and if delayed, only very, very slightly. I noticed that he walked a bit later than most babies I knew – but only by a month or so. I noticed that he smiled way more than any other babies I knew – but of course that was because he was so happy I was his mama! He didn’t seem to hear his name sometimes. Maybe he just wasn’t interested in who was speaking to him? He really hated the loud music at church – more than the other babies – maybe it was because he wasn’t in daycare and our home was pretty quiet. However, as the months progressed, I seemed unable to excuse what my mind was dwelling on.
Something was different about Gio. No one had told me so, but I knew.
It was when he began to lose some of the words he previously said to me – when he no longer called me “mama” – that I knew the word that ended up at the end of many searches, was probably significant to us. I was able to explain away his slight delays with sitting, or walking, and several idiosyncrasies – always needing items lined up, or several toys in his hand, but the fact of regression didn’t sit well with me. It began to haunt me. His dad and I spoke often of my concerns and he too dived into research – now both of us finding the word “autism” being a common result of most questions we took to Google. Still, we both felt it was probably too early, and we were too inexperienced to assess, so we temporarily shelved it.
Shortly after that, Gio came down with a cold and needed to see his paediatrician. Hubby couldn’t get away from work so I waddled my 8-month pregnant self and toddler to the doctor’s office, hoping to get a quick prescription or advice on how to best care for him. All went well during the regular checks, and just before leaving I remembered our autism concerns and decided to raise the question. I will admit that while there were several small signs, he did not have several of the typical traits of autism – there was no toe-walking, no hand-flapping, no social anxiety, and pretty decent eye-contact. While the word “autism” flashed across my mind occasionally, I had convinced myself that I was overthinking, as I tend to do. Still, I wanted a professional to say that to me – “You are overthinking Taj, your boy is developing perfectly”.
Without much thought, I broached the subject, feeling pretty confident that I would be shut down by a professional I trusted, and have my fears assuaged. Instead, his paediatrician asked me some questions, did a brief additional observation on Gio, admitted that he did not have concerns regarding autism, but handed me a referral anyway. In his words – “I don’t have the same concerns, but if you do mommy, you should have them investigated to the fullest”. These were exactly the words I did not want to hear. I took the referral, paid and walked out of the office with Gio in tow, head down, heart racing and eyes welling with water. I didn’t get shut down. I didn’t get the reassurance I had hoped for - that my baby was ok. Instead, I was given the paper that threatened to change the trajectory of the rest of our lives. I quickly buckled Gio into his car seat, got into my seat and started the engine. By now, the tears were everywhere and I had no idea how I would be able to safely drive us back home. I called my husband but was barely able to speak.
I didn’t get shut down. I didn’t get the reassurance I had hoped for - that my baby was ok.
To be continued….