My Boy Displayed Signs of Being on the Autism Spectrum as a Baby
On a crisp, cool morning almost 16 years ago, my husband, Brad, and I left our home as a couple. When we returned, we were a family of three. Gray made me a mommy, and while I know it’s cliché, my heart and life have never been the same. And I wouldn’t want them to be.
He was 8 pounds 9 ounces of a quiet, contemplative baby. He liked to be held and look around with his big blue eyes. The hospital staff referred to him as “the sweet baby.” There was one nurse who called him the “poop master,” but that’s a different story.
We were discharged with our quiet, sweet boy and drove home so very, very carefully. Brad winced every time another car came within sight, I sat in the back so I could protect my boy. He slept through the whole thing. Soundly.
We arrived back at our condo, took some pictures of his homecoming, and then opened the door and entered our Christmas wonderland of a home. We had spent the entire weekend before his birth decorating and it was spotless. Within two hours of our homecoming, we had a pile of dirty diapers and dirty laundry covered in spit-up in the middle of the living room floor. Hospital bags, paperwork, cups, remnants of snacks and meals covered every surface. Which is how it would remain for the next 10 years, minus the poop and spit-up laundry.
Our quiet, contemplative boy turned into a screaming baby who could not be comforted. Unless, by chance, one of his exhausted parents gathered the strength to march him around the house. And we had to march, because regular walking didn’t help him.
He had trouble nursing, he’d latch on and gulp but immediately fell asleep, then he’d wake up 10 minutes later crying because he was hungry. This happened 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Finally, he lost so much weight his pediatrician insisted we supplement nursing with formula. He preferred the bottle and quit nursing, but was able to put on weight.
Despite the difficulties of having a baby who cries a lot, we were smitten. In love. We adored him and could look at him for hours on end. And we did, because he was so perfect and beautiful.
But he was also perplexing. The baby books said he would enjoy gazing at us, that even at a few days old he would try to imitate facial expressions and respond to us. But our baby didn’t focus on our faces, he stared at lights and white spaces.
When his doctor mentioned at his 2 month checkup this was such a fun age because of the cooing and vocalizations, I was alarmed. He hadn’t done that.
As he grew, he did begin to interact with us, but he seemed fretful and small things could upset him.
When he was almost a year, we saw him display some behaviors that worried me, I didn’t know what I was seeing. I didn’t know these were all signs of autism, and my beautiful boy was going to have to work so much harder to fit into this world.
There are many other stories I could tell, many things he has faced and overcome. He’s come farther than I could have dreamed when interacting with others.
But I could never have anticipated what a funny, sweet and thoughtful young man my son has become. He loves people and always thinks the best of them. His love has changed me and made me a much better mom, but more importantly, a much better person. I am incredibly proud of my son, for who he is and what he has accomplished.
And if you are a momma who’s terrified because your baby won’t look at you, won’t interact, bangs his head or has other puzzling behaviors, take heart. It’s hard work, it might feel impossible sometimes and exhausting and some challenges feel heart-breaking, but there is hope. Keep on.
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Thinkstock image by adrian825