First, I apologize for taking a brief break. Second, where am I? No, really, (to quote the Talking Heads) “Is this my beautiful life?” Does anyone remember that feeling of panic when they said you could leave the hospital with your baby and your reaction was “no”? I do, many times over. It’s that same feeling when you look at your child and think,
”I had sex and it made you…you came out of my body. I’m responsible for YOU.”
It would be a lie to say that I wasn’t panicking as I sat in my car at the testing clinic. Owen was happily organizing his cars and completely unaware of my freak out session behind the wheel of our parked car. It was 8:30 and already 90 degrees. Owen insisted on wearing his bucket hat and I had to keep his long sleeve shirt on him so he wouldn’t pick at his wound on his arm. He was sweaty and uncomfortable in my car with its joke for air conditioning. My only hope was that they had a.c. inside. I stood with his car door open and fed him his snack.
He didn’t seem phased by being there at first. There was a box of wooden cars that he quickly spotted and arranged. I kept a close eye on him lest he bolt out the open door past the standing oscillating fan. It felt like he was playing next to a busy intersection and I was just hoping he wouldn’t run into danger. The level of hyper vigilance that’s required to keep up with his activity is enough to exhaust me by noon on a good day. The fan was no less of a threat than a semi-truck idling beside us with the driver door open and the keys dangling in the ignition.
I timed our arrival so that it wouldn’t be so late that I had to hurry him or too early that he became restless with anxiety. Feeling captive sets in rapidly and he gives little warning when he reaches his limit. Rooms without windows are deal breakers. We simply leave before he notices or we endure the consequences.
The woman at the front desk apologized, they didn’t have air conditioning, it was 8:47am and it was over 90 degrees and rising. Our appointment was for 9am. Sweat was running down my back and into my bra as the specialists came to greet us. Owen shoved his arm down my sweaty cleavage in nervousness and quickly pulled it back out exclaiming, “OW!” He didn’t appreciate my swamp boobs. The women didn’t react but simply kept chatting and smiling as we entered the airless room.
Then the door closed.
I’ll leave the narrative right there and simply explain how clear it became that he’s struggling in ways I can’t help him with on my own. Helplessness as a mother when faced with your child’s panic is akin to a surgeon standing over a prepped body and having their hands fall off. That the professionals quickly changed gears and began assessing his autism was a shattering relief. As much as I wished I was wrong for his sake it was clear from their questions and his behavior that he was battling internal obstacles that needed to be addressed and him being given a label of “autism” wouldn’t change that fact. It just meant he would get help that we couldn’t access otherwise.
My nerves were raw and he was a mess from crying as we left. I kneeled down to clean his face, helped him pull his hat down tight, and asked him, “You ok, bud?”
I waited and he held out his hand without looking up, “Yep.”
People mean well when they want to argue with you about something deemed negative to make you feel better but it doesn’t change the reality of “it” existing. “No, your hair isn’t bad…”, “Zit? I barely see it…”, “Your singing is great…”, etc.
So I sat down to write a job listing for a special needs experienced nanny and it started with, “Must speak Martian and other skills required…” Our son is autistic and so many other things. I still have a sense of humor though and so does he. Someone can argue with me about the label but it doesn’t help or change his reality. Also, if you know someone that likes watching Julie Andrews films while holding red cars and dancing naked please let them know that they’re not alone in their fixation.