It is 3:45 am according to my ancient clock radio. My youngest daughter drags my right hand to pull me out of bed. She leads me to the gate at the top of the stairs indicating she wants to go downstairs. I slide on my eyeglasses to see as we try to sneak downstairs to not wake the other members of our family. In the dimly lit living room I struggle to keep my eyes open, to keep her safe and hopefully wear her out to go back to sleep. Without an eye on the time, eventually she stretches out on the couch. I try to get comfortable in the chair near her. Just as soon as I rest my eyes I hear my husband moving upstairs in our room. I check the clock, with a heavy sigh I realize he is up for work. The day begins with me in slow motion.
Shortly after he comes down the stairs, our oldest bounds down wide awake. After he leaves, my youngest is still awake. I realize that I need to do something desperate for her to sleep before our morning activities. Despite my exhausted self, I pack up my girls in the car in hopes a long drive will help make her nap. In three hours we are expected at a medal ceremony at the local library for the Summer Reading Club. My oldest has been looking forward to this all year. There is no way I am going to miss that for her. If I wasn’t so tired I would be angry at the situation. In a ‘regular world’ there would be a grandma on call to do this so I could cat nap. Autism robs my brain and energy again.
I never asked to be a mom. Years of not trying to be a parent lulled me into a sense of child-less security. Because of my medical issues (endometriosis) it was presumed that I could not conceive. In fact, three doctors confirmed it. To the date three months later my first daughter was conceived.
I delivered a beautiful baby girl. As she grew older, hitting her milestones, I became relieved. She is on her way. She never crawled though. She ran the week after her first birthday; all the while talking a million miles a minute.
Months later when she was 14 months old, I was stunned again that I was pregnant. I even went to the store in my pjs to confirm the test three times.
This pregnancy was not like the last one. The morning sickness was awful. I began to lost weight so I needed to take Diclectin to start gaining weight. I took my iron and other supplements the doctor instructed me to do. The rest of the pregnancy dragged on as I tried to keep up with a fast toddler.
Then the 28th week of pregnancy hit as my belly measure 8 inches longer than it should have been. They questioned me if I was sure of the date. I assured them I knew. Through ultrasounds with a specialist it showed that my baby was breech and practically standing in my womb. The baby was also going to be big according to the scan. So a C-section was scheduled.
I know I have a lot to be grateful for: healthy family albeit autism, my sister lives close and I have a writing career I love. The ‘experts’ keep going on and on about the importance of sleep. Well, that is great and all, but what happens if it is beyond your control.
Within minutes of our drive, my oldest girl tells me her sister is asleep. I tuck the car into a drive-thru line-up. In the rear-view mirror I see my five-year-Old’s eyes light up. I order our food and park under the shade of a tree. I leave music on and begin to have a breakfast car picnic with my first baby. She states that this is the best fun ever. With those precious words I slip out of my self-pity baggage. I did what I could do and ended up making a special summer memory for the two of us.
The following week my legs are splayed over the coffee table. I reach over to my abandoned coffee cup. I carefully take a sip to only find out it has gone cold. With a big sigh I get off the couch to dump the remains into the sink. I step aside my three-year-old daughter who is racing around the dining room and into the living room. Her Santa hat goes flying in the air as she turns the corner.
I refill my coffee cup and amble to sit down again. We had just returned from a doctor’s appointment after dropping my oldest daughter off at kindergarten. My youngest is beginning the steps to have therapy to help her autistic behaviours. She was also up very early this morning. The weight of the sleep and stress exhaustion makes me grumpy. I kick a toy to the side and sit down again.
For the past year I have witnessed my girl grow slowly through the development milestones. Her speech is also delayed. We began the search for the right programs and therapies after the assessments that diagnosed her with ASD (autism spectrum disorder.) For some reason she is deciding sleep is not an option lately. The constricting guilt of if I am at fault as to why she received the label keeps me up at night. I wonder if it had to be me being put under for her birth. The planned caesarean was hampered by my back not able to receive the spinal tap or epidural. Her big size didn’t help. I wonder if I didn’t eat something I should have while pregnant. I had seven months of morning sickness while pregnant with her. And once again, like a million times before, when I start going down this road I cry.
I hear her giggle bounce off the walls as she rounds the corner to run through the rooms. Her senses love certain textures and movement. So she is wearing her Santa hat and a ballet tutu for the sixth day in a row. Since she is three, we allow her the happiness the ensemble gives her. When she is sixteen it might not look so ‘normal’ at school. She runs around again only this time to barrel towards me. I open my arms to receive the biggest bear hug. Her hat comes loose. She hands it to me so I can put it back on. She bounces up again and is off. My guilty reverie fades as her hug reminds me of one thing, she is my daughter. I am lucky to be her mom. She is the present I did not know our family needed.