When I gaze lovingly at my sweet newborn baby girl, it's difficult not to go back to the first time I had a baby, and the hopes and dreams I once had for her. Back when I was a brand new parent, I was naive with optimism, and held the same assumption that most new parents maintain... that my precious baby girl would be smart, happy, and.... normal. Her dad and I both hold post graduate degrees, we come from educated families, athletic backgrounds and in many ways, sheltered and "charmed" upbringings. Why wouldn't our new daughter be anything but perfect? I had dreams of playdates, dance classes, soccer and basketball games, gymnastics, honor roll, school plays and so on. I had already picked out her preschool, and chosen carefully where we would live so the public school system would be optimal for her certain niche for academics. What a jackass I was.
As my beloved first born began meeting her developmental milestones, I was charting them one by one, videotaping with pride and documenting dates and skills. I can honestly say with 100 percent certainly that for the first blissful 12 months of her life I had NO worries about cognitive skills, neurological impairment, autism, apraxia and so on. Given my profession working with these kiddos and families, I was sure that since I had no indication of anything wrong by 12 months, that surely we were out of the woods... so my dreams for her continued, and I think Bryan and I even discussed opening a college savings fund account.
Even now, when I look back at pictures of Avery's first year, I can't help but be nostalgic about how "happy" we were, and how her diagnosis and subsequent developmental nose-dive have forever changed us... in every way. And how even now, how having a child with a disability colors the way I perceive almost everything, including my relationship with my two other daughters... and everyone else for that matter.
Then as time marched on, and I became slightly more aware of what was really happening to my precious golden child, I thought... ok, so maybe she will need an extra glass of wine to get through social events when she get's older... or, maybe it's just a matter of time before her understanding and language "takes off." Afterall, I had seen other kids with Autism tread beautifully through their toddler years becoming quite verbal and capable of many skills. Then a little later, when we were still waiting for the ever illusive "progress" I remember seeing a young woman of few words bagging groceries at our local supermarket... and I began to hope and dream that one day Avery might be able to do that. More time has passed, still waiting for the big leap in "progress" and my dreams are even more simple. I dream for one or two words. I dream that maybe she will understand, even if just for a fraction of a moment how much I love her, that she may be able to dress and feed herself, that she may one day brush her own teeth, or stay with us without wandering off, or understand to be afraid of pools, traffic, lakes and so on.
Slowly and steadily my dreams for her have drastically evolved into something I NEVER imagined. But I still have hope... it just takes a different turn every now and then. And believe it or not, my two other girls, especially my 2 and a half year old who has exceeded all expectations, and developed beautifully into a neurotypical preschooler... make me feel whole again, and better about myself as a mother, and a dreamer. They have renewed my sense of peace in a manner of speaking, and helped me realize that despite disability and differences, Avery is amazing, special, beautiful, and gifted in her own way... just as all children are.
So, the important lesson is that I haven't given up. Maybe I have "given in" to truth and acceptance, but I still have to believe that Avery is here for a purpose, and that I can handle the challenging life that lies ahead of us. I will still look into my precious newborns eyes as a dreamer, but it's a little different now. How couldn't it be? But with her birth, I have yet another renewed sense of hope... hence her middle name, and I can't wait to be a part of her journey as well... no matter where it leads.
Oh, Jenny! I so relate to your experience even though ours is different. I also planned for playdates, sports teams, walking to our neighborhood school and lots of friends. I had a million dreams of Brant climbing Mt. Everest, running for president and just encouraging him to backpack across Europe and really follow his dreams. We have no idea now what the future holds for him and for the longest time I just could not help but blame myself. Why hadn't I seen it earlier? Did I not "teach" him enough? Were we not seeing the right doctors/specialists? Having the girls has been such a joy because it has relieved me of SOME of those feelings. I feel like I can truly appreciate a 3 yo who gets in the car and tells me what happened at preschool that day and who is excited about taking her teddy beat to school. Brant is a special boy and we love him absolutely to death, but our experience has definitely changed me, my dreams for my own future and just how I see life. You are such a wonderful mom with beautiful girls. How blessed they are with you and you with them.
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