by Miriam Gwynne
I fell in love with my children long before they were born. I will never ever forget that moment I first held them skin to skin. There was a bond that I felt could never ever be broken. I felt they were a part of me from the moment I found out I was pregnant. I loved feeling them move and kick and hearing their little hearts beat at every check up. I was connected to them. Our worlds were one and we would always be close.
Then autism entered my family.
That is not my son’s fault in any way. I don’t resent him or blame him but I, as his mother, need to work so much harder to connect with him.
He lives in another world to me and I admit I have, at times, cried over that. I want that bond we had when I first held him. I want that special connection of looking at his eyes and seeing into his soul. I want to hear his voice, cuddle him, and stroke his hair and share life with him.
He prefers to look out windows, flap at lift doors and laugh at hand dryers.
Some days we are like strangers living in the same house. I meet his needs, he does what he wants. I create a routine and he follows along just because it is what we do here. Eye contact is fleeting, often non-existent. Words are never used. Body contact is on his terms and never conventional. When we try to understand each other it is like we speak in different languages or live in different planets. I try my way, he tries his way and often we both end up upset.
So when moments come along I throw caution to the wind and go for it in any way I can.
Today while on a train journey he sat beside me and we had some physical contact that did not mean climbing on my head or hitting me. We just sat beside each other. That was it. I felt like I was right back there the day he was born looking down at him filled with love and wonder and pride. A short moment in time when our worlds met and our hearts collided. Unity.
Later on as we got off that train and headed back to the car he did something so rare it took my breath away. He reached out and held my hand. Touch brings healing, restoration and love. He sought me out. He knew who I was and he wanted to know I was there. He did something other parents take for granted but something that is rare in my world. A short moment; two worlds coming together, no words needed.
Tonight as I bathed him, dried him, and met his physical needs I knew our bond was different yet still strong. Unlike his sister who spends bath time chatting, sharing and playing, he spends it simply splashing and retreating into his own world.
I read him his story, the same one I always do, but tonight there was no vocalizing, or flapping, or pointing. Those little moments of coming into my world today had tired his mind and his emotions.
The irony is he is so fiercely independent yet completely dependent at the same time. He wants to be left alone yet he can never be left alone. He wants to live in his own world and I am the one continually trying to change that. It’s like the more he gives to me the more he has to be back in that bubble again for safety. He had had enough tonight. But I hadn’t. He was ready to be put down in that baby crib in the hospital to sleep and I was longing to hold him that little bit longer all over again.
I kissed him. I tucked him in and then I went to leave the room. Except I couldn’t.
So I broke my own rule and climbed in beside him. I expected him to scream, to push me away and wrap himself in his cover like he always does.
Instead he wrapped his chunky arms around me, snuggled in and smiled at me. He fell asleep right there in my arms, just like he did the day he was born seven years and five months previously.
I may never hear his thoughts and worries. I may never truly understand his sensory needs or fascinations. I can’t be autistic like he is.
But tonight I was right back there hearing his little heart beat and promising him the world.
Today, for brief moments in time, our worlds collided.
A moment is all it takes to connect.
Miriam lives in Scotland and is mum to two amazingly unique children. Both have complex needs including non verbal autism, neurofibromatosis type 1, anxiety, eating disorder, and vision impairment. Miriam writes a highly successful and eye opening blog at www.faithmummy.wordpress.com and also writes for The Mighty, Huffington Post, Autismawareness.com and Firefly.