There are days in each of my three children’s lives that I remember so vividly, I can relive long moments of those days on demand.
With Ava, it was November 6, 2006. She was 19 months old. I knew from the minute I woke up that something was going to go terribly wrong. Her substitute daycare teacher yanked her arm in such a way that it dislocated her elbow. My baby was in pain, and the teacher didn’t mention it to the director, or have me come get her, and mentioned nothing when I picked her up. That day I learned that no matter how freakishly intertwined my daughter and I are, no matter how much I love her and no matter how hard I try to protect her, I can’t. The love I had for her, so complete, so full, indescribable. Something broke that day, in me, and I began to guard my heart almost, from loving her too much, because I could not be that hurt again. I thought I wouldn’t survive it.
With Ben, it was the day he was born – or, more specifically, the 24 hours after his birth. We knew something was wrong with his kidneys, we knew he’d go to the NICU, but it was still awful when he went. In recovery, the noises he was making – I just wanted someone to take him away. When I went late that night to really see him for the first time in the NICU, I remember thinking – that’s MY baby? I don’t know him. Nothing in me could relate to him. Even still, at 22 months, toddling around, healthy and happy as can be, I can’t believe he’s my son. My other two look like me, and Ben couldn’t look more different. He doesn’t cuddle, he doesn’t talk much, he is so different, but oh how I love that boy. He’s a mystery to me still.
Andrew’s first was a hot, August day. He was 16 months old. He’d been acting different over the last few weeks, but not dramatically so. We went to Burke Ridge Farms for ice cream and to feed the animals with our Mom’s club and my dad. It was a very happy afternoon. We got home, and I realized Andrew was beginning to run a fever. It got high, fast. He screamed, nonstop, around the clock, for four days. And after he stopped screaming, he was never the same. By October, his 18 month checkup, I knew something was terribly wrong. He was sick again, and I remember the doc saying that it’s OK to do immunizations when babies are sick, as their immune systems are already working, it will take the virus better. I remember his concern on the MCHAT screening. I remember looking at Andrew rub his fingers over the textured wallpaper and thinking, when the hell did this happen? The examiners in my living room saying, so matter of fact, “either deaf and or autistic”. His sedated hearing test in December, watching my baby go “under” and lay there so small, and just knowing – he could hear. He’s autistic. And then the day a month later in my living room, when my worst fears were confirmed. He had been perfect. Perfectly beautiful and perfectly smart and strong and wonderful. Suddenly, so different. We don’t know what his future will hold but we know we will have to fight to get him back in the smallest of ways. And how many years will we lose in the meantime?
I am writing again because I have to talk about how my son was taken from me. And how I am going to work to get him back.