The choice to expand your brood is always tricky. There are so many potentials to weigh; is your first child ready? Is it a good time in yours and your partner’s lives to have another child? Do you have the financial ability? When your first born has autism (or any disability for that matter), this decision becomes even more “grey” When the topic of more children was presented to me my answer was a definite NO! Here’s the point that I get sideways looks when I’ve had this discussion in the past. I love Xander. The boy taught me what love really is. He has made me a stronger person, and I am a better human being because I’ve had the opportunity to be his mom. That being said, I would not wish his struggles or our experience on anyone. Autism is cruel, and confusing, and full of heartache. Our road to success has been littered with set backs so harsh that just the memory of them makes me want to break down and cry and we are no where close to the finish line. As a parent, I have no answers. No where to place blame. No sure fire way to fix the issues. I couldn’t stand the thought of another child having to go through the same things Xander had been through. I stuck to my guns for a long time.
Looking back, I realize I was scared and still healing. I wasn’t ready to consider the idea that I could produce a child that was TD (typically developing). As a mother, I had branded myself inadequate. Research and data and doctor’s didn’t matter. I felt as though I was responsible for Xander’s autism. What a revelation that was!
Through further conversation, and lots of reflection, I realized I was being a bit selfish. I had never wanted just one child. Xander was of an age that he could benefit from a sibling. I finally realized that it ultimately came down to the what ifs. What if this new child was diagnosed ASD? At least I knew every early warning sign, and he/she would be closely watched. I was more equipped to deal with another ASD kiddo than I was a TD one, as autism is all I’ve ever known. I also very much liked the idea of Xander having someone else, besides his parents, who was on his side. I’m no fool. I know I won’t be here forever, and when I’m gone I don’t want my child to be alone. So, we had decided. Baby number two!
I’d love to say it was unicorns and rainbows and everything went perfectly, but that just wouldn’t be in tune with the rest of my life. After trying for a few months, I was pregnant. We immediately told our friends, family, anyone and everyone who would listen. 7 short weeks later, I miscarried. There are no words to describe the pain. I felt as if my body had betrayed me. I required surgery to remove the pregnancy, only furthering my despair. I gave up. Big time. I focused on Xander and his therapy, and said to heck with babies. It’s usually when you give up completely that things start to mold into place. 4 months later, I was completely shocked to find a pink plus. You’d think I would be ecstatic, finally! I refused to be excited. I demanded (quite forcibly) that we not tell anyone. I couldn’t handle it if something went wrong. Weeks passed and so did ultrasounds. It took me a long time to get excited. I was certain my body was going to mess this up too. At 18 weeks along, I found out we were having another boy. It was only then that I allowed myself to start to get excited. Who was this little guy? Who would he look like? How was Xander going to connect with him? Would they do dirty muddy boy things together? I wanted to know it all.
December 15, 2010 after an excruciating labor and delivery, Gavin was finally here. He was the epitome of perfection. Like any mom, I scanned for 10 fingers and 10 toes. Everything was intact, and I felt proud.
The differences between my boys were apparent from the very beginning. Gavin was so alert to all of his surroundings. His eye contact was amazing, and he didn’t want to be anywhere other than your arms. I thought I was being overly aware. There was no way that just a few months in, I was seeing such differences. Oh, but I was. With the realization that Xander had been different from birth mixed with rampant pregnancy hormones, I ended up with a wicked case of postpartum depression.
Months passed, and the boys’ pediatrician kept a close eye (as did everyone else in our life) on Gavin. Not only was he hitting milestones, he was hitting them early. He was so eager to get up and go with Xander. It was incredible, joyous, and heartbreaking. As Gain’s first birthday approached, we all had started to relax. There was no doubt that he was not autistic. Surprisingly, I found his “normalcy” so difficult to cope with. I had it so set in my brain that the likelihood of him being autistic was so high, that I didn’t really realize he could be TD, and he is. I felt a massive internal battle as I watched my 18 month old do things my 5 year old still cannot do. I celebrated and cheered, and felt guilt and sadness that Xander wasn’t there yet.
Gavin is everything I could have ever hoped for in a son, and a sibling for Xander. He is so happy and affectionate, along with a hefty dose of stubborn. He doesn’t get nearly as much one on one attention as he should. I have had to force myself to be more “fair” with my attention. Xander’s behavior struggles and therapy schedule, and doctor’s appointments, and district meetings are consuming; emotionally, physically, mentally, and above all they consume a massive amount of time. I have had to remind myself, that being TD is not an excuse to cut that time that he needs. That he needs help, too. He needs my attention, and love, just as much as Xander.
As we near his second birthday, and I watch him continue to grow, I am hopeful. I hope he continues to grow, and blow milestones out of the water. I hope that he knows I am not sad that he is normal, I am sad that his brother will struggle. I hope that he knows what a light and strength he is in this family; not just for me, but for Xander. I hope that he will be an exceptionally accepting human being because of our family situation. Finally, I hope that he knows he is loved. That a lack of autism does not equate less love. That time management is still something I’m working on, and that simply because he has less that requires my immediate attention, that it does not mean I care for him less.