Not so welcome home

by arianne

On Sunday when I finally arrived home in the wee hours of the night, I couldn’t wait to sit on my couch and breathe.  My husband was up waiting for me, and as fun and productive as Blogher ’08 was, I missed my family something fierce.  I know most everyone missed their kids, and missing my baby in particular was like missing a limb.  I didn’t feel right or whole while away, even if the break from the daily grind was really nice.

So the first time my baby woke up for his bottle that night, I couldn’t wait to go to him and comfort him and say “mama’s home!”.  I imagined he would be giddy with laughter and want to snuggle, and might even have a hard time going back to sleep because he was so happy to see me.

And then reality hit.

When I went in, my baby saw me and started crying.  I figured it was just him missing me, and he was crying for ME.  But as I held him, tried to give him the bottle, tried to comfort him, the crying turned into a full blown meltdown.  He was enraged, and was flinging himself away from me, trying desperately to escape the clutches of me.  His mother.  He wasn’t just acting like he was mad, or like he didn’t know me, he was acting completely different.  Completely not normal.

Finally my husband came into the room, took the baby and I watched as he completely calmed down in my husbands arms.  Like, immediately.  And then he went right back to sleep.

I walked out of the room and broke down.  It was hard being away from my kids, even if it had been totally worth it and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  There are also other circumstances going on here at home that are “shaping my character”, not the least of which is extreme financial stress.  So it felt like the whole cumulation of emotions, and my baby rejecting me, came down on me all at once.  It all came pouring out.

I know that sometimes kids act like they are mad at a parent when the parent comes back from being out of town.  I know that sometimes a baby can act standoff-ish, too.  But the way my little guy reacted seemed to remind me, or REINFORCE, that he is autistic.  That, no, it wasn’t all a bad dream when he regressed and we found out he had autism.  It reinforced that he is not normal, and no, he didn’t get better while you were gone, and this isn’t going away.

And I know that might sound silly to say, especially since my two other boys have autism and I should be used to this by now.  And it also might sound weird, since I certainly didn’t expect to come home to a miraculous healing and have my littlest one all better.

But accepting that he is on the spectrum is still a process for me.  I DO still wake up and hope it was all a bad dream.  That this precious little face will start looking at me in the eye again.  That he will start sleeping again, talking again.  I miss him, and I realized that while I was away, I was missing the old him.  The REAL him.  The person that I know is still inside there, but I can’t reach, and who can’t reach me.

So now, a few days later, he seems to be back to accepting me and letting me love on him.  He knows me again, and wants to play and giggle together.  And I continue on my quest to find him and reach him, each and every day.

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