By Cathy Jameson
Today marks the day I brought my firstborn home from the hospital. Labor started on the 14th so after two days of hoping, wondering, praying and wishing my baby would hurry up and get here, she finally did. In the early afternoon on the 16th dreams of a lifetime came true. I’d taken care of so many other people’s children while babysitting, tutoring and teaching. I’d watched hundreds of children grow up over the years and knew someday I wanted my own. Being a Mom was more than just a wish. I felt it was a calling.
Best friends at Cat’s baby shower
From the day we discovered we were expecting, to the very moment of her birth, I’ll never forget that first pregnancy of mine. I’ll never forget about telling my husband we were expecting and how nervous and excited we both were. I’ll never forget (or wish to relive) going through the throes of constant morning/afternoon/night sickness every day for the first fourteen weeks. I’ll never forget experiencing the changes my body went through as my baby grew in my womb safe, protected and nourished. I’ll never forget the fear of actually having to give birth for the first time to a living, breathing, screaming newborn. I’ll never forget wondering why my Mother and my friends didn’t tell me how much it actually hurt to be in labor. I’ll never forget hearing my husband describe our child and how small and perfect she was. I’ll never forget the thoughts that overwhelmed me as I waited to hold her for the first time—thoughts that she’s here, she’s mine, she’s beautiful, now what? I’ll never forget that moment when the nurses handed my perfect bundle to me knowing that there was no turning back. I’ll never forget how exhilarating that moment was and how I can remember every detail even all these years later.
Two weeks old!
Eleven years. It doesn’t seem that long ago in some respects, but what has happened within those eleven years could fill volumes. My husband and I left the hospital with someone who has had to grow up with more responsibilities and expectations than many of her peers ever will. My child has had to witness and juggle things even we couldn’t anticipate as parents—to search for a brother who’s gone missing, to now be a few steps ahead of that brother making sure doors are locked to prevent another wandering and to always have one eye on or one ear open to where that brother is because he still has no clear concept of safety. No, her peers have no idea what it takes to be a support sibling. Peers will never know the screeches of a child in inconsolable pain. Those peers will never smell the stench of a diaper so foul it must be bagged, double bagged and triple bagged once removed. Her peers will never see the struggle that are sometimes daily but never shared. She’s been years ahead of her peers for a long time now. We pray she always will be.
Big Sis (top left) next to Ronan’s Best Mini Therapist;
Little Buddy, Littlest Sis and Ronan
As the oldest she’s got big shoes to fill—as the role model for the little ones, as the most capable of the typicals, as the most knowledgeable because of her experience, as the most helpful because I need her to be that.
She’s had to step in with diaper changes to keep her brother’s hands down and away from a massive blow out. She’s had to safely remove younger siblings to another room while a meltdown takes over the one where they were all playing. She’s had to miss parties, sleepovers, neighborhood events and team celebrations because our best made plans are never best or ever a guarantee. She’s learned patience, humility and inner strength without having to leave her own home. She’s grown up faster than I expected, but I couldn’t be more proud.
Ronan goes in for a hug from the proudest big sister ever.
Every day I am thankful for the chance to watch my daughter grow. I’m in awe that I get to be her Mom. I’m more amazed that she, as well as her siblings, has taken me all sorts of places and through so many experiences already. Without these children of mine, and especially without the arrival of my oldest, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.