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Firsts

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.

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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.

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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.



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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.

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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.

Comments

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Janice

Your daughter will be as blessed as she is a blessing, for she has learned what takes many of us a lifetime to learn - that it is the people in our lives that matter, and we are called to serve them. Most of us would not ask for the trials that have so painfully shaped us, yet we can find comfort in the knowledge that the chisel of life, when wielded by the hand of God, is producing a thing of beauty.

Allison

Happy Birthday to the eldest Jameson! My daughter will be 13 this week. She is 18 months younger~planned for and conceived before the bottom dropped out for her brother. She use to lament being the youngest. I've always told her she is in the unique position to be both: youngest in age, but oldest in terms of guidance and so many other things. From the very first, we've never shielded her from the hard stuff. After all, it always seems to be those who live through, learn from and triumph over hardship who become world changes and leaders! What is gained will be more than what is lost, I believe.

Someone commented not long ago that the powers that be are just waiting for the parents of this damaged generation to die off so they can get away with their crimes. I personally don't think the siblings will let that happen.

Thanks for the beautiful thoughts, Cathy.

jan houston

Our Pastor and his wife are celebrating their oldest daughter's 16th birthday this week. Their second and last child has down syndrome and autism. I am sure their oldest could relate to this very well.
I am so thankful for my oldest child. He was there when we needed him the most. Now that he is 20, my middle son is taking over the demands of being big brother to our youngest who has autism. These two oldest boys have been my "saving grace" more than once. And you are so right. They are light years ahead of their peers in caring for others.
Thanks for the post, and I hope your oldest has a great birthday!

Kristine

I am going to FB post this on my daughter's 12th birthday in a few weeks. It is her/our story as well. I posted on another AOA story (natalie's) the other day about how as I was on my way to pick up my girl from a day camp at the elementary school nearby, I got a text from her "watch B, there are lots of fire alarms here- the easy pull ones" Can't my daughter just go enjoy camp like a regular kid? No, she's worried about me and B and she knows a simple walk into an elementary school has the potential to be a complete disaster.
I have a lot of fond memories of my daughter's early days as well. It was and is so easy to be her parent. I'd like to think she's a better person having B as a brother, but actually I'm not so sure. It may be something that people say to make it sound okay that a 12 year old has so many concerns and responsibilities.

Jeannette Bishop

Happy 11th birthday to your daughter! Thank you for sharing how beautiful she is, inside and out.

Jacqueline VW

I love reading your posts every Sunday. What you have to share is relatable, beautiful, and often lends new perspective into our family's journey with autism. It is within the walls of our homes that the real, hard work is always happening. As a result of the daily reality within the walls of your home, your daughter has forged a strength of character that many of her peers will not know until decades later in life. I know sometimes I entertain fear or guilt that my other two children are forced to grow up quicker than they should, and that they are missing out on some of their childhoods. It may be true to some extent, but they are going to grow up with a greater depth of maturity and compassion that their peers won't have. For that, I envy the siblings of our children on the spectrum. It wasn't until I had a child with special needs that I began to grasp some of the things that my kids will grow up knowing. Blessings to you and your family.

Barbara Tompkins

Cathy, I feel so fortunate to have had the privilege of living nearby during the beginning of your family life. I'm so proud of Fiona, also. I'm awed by your beautiful feelings for your daughter and so happy you can express them so well. God bless your family, each and every one. Now that we are no longer near each other, I remain your friend in prayer. Barbara

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