Monday, April 03, 2006


My son Matthew was born at 2:25PM on the afternoon of February 2nd. He came into the world via C-Section, so he wasn't as squished and pasty as most newborns usually are after passing through a dark alleyway. He was kind of purplish. And the loud cry which traditionally marks the time when a newborn announces itself to the world wasn't there. Instead, he bleated like a sheep. I can't explain the feelings I had when he was born, not because I don't want to, but because the words fail me. I could ramble on for 10.000 words and never get to the heart of the matter. I could get one look from him and that look would speak more eloquently than a thousand Shakespeares.

My wife had a fever of over 100 for a couple of days so she didn't get to hold him until he was three days old. He had taken in some fluid during birth, and his bilirupin level was high, so he spent his first six days in the neonatal intensive care unit underneath a lamp which was probably used to hatch chicken eggs when babies didn't need it. I spent a good portion of my time in that room, reaching through an incubator opening, stroking his head, stroking his cheek, and telling him how happy I was to have him in the world. For the longest time I bore a scar on my hand from the heat lamp. I think it was that experience, my bonding with him before my wife could, that caused him to be closer to me than her.

It's one thing to romanticize that little squirming bundle of joy; it's another thing when the picture becomes reality and that little bundle of joy decides that he's hungry at 2AM. Now I'm all for 2AM snacks, but it's not like I can order a pizza and split it with the kid when all he wants to do is drink from the fount of many blessings. I was thrown up on and smelled things that no human should have to experience, although I am proud to say that I didn't receive a shower of blessing until he was five years old. I developed a strategy- have your wipes laid out, have your clean diaper open, count to three, hold your breath and move. Minimize the time that the dirty diaper was off.

Life is difficult with an infant; it becomes more challenging when the infant grows older and yet remains an infant. I've written frequently about life with an autistic child; I don't need to cover it again. I have often wondered when I would get the payoff, the parenting reward, the moments such as the first word when your child says "Daddy!" or "I love you!" for the first time and the troubles melt away for the joy of the moment. I haven't experienced those moments, but I have my reward. My reward is simply this- I have a son. My reward is the look; my reward is the embrace; my reward is my son coming to me for comfort when too many things are crashing into his autistic world.

I am proud of my son. He may enjoy going to the store with me, or the library, or the gas station; he may take my hand because he knows the security that my grasp will bring; but when we walk through the doors, I'm the one who smiles. After all, look who I'm with. Even when my son withdraws into himself and doesn't want to do anything except count whole wheat spaghetti noodles or Kool-Aid packets, there is joy. This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.


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