John and I started trying for baby number two in 2001. I was 33, and it had not taken me long to conceive Imani, so we were not thinking that this would take long either. We were excited about the possibility of growing our family, and things for us were good. John was doing very well at his job and making good money. My freelance and teaching career was going well. We had just bought an apartment in a wonderful neighborhood. Life felt easy for the first time ever for us, so we planned to have another baby.
You know the old saying: man plans and God laughs. Well, God cracked up for sure on this plan. He may still be laughing…
Tuesday, September 11, 2001 was a gorgeous day. Neither John nor I had to work that day and Imani had not yet started pre-school. The phone rang early and woke John. It was my mom in Philadelphia, telling us that it seemed someone was dropping bombs on the World Trade Center. In his very groggy state, John assured my mom that he would go check the news to see what was up. Was my mom serious? How could anything like that happen?
John stomped down the hall and around the corner to the living room where our tv was. Within a few seconds, I heard my normally soft spoken husband scream — yes, scream — my name. I flew out of bed and arrived to see the second tower hit by a plane (John says it was footage, but I believe it was the actual occurence). Regardless, that sight changed my life forever. We learned quickly that both tower of the WTC had been hit, and then we learned about the Pentagon and the field in PA. It was all shocking and devastating. Imani, though we tried to keep it from her, was traumatized by it all. Our family was rocked back.
The rest of this experience is for another time and another blog entry. The main point is that John and I put our baby plans on hold after this horrifying experience. The world just didn’t seem like a safe place to bring another life into the world. We decided to wait.
Within a few months, it was clear that our financial situation was beginning to falter. For various reasons, both John and I lost large amounts of our annual income. Also, the quest for a baby, which resumed in early 2002, became questionable. I couldn’t seem to conceive. I wondered what was wrong with me. Stress? Age (I was only 33…)? I couldn’t figure it out. Then, a friend of mine who was pregnant suggested that I stop drinking coffee. Crazy, right? I did it anyway.
I got pregnant in June. My pregnancy was difficult from day one. I had fatigue and morning sickness to beat the band, all while I had lots of work to do and no way of putting anything on hold. At 20 weeks, I had a sonogram and learned that I was carrying a boy. Imani and I were overjoyed! John, having been the man of the house, had wanted another girl (to be surrounded by women… go figure.). So, we prepared for the arrival of our Iain Alexander.
My pregnancy continued to be difficult throughout its duration. The sciatica was excruciating! Still, I played a full length solo recital at 32 weeks of pregnancy. I stopped working well in advance of my due date of 3/21 (Bach’s birthday!). Iain, ever the imp, was born 9 days early! I’m glad he was. He was still 8 lbs. 3 oz. Had he gone to term he would have topped 10 pounds! No thank you…
The early days of having two kids was hard for me. John was working long hours and was really stressed out about his work. I wasn’t able to bring money in for the family, and taking care of a five year old and a newborn was remarkably hard. I took solace in the beauty of my babies. They were a blessing.
All along, I tried not to compare Iain to Imani. Imani had been so advanced as a baby and toddler. I didn’t want to put that on Iain. So I constantly asked the doctor, is he normal? He was the whole time. He reached every milestone on time. All was well, but something nagged at me.
At 2 1/2, I began to notice that Iain wasn’t maintaining eye contact as much as he had. So did my friends. He also seemed to be slowing down in his development. A friend who works with kids suggested that I have him evaluated, so I made an appointment. That appointment was the beginning of years of evaluations, tests, trips to the neurologist, and two years of special ed preschool.
I was told that Iain was autistic. It felt like someone had dropped a house on my head. I was devastated and John, God bless him, was in denial.
We were told to mourn the child we thought we’d had. We were constantly told to lower our expectations and that there were things Iain would simply never do. My response was simple: bullshit. They may know autism, but they didn’t know my son. I did and I still do. My little man was not going to be pushed aside and treated like a disabled kid. He had more potential than anyone could see and I wasn’t going to stop fighting for him. I never have.
Everything we were told he couldn’t do, he has done — in spades. Today, Iain is integrated into a regular ed classroom, with some small group time and a para pro for support. He has friends, he is a cub scout, he does art, swimming, and takes music lessons. Yes, Iain is different, but he is far more “normal” than he is different. He talks and communicates very well. I think he’s pretty freakin’ brilliant, and most folks agree with me.
This morning, I walked him to the end of the driveway to get the bus. I told him I love him. He said, “I love you too, mama.” I waited until he was four to hear him say those words. Now he says them every day. Everyday is a miracle with Iain. He is a blessing in my life and I know he will grow up to do great things. I have no doubt that he can marry and have a family someday, if he wants to. I know there is a woman destined to love my son as a man, just as I love him as my little man.
My little man is a success story. Not every day is good, but most days are just fine. I will never stop fighting for him to have all he needs. I will always be here to love him, guide him, and to tell him never to give up. He may have autism, but autism doesn’t have him. The world isn’t ready for the awesomeness of my Iain. They’d better catch up.