It was an ordinary day. I had been cleaning the house all morning, and by cleaning, I mean it seemed as though I had cleaned up the same toys, crayons, and puzzles at least nine hundred and sixty-four times. I had also wiped up the crumbs and spills from the high chairs, coffee table, and carpet countless times since I had peeled myself out of bed that morning at the urging of my insomniac daughter, who, by the way, truly believed that 4:00 a.m. was straight-up playtime. I don’t know how, but I had even managed to read my angels several storybooks, play games, and sing songs. All of this I somehow accomplished between the cleaning, bill paying, phone calls, washing, folding, and putting away endless loads of laundry, making meals, and mediating the differences among three children under the age of four. Pretty much, in my estimation, saving the world. It was only 10:00 a.m. Ordinary. I felt like a zombie. I couldn’t wait for nap time.
By 10:15, faces had been washed, hands cleaned, diapers changed, binkies inserted into whiny mouths, and blankies placed next to chubby faces already drifting off to sleep in their cribs. I managed to eek out a few verses of “Hush Little Baby” before sneaking away. On this particular day, I was especially spent. I tip-toed out into the family room, sank into the couch pillows, and exhaled. And exhaled again. I closed my eyes. I turned on the t.v. I needed to zone out. It was only twenty minutes into nap time when my eighteen-month-old son began to cry. Scream, actually. I immediately jumped to my feet and ran into the nursery to retrieve him before he could wake up his twin. I quickly picked him up from his crib and closed the bedroom door. He was sobbing and inconsolable. I carried him to the couch and rocked him, trying to comfort and quiet him. He kept crying. I tried singing a lullaby, patting his back, walking him around the room as he cried on my shoulder. He cried even harder. He cried for what seemed like forever. I felt awful. And helpless. I could do nothing to calm my son. It seemed like an eternity before his crying subsided. Then he lay in my arms, chest heaving, small whimpers still echoing in the room. This was becoming more regular. I knew something was wrong.
The thing is, I didn’t know what was wrong. I told the pediatrician. Apparently, it was really nothing and it was “normal”. Hugh? Something didn’t gel. In addition to his recent sleep disturbances, my son had also begun to lose some of his already limited language. Until about 18 months, his language acquisition had been normal. He had been using two-word phrases and even a few very short sentences. Then, one day, his language began to fade. He began to jabber nonsense words and have terrible tantrums. It was hard for me to understand what he was trying to say. His social behaviors changed. He started to play with his toys differently and became obsessed with dinosaurs. He had to carry them wherever he went. He lined up his toy cars, over and over again. He flapped his arms and chewed his clothing. He could pet a stuffed animal for an hour. These behaviors were, according to the doctor, not out of the range of typical development for a toddler his age. Something was wrong. I knew it. No one else understood me when I expressed my concerns. I was talking to walls. I tried pushing away the nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was just oversensitive, maybe even possibly paranoid. A worrier. But I couldn’t shake it. Something was amiss. Call it a mother’s intuition. I left my pediatrician.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines intuition as “a natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without any proof or evidence”. How is it possible that I knew that something about my baby’s behavior was awry? According to a few doctors, he was a typical toddler and his behaviors fell into the “normal” range of development. It wasn’t until the following year when his development was clearly no longer in the “typical range” that my fears were realized and my concerns validated. It had been glaringly clear to me that my son was different. It took a while for others to believe me. Autism was just a small blip on the radar in 1997.
Intuition is a magical thing. It can alert us to danger, prevent us from making mistakes, and even save our lives. It can also deceive our thinking and cloud our judgments. Intuition is a funny thing.
What does any of this have to do with my quest for Truth, investigation of religion, the heart of God, or the spiritual realm? A lot. Part II coming up.