He picked up the dry stick, looked at it with eyes full of wonder, and absentmindedly smiled. I looked from my kitchen window, wondering, what he was looking so closely at. What was on that piece of twig? I tip toed out, my curiosity knew no bounds. I called him, and an angel face turned and broke into a huge grin. I squatted down in front of him, pointed to the dry twig and asked, "Honey, what is in there". He said, "Nothing Ma." The answer took me aback; I expected a imaginary answer or even may be a real bug, or something which would have given weight-age to my thoughts. "Nothing", was not what I wanted to hear. Dissolving my frustration, I stood up. Patted his hair and asked if he was ready to have a snack. His big brown eyes scanned my face, could feel him trying to lift the curtains of my hidden feelings. He just said, "Yes, Ma, I want a bag of chips". Chips it was; this and a few such unrelated incidents kept playing havoc in my logical mind.
Let me introduce myself. I am Ann and this is my first born baby, Dan. He came with lots of fan fare, as he was the first grandchild of his generation. A very celebrated soul, through him I could see the sun rise and the moon shine. Being a mother for the first time was an experience in itself and with that came a feeling so much uncharted that made me feel paranoid most of the time. I started looking at minuscule things in my little boy's day to day life, which just was different. My in-laws and parents were doting grandparents; they did not share my feelings, and often washed my concerns with a healthy dose of advice of being a first time mother. I agree, I was learning and taking my new designation with a lot of book attained theories and knowledge, but still that nagging feeling kept pestering my heart from time to time.
Seasons changed, while time was on wings, I became a proud mom of a five-year-old kindergartner. Dan was a very friendly soul. He could talk with anyone, especially with people who were older than him. I did not see that as an issue for him, not being able to get along with his peers. He showed symptoms of separation anxiety, which all said was very common for a child starting school. Dan had been to pre-school for some time, then why was he feeling this way. I could not get myself back into my apartment. Every day when my baby boarded the bus he asked me, "Ma, I am coming back, right"? Guilt was overtaking me and felt drowning in that emotion. I rode on the self-destructive train every day. That had the menacing repercussion of me getting angry on my child's in- capabilities. This made him coil up and shut himself. The more I pushed the more confused and isolated he would tend to be.
One day I found a health magazine in a pile of books in my house, out of curiosity I leafed through it, and bam there it was ADHD. I could not take my eyes off the article and all I could do, was sit numb. My thoughts turned into a violent storm and they were repeatedly sweeping me up and thrashing me down on all surfaces possible. I called up my pediatrician, took an appointment and then decided to test my theory. I sat down with her and told her the whole story, even the ones I was getting from school. “Dan is a sweet child”, they said, “but he cannot answer simple questions and does not play with the kids in class”. The doctor was a sharp lady and she did not jump into any conclusion. She wanted to test every possibility and for any kind of explanation there might exist.
Days turned to weeks and then weeks to months, with number of visits to different kinds of behavioral specialists and social workers, who dissected and operated on our lives and all that were attached to it. Dan and I developed out own routine to deal with all these strangers poking around. The day of the verdict arrived. I drove to the doctor's office, keeping a steady reign on my heart which was doing a wild trapeze, while my precious Dan in his car seat at the back, busy with one of his power ranger figures. While waiting in the room for my doctor to appear, I lived a thousand lives, every time my little soul looked at me, my lips would quiver and tug till they formed a crescent for him to see and believe in.
The pediatrician came in, greeted us, and instantly started chatting with Dan. She looked at me and said, “Ann, you have a very special child here.” I pressed my lips together waiting for the blow and clenched my fist to shut it off. She lisped and I did not hear. She used words like Aspergers- syndrome, and learning disability in the same sentence. Many of the diction just flew over my head, some hit my heart and some fumbled my brain. I looked at my child and then at the doctor. She rose from her seat, sat down beside me, and said, "Ann, it is not the end of the world, he is a bright child and he is in the upper spectrum of Autism". That threw me off, and I was stoned. I listened to her, the rest of her advice and her directions and even asked a few questions. Then I picked my baby, held his hand and walked out of the door of the doctor's office. I gently helped him sit in his car seat, helped with his belt, gave his snack pack and took my seat in front of the car. Then it all came like torrents, flooding me in an insane rush of guilt, anguish, shame, fear and anger. As if a black hole opened up in front of me and was swallowing me in its abyss. My body racked with pain and I howled and cried, unstoppable and uncontrollably. I was blaming myself and all my loved ones to bring this day upon me. After what seemed eternity, I could hear a different cry, a more anguished sound which my heart recognized and my mind reeled me back to the present. Dan was crying out for me, thinking I was hurt and was stretching his chubby hands out calling out over and over again, "Ma don't cry, I will be a good boy".
Reflex kicked in, I got out of the car and into the back seat, held my baby, and crooned to him, "Hush darling, hush love, it is not you, you are my good child." I felt so ashamed of what I did, from that second on, I promised to the life I was holding, I will be there for him in every sense of the word. Self-pity had no place in our relationship, he was given to me for a reason, and I will make that happen for him. Then started a journey of Dan and me, many times swimming against the current and cutting against the gain, but as we had decided, we would never give up or never give in.
This is just the beginning of a long haul we have traveled and yet the story has not reached its goal....
Anumita Chatterjee Roy (Moon)
Picture Courtesy: Sayantan Sarkar
Submitted by Anumita Chatter... on Thu, 05/03/2012 - 14:04