When our son was born I remember holding him for the first time. I was proud and excited. I remember feeling a sense of ‘YES’ towards him. It was just because he was my son. No other reason and I loved him.
In the first six weeks of life, it would seem, a baby can’t see too far, so you can’t really lock each other’s gaze. As I stared at our newly born baby in those first weeks I remember hanging out for him to be able to see far enough (past his hands) to my face.
And he did. In his first year of his life he would look up with his big baby brown eyes and look deep into my eyes. I loved it. Happy moments. Then when Kiddo was around 14 months of age it started to stop. No more long looks. Within two months I could not get him to look me in the eyes. I would try but he would avert my gaze at all costs.
I felt shut out.
My wife flew into action, gaining a diagnosis of autism and swiftly downloading large amounts of information leading to early intervention as our plan of attack. I remember really struggling with grief and denial. I was afraid that all the dreams I had for our son may not eventuate. So I tried to explain it away as: ‘Just a phase he was going through…I am sure he will come good’.
I was sure my wife was over reacting with all her talk of autism and early intervention. I reluctantly ‘joined up’. I figured that it couldn’t do any harm erring on the safe side of immediate action.
Specialists and therapists at this time would try to give us an expectation of our sons future. ‘Your son may not ever be toilet trained, may not ever speak, may not marry, have kids or hold down a job’, is a pretty good summary of their comments.
To try and deal with my grief I would go to Church every Sunday night and cry all though the worship service. It was my outlet valve. It was a good church though and people would tell us to take courage and have hope. They didn’t avoid the issue with me and neither did they define me by it. I came away feeling strengthened and encouraged. It really helped me get through that initial period where grief was front and centre.
Which was good because I needed all of my energy-I still do. Keeping grief bottled up can, I believe, disengage, dis-empower and de-energise .
Now my son is barrelling towards his fifth birthday. I look back at those early days as being amongst the toughest times I have ever faced in my life. Now my grief has been replaced by joy. It’s the joy of an incredible relationship that was formed in the hardest of times. I got busy living with my son. I utilised every skill I had to be ‘IN’ my sons world. Now we are as connected to each other as any father and son could ever hope for.
I feel rich beyond measure.