The turning point. Oh! I missed one important factor- Encouraging relatives!! When I was told by relatives to have my second child, I was always hesitant and I didn’t feel ready. I felt I was struggling as a mother. We had not received any diagnosis and frankly we felt our son just needed more time. I feared that if it is some dominant gene playing out, I may have to go through the grind of tantrums and outburst all over again with my second. However during this period when I was in India my cousin visited with her 4-month baby who was just trying to crawl. My son was 3+ years then and he was sitting a bit away, pushing his favorite little Lightning McQueen towards the little baby and excitedly talking. He even walked right beside me very concerned, while I was consoling the baby. Those moments are still so vivid; his excitement and warmth were something I just couldn’t stop noticing. At that moment I felt I was ready to go through the grind all over again. The expressions of care and concern I saw was not something I had witnessed before. I knew then he would be an amazing brother.
The albatross. After reading my post the- Atypical Calling, I got messages from mothers who had children on the spectrum tell me that they are not finding it easy to take the plunge, second time round. It is too scary; too risky. If it is in the genes; it will show up again! Even if we try and be as positive as possible, the fact that we have to constantly be there emotionally and time-wise for our child with ASD, just makes it a challenging decision. How can we divide our time and energies without feeling guilty all the time? In my case, it was pure luck that I didn’t have to be at such crossroads. I was just into the pregnancy when we recieved the report from OT and eventually the autism diagnosis. The second plunge was done! What followed was quite atypical. I used to google “what causes autism?” rather than do a recap on what to expect in the trimesters! From nourishing food to supplements to keeping away from EMF radiation as much as possible; I tried my best to do everything right. I tried to stay away from everything that would otherwise stress me out. I didn’t go to my son’s Occupational Therapist and I read the assessment report in bits! It was during that time that I actually offloaded my first child and his needs to my husband. At the time our son used to have an average of two tantrums a day and as the pregnancy progressed it wasn’t easy to be near him with all the kicking and hitting. The possible genetic predisposition to autism was like an albatross around my neck. The burden of my elder son’s diagnosis only became more after the birth of my second child. Every milestone of my second son was being tracked. To be sure I didn’t miss anything I got him enrolled into playgroup at 18 months and constantly asked teachers about his development. Though I felt guilty, I enrolled him into an after-school-activity that used all occupational therapy kind of activities and I tracked his progress with the instructor there. We kept him dairy free and gluten free by almost 80% until he was 3 years of age. We gave him all the vaccines but didn’t want to take any chances with the MMR. Whether reports were true or not about MMR vaccine injury we decided to delay this vaccine until he crossed 3 years of age. He will be 4 soon and by the grace of God, is very neuro-typical. I feel a lot lighter now-no burden!
The connect. My elder son has been a wonderful brother right from the moment he had his sibling in his arms. He loves his little brother and finds his anchor in him. He is amazed by his litle brother constantly exploring, questioning, cooking up stories, and wanting to try every food he sees! The presence of his sibling has helped him in more ways than I could imagine. For children on the spectrum lying, strategizing is not as natural as it is for their neuro-typical peers. When the younger one lies to get away with his prank, it is an absolute revelation for the elder one! Understanding social cues and responding to them is another huge issue for my son and we now have enough oppurtunities to expose him with! The birth of our second child was an intervention in itself; I think the best intervention of all and we feel blessed.
Yes, it is definitely not the easiest plunge and the albatross will hang too. You don’t need the encouraging relative nor the skepticism; you only need your instincts to rule you.