I stepped backward and tried to understand what was happening. Why had he acted as if he were falling when he was on perfectly solid ground? I was concerned I might have injured him without knowing it but wasn't sure if I should feel guilty for the injury or feel hurt myself, for having been rejected. I had tried to go where I wasn't wanted. I tried to reason that Walker's birth had been three weeks early. Doctors didn't make much of it, but perhaps he was premature in ways I didn't understand.
When Walker awakened, later that day, I stood above him, watching. He gently looked up and I had the sense for the first time he might be trying to smile at me. From such moments, I was able to keep worry at bay for days, or at least hours.
Remember. Be patient. Boys are slower. He will show himself, in time. Anyway, if time wasn't for growing up, what was it for, then?
Yet by the time Walker was four weeks old, concern about his moods--was it possible for a baby to be in a depression?--or even concern about his feelings for me, seemed a luxury, a preoccupation too precious to be concerned with. His breathing, which in the first days had rattled a bit, grew so labored that he could barely sleep at night. He startled himself awake just to gather breath, seemed often only able to sleep between gasps. We called our HMO constantly and visited often. The doctors insisted there was nothing seriously wrong.
During this period, I became concerned about sudden infant death syndrome, which, in recent years, had been associated with respiratory failure. Convinced that Walker was a candidate, Cliff and I kept Walker in bed between us. (Books had argued that if there was no "crib," there would be no "crib death.") I elevated his head on my arm, taught myself to wake up if the spells of holding his breath lasted too long.
Walker didn't relate to us much the winter he was two and three months old, yet he was so uncomfortable, who would expect him to? Still, I wondered why he was so weak-seeming. His head was like a pumpkin weighing down a thin vine. The doctor said he was "perfect."
The way I describe our worries suggests that we were wringing our hands constantly, making doctors' appointments at every turn, feeling hopeless. I did call the HMO many nights because Walker couldn't breathe, and I knew something was wrong, yet most of our days were routine, everyday. Walker nursed, Elizabeth came home from preschool. We attended holiday parties. The larger issues were often overshadowed, obscured by day-to-day responsibilities--the phone ringing, cleaning and laundry. Those bigger questions: When does the soul enter the baby? Does it evolve with growing awareness? Is the soul born at conception or when the body is born? What is the key to the mystery of relationships? How do you know a baby? How do a mother and child come together without language? Answers, or even the reason I might be pondering such heavy concerns, were difficult to pin down-smoke blowing away in the wind.
Moreover, during this time I was beginning to wonder about my own life: I'd had a second child. What would I do in two or three years, when the baby was more independent? Would I continue to teach, or write more?
Still, in spite of our worries, Walker was a sweet baby--especially charming in sleep, when his face softened and his tiny red hands, usually clenched, opened a bit to show a lifeline. In spite of his strange poses, Walker was growing handsome; our neighbor insisted he looked like James Dean, especially in the handmade brown or red cotton berets a friend had sewn to keep his head warm.
By the time he was four months old, Walker was looking at us occasionally. We sometimes wondered if he was farsighted, since usually we were only able to win his attention from across the room or if we stood above him, never up close. Once or twice, his gaze was so intense as to be disarming, as though he was looking right into us; yet most of the time he seemed only vaguely interested.
From The Boy Who Loved Windows: Opening the Heart and Mind of a Child Threatened With Autism by Patricia Stacey. Copyright Patricia Stacey 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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