Regret.

A friend of mine had a baby not too long ago.  That baby is about four months old now.  My friend shares stories and photos and her excitement at being a new mama.  She is so full of innocence and love.  Who could blame her?  Her baby is beautiful.

A little over a week ago, she shared a short video of the baby interacting with her.  She would say something.  The baby would move his arms and legs like he was dancing, look at her, smile, and “goo-goo” and babble back when she stopped talking.  The cadence of their banter is unmistakable.  That baby babbles with meaning.  With purpose.  I can see that words are just around the corner.

She blows raspberries on his tummy.  He laughs.  He coos.

So that is what I was missing. 

Yes, six years later, in a short video clip, I saw, for the first time in my life, how another kind of baby interacts with his mama.  Ouch.

I didn’t see it with my own son.

I was blindsided.

That baby is adorable, and watching that baby and his mama cut me deeply.  Obviously, that was not her intent.  I loved seeing the video.  I had joy in the moment, knowing the sheer innocence and loving bond it represented.  And then I cried, silently, alone.

At the time of my own son’s birth, I had never cared for an infant.  I never babysat a child.  I never had a sibling.  No nephews, nieces, friends with children.  Nada.  I did not know that the child in my arms 24/7 was different.  I did not know we were missing milestones like I saw last week.

The interaction without words.

The mutual expressions of love.

I saw instant “reactions” during an exchange filled with love.

And I felt happy and sad, excitement and regret.  Regret that I was blind to see my own child was different earlier.  But what would have changed?  Would I have pursued a year or two of ABA?  How would I have found ABA then? Would I have found the people who have given my son so much?  They were not even located in our region then.  Would I have searched as deeply?  Would I have written about it?  I don’t know.  Would things be better, different, worse?

Regret and conjecture serves no purpose other than to beget sadness and doubt.

I pulled out an old baby album.  I cannot find any videos of him.  At all.  Is that strange?

I looked through photographs.  In the hundreds of pictures I took of my baby, most were of him sleeping.  Maybe because he looked so peaceful and I felt those moments were so rare.  In all those pictures, so few were with his eyes open.  In most of those, he looks dazed, surprised or confused.  There were only five I found where he was smiling.

Three were with his daddy.  Two were alone.  None were with me.

 People can be more forgiving than you can imagine.  But you have to forgive yourself. Let go of what’s bitter and move on.  – Bill Cosby

I don’t think I am bitter.  Sad is more like it.  But since that serves no purpose, I have to let go.

The beauty of those moments, the smiles there are captured for eternity.  There is a deep love between the boys in my life.

And for me, I feel the deepest, most fulfilling love of my life in my love for my son.  I feel enormous joy from his beautiful smile outside to the innocence of the inner core of his being.  I love all of him as he is, now and forever.

He’s grown.

He says, “I love you, mommy,” every day.

And I relish every syllable.  Because each one is a gift.  I understand that.

Regret is dead weight.  Gratitude lifts me up and brings me into the light.  In that light, I know how much I have to be grateful for.  I am lucky to be mother to the little boy I call my own.

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About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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21 Responses to Regret.

  1. Oh Wow. That was beautiful and sad and joyous and painful all at once. I think that it was good that you didn’t know he was any different earlier because you got to enjoy him for who he was without worrying about everything that us autism mamas worry about. I LOVE that he tells you that he loves you everyday, SO special 🙂

    • solodialogue says:

      I think you are right. Of course, like some autism mamas, there wasn’t much sleep, but other than that, I was extraordinarily happy. Blissful ignorance? Maybe. Can’t go back so why do I do this? I just have to let it go. Thanks Fi.

  2. Karen…I understand this so well. My son slept a lot and was somber a lot of the time. But n reading, I thought, “Just because he’s not smiling doesn’t mean he wasn’t happy.”.

    • solodialogue says:

      My son slept here and there but he was so beautiful sleeping (& still is) that I took a lot of pictures of him that way. I never noticed the lack of smiles til last night. Wow. But the ones that are captured melt my heart.

      There is a specific video we made when he was just about 4 months old. When I talked to hubs, he reminded me. We can’t find it. I remember making it. I don’t remember if he was happy. We are both looking for it now.

      You may be right. He was happy even without smiles? Otherwise I’d have had concerns earlier. How quickly both hubs & I have forgotten.

  3. Nikki says:

    I was like you, never babysat, no siblings, no idea what I was doing. All of my son’s physical milestones were met early, he looked at me and laughed (when I was doing something that really interested him). Everyone said he would start talking “when he was ready.” So…I waited until he was almost two. I wish I had acted a little earlier, but I also know that I did the best I could. It’s important to remind ourselves that whether or not it looks or sounds like “normal” love is irrelevant. If there’s anything we autism moms learn, it’s that smiles and eye contact do not equal love. They just don’t.

    • solodialogue says:

      It’s a good reminder Nikki that even with milestones met, autism can still be there and new moms should know what to look for – a good site for that is http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/actearly/

      For us, I will always understand those smiles to equal happy. I don’t think we needed the words for the love. That just is- like air we breathe- the love is there. Regret – I guess can serve only the purpose of helping others avoid the same. Thanks for sharing.

  4. This is a tough one because it’s both beautiful and sad at the same time. I know exactly how you feel. I still feel that twinge of regret when I see my friends typically developing children now. That doesn’t take away from how much I love my son. Acceptance is a hard place to get to. Especially on the days when our children struggle the most.

    • solodialogue says:

      I think you are right that underneath it all is that constant layer of acceptance. It takes on a lot of forms and jumps out when I don’t want it to. I guess I must just learn to face it and give it my own smile. That’s just really hard to do.

  5. Lisa says:

    This one really tugged at my heartstrings. I had a child to compare against, but I hadn’t reached that acceptance yet. Like you, I feel that sense of regret over the moments of connection that we missed.

    Your last 2 paragraphs say it all…I think we relish the moments so much more now…and we have a deep sense of gratitude about our boys. They are connecting and growing, and we get to see the beauty in that every day.

    • solodialogue says:

      I know regret is really not healthy unless it serves some good purpose, like maybe directing someone toward knowledge I wish I’d had. But I can’t help feeling what I feel. And it is weird to feel both the regret that I was oblivious with the deep love and pride for my child’s growth and strength.

      I’m glad you understand. Our boys are amazing and strong – even in moments of weakness.

  6. Mary says:

    I had a younger brother and sister, babysat, and my mother ran an in-home daycare. I still missed it. Mostly I think because the “signs” looked like normal development to me. Except when they didn’t. Then I took her to the doctors who smiled and told me everything was fine.

    My mother did try to tell the pediatrician something was wrong/different about me. He didn’t listen either.

    Even now our family doctors don’t believe that SPD or ADHD are real. They will write us plenty of notes for school and refer us wherever we want so we stay.

    If all these doctors don’t know, how could we be expected to know?

    • solodialogue says:

      You know, you do have a good point. I guess I’ve read so many posts from moms who did know very early on that I just attribute that to being most people. Maybe that’s just not so. Even my own pediatrician said nothing til my son was over 3.5. Interesting take as usual, Mary.

  7. I don’t have any kids but that is an amazing post.

  8. eof737 says:

    Karen, you have so much more now… let that part rest…. i understand. {{hugs}}

  9. Allie says:

    Dead weight. How right you are. Today I had a little moment of my own as John and I did our daily restraining of Cam to get him dressed. It was a kick in the gut reminder that we were on our way to not typical preschool, but special needs preschool. I had the backpack ready and wanted to get a pic of Cam on the front porch, like all the other mama’s do of their kids first day of school. It wasn’t happening. For the past two hours, that regret has been stuck to me….like a dead weight. I’m going to have to let it go.

    Could your post have been any more timely for me? 😉

  10. Oh Karen, you almost made me cry here. As I was reading this, I was reminded of when Joel was a baby. He was our third child, following two neurotypical children and I still didn’t see what was right before our eyes. He was so easy-going as a baby, very unlike his older siblings, but there were delays in his speech and I regret we didn’t see to that sooner. The important thing is that you love your child and ever since you became aware of the differences, you were on the ball and have done a wonderful job taking care of his needs.

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