It was a terrible week. I’d been up working for 28 of the previous 33 hours and had just missed my first Ohio State football game in almost a decade. As I get home, I receive a call from mom. She said that Grandpa was very ill and in the hospital. Amber and I immediately left to see him. I held Cailyn as we were walking through the parking lot.
“I can barely keep my eyes open. I need some coffee. Do you want some?” I asked.
“No thanks. I’m staying away from caffeine.” Was her response, which shouldn’t have been strange at all. Except, something was off in the way she said it.
“Are you pregnant?” I said, halfway joking.
Her smile stopped me dead in my tracks.
We had tried to plan it all, years earlier. We’d have a girl, first. Next, we hoped to have a boy around the time that his sister would be out of diapers, able to listen to instructions, and help out with little brother. Autism wasn’t in the plan, but part two had already been set into motion just weeks prior to the epiphany that rocked our lives. Had Amber and I stuck to the 18 month planned evaluation for Cailyn, thoughts of a second child would have surely been postponed.
After we got our head around Cailyn’s condition, our next thought went to the person developing inside Amber. Would having another child be fair to Cailyn? We were going to lose the ability to give her the one-on-one attention she so desperately needed. How would this affect the new baby? It seemed unfair all around. Then came the question that would haunt us for the foreseeable future…
“Would our second child have Autism too?”
In retrospect, it’s one of my most hideous mistakes. One of the most beautiful and healthily apprehensive periods of a couple’s life are the nine months leading to the birth of their baby. Autism was a vacuum, sucking out the joy of this pregnancy and filling the space with our pitiful efforts to control something, anything in our life.
Then we heard the phrase “It’s a boy.”
Autism may affect approximately 1 in every 110 children but, according to a recent Autism Speaks study, a boy with an older Autistic sibling has a 1 in 4 chance of also bearing the affliction.
We concocted what I refer to as the “Constanza Plan,” based on an episode of Seinfeld, where George found success by doing everything opposite of his first instinct. We knew genetics played a role in Autism, but we also knew environment was a factor. By reversing our approach on even the most trivial guilts (a subject for another day) we held onto from Cailyn’s pregnancy and infancy, perhaps we could avoid Autism the second time around.
In hindsight, I’m convinced that our efforts were frivolous.
Although the same blood runs through them, Dalton is the polar opposite of his sister. This is true in everything from looks, to their personality, development, and even preferences. Where Cailyn was independent and content, he is needy and a bit of a whiner. Where his sister was distant and somewhat cold, Dalton is warm and in your space. Cailyn was active and advanced in her gross motor movements whereas Dalton is a lazy lump of boy, but he sure loves social interaction.
You see, God was gracious enough to humor me in this answer to my prayers. If I couldn’t escape the prison of worry that I built up in my mind, He’d crumble the walls around me. I didn’t have the ability to impartially assess the weight of similarities between my children, so He created them entirely different. I couldn’t have loved another Cailyn to the extent that I love her. So, I was gifted a son that gave me every opportunity to love him in very unique, yet completely equal ways.
Dalton may yet acquire the diagnosis of his sister. In his infancy, however, I’ve been given a precious gift. I’ve had an opportunity to repair a regret in my life, and get a second chance for time with my son that has been almost completely void of the demons that tormented me while he was being formed in his mother’s womb.
He and I are taking every advantage of that opportunity.