Saturday, April 12, 2014

Chasing Rainbows and the Gift of Autism

Like Hannah, I asked the Lord for him (1 Samuel 1:1-28). Well, maybe not quite the same way.

I was alone in the long stretch of a hallway that led to our bedrooms. Pictures of my children, all my children, even my little one who lived a short life, spanned the length of the wall from end to end.

And the tears poured down because another month had gone by, and I still wasn't pregnant.

I had but one child now, my Bright Girl, already a preschooler, who was napping in her room.

I thought I was being quiet. I didn't want to disturb her with my sorrow.

But, I was longing for a rainbow baby. Another son after going through the storm of losing my Luke.

Standing under his picture, another wave of grief hit me. As I bowed my head to weep, I banged into the wall.


Bright Girl came out of her room and saw me rubbing my aching head. I'm sure my eyes were puffy, and I was still sniffling.

"What's wrong, Mama?" She peered up at me with her bright blue eyes. "Do you need your daddy?"

Ah, the wisdom of little children.

I nodded my head. "Yes. I need God, my Daddy in heaven." I held her close and prayed, asking if the Lord would indeed give me another son.

After that I stopped asking and stopped worrying about it.

And, the Lord did bless us with another pregnancy. Through an ultrasound, we discovered the baby was a another boy.  

At about five months into the pregnancy, something went wrong.  Billy was driving, and I was

sitting in the passenger seat of our SUV.  I heard a plop behind me where Bright Girl was seated.

“Mommy, please get my sippy cup,” she pleaded.

Reaching around the seat, I attempted to grab it, but, as I picked it up, I felt a searing pain in my abdomen. 

We arrived home a few moments later, and I rushed to the bathroom.

I had begun hemorrhaging and didn’t know what to do. 
I called out to Billy, and he helped me lay down on the bed. 

As I prayed that the Lord would not let me suffer sorrow upon sorrow, Billy dialed my obstetrician.

We went in for an ultrasound that same day and discovered a rupture between the baby’s egg sac and my uterus. On the ultrasound screen, in black-and-white, I could see the stream of blood trickling down from the tear.

“Will my baby die?” I felt my brow scrunch up.

“There’s about a 50% chance of survival," replied the doctor. "But, you’ll need strict bed rest until you heal up.”

That wasn’t complete assurance my baby would be okay, but nevertheless, I followed the doctor’s strict orders—for six weeks. To keep from feeling anxious, I prayed and wrote down my favorite Scriptures on note cards.

Most days, Bright Girl played with her toys next to me, and I lay on the futon in the living room, reading and praying.  Friends came and brought me magazines, books, and movies to help pass the time. 

After six weeks, an ultrasound revealed the rupture completely healed. 

My baby boy, my Little Man, was born a week after his due date with only two hours of labor. As soon as he was born, he opened up his bright blue eyes to take in this strange new world. 

The doctor laid him on my chest, and as I held him, I rested in awe of my Father God, who had given me such a beautiful child. To be able to hold him right when he was born and take him home with me was like a dream come true.

After his 12 month check-up and immunizations, our little boy came down with a 105 degree fever. We rushed him to a clinic and his fever came down with Tylenol, but after that day, something changed...

I couldn't seem to get a smile, good eye contact. There was an inward turn...

When we would look at him, he would turn his eyes away...

His desire to connect was fading. His growing vocabulary, screeched to a halt...

I felt like I was losing my son.

I kept thinking, this is not happening. But, it was all so subtle. Within a matter of months, he went from a happy, sociable little toddler to one who had constant meltdowns.

He became highly sensory-sensitive and couldn't even stand his own tears on his face and would try to scratch them away when he cried.

I wouldn't give him what he wanted unless he asked for it. He had to ask, either with his words or with baby signs that I taught him before he was one. He would get so frustrated with me. But, I wouldn't give in.

Looking back on that time, I know now that I was fighting for my son. To keep him from losing speech all together. To keep him from disconnecting from us.

Tired of my pediatrician saying he was fine, I took him to a child developmental specialist and a psychchiatrist when he was four.

Both gave him the diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). And, he was referred to an occupational therapist to receive sensory integration therapy.

He started to turn around...

The therapy helped some, but I had this gnawing feeling that it wasn't the right diagnosis. Even though SPD was hard enough to have, I thought Little Man had the mysterious epidemic that is plaguing so many children of this generation.


I pondered this in my heart, hoping that I was wrong. But, the concern grew as he did.

Even though, yes, he did talk, he flapped his arms when he was excited and still had trouble looking people in the eyes for more than a few seconds (I had to be quick with the camera to capture him at attention). 

And, he didn't seem to be "growing out of it." He needed more help.

So, when he was eight, I started asking around and connected with friends who had children with autism who had the same behaviors as my Little Man.

With a list of recommended doctors  in hand, I called until I found one that would see him. A neurologist. Surely a neurologist would finally put to rest my concerns for autism.

Before we went to the appointment, I prayed that the doctor would see it if he truly had autism.

And, she did.

She saw that he did.

So, the puzzle pieces finally came together. And, the picture was still my little boy. But, now I know he's autistic, and he has a long road ahead of him.

This is the son I asked for. My rainbow baby. I was chasing rainbows, hoping that having another son would help heal the ache of having a child who died.

But, it was a different kind of rainbow than I was dreaming of.

He has a disability. I didn't ask for that. But, I didn't ask for a child without disabilities either.

And, of course I still love him. He's mine. He's still my Little Man.

Then I saw it. In asking for another son, I was chasing rainbows, an elusive brilliance that fades away with changes circumstances like the clouds clearing from the sky, revealing the brightness of the sun. 

I didn't know it, but all along, I did have a rainbow. 

The rainbow inside my heart.

Through every sorrow, the love of God, my Father in heaven, has been shining in my heart, giving me the rainbow of a transformed life.

It's true. And, this rainbow is eternal.

In all the pain and suffering of life, when we trust in Christ, he gives us more faith, hope, and love. 

And He will do so even now.

There are always glimmers of grace if you look for them.

Evidences of our Father's presence and providence.

Our last visit to our new pediatrician, I saw a glimmer.

He asked Little Man what he wanted to be when he grew up.

"A Christian scientist." Little Man was serious.

"I believe that God divinely intervened to create us. I don't think we came from monkeys either." The doctor winked and patted him on the back.

Good answer. This pediatrician is a keeper.

And, I would agree. We are all here for a reason. God divinely intervened to create us.

We don't often think about the ways our souls have been damaged by the fall, our own sin, or the sins of others.

We need redemption...

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8:39)

We need restoration...

And, sometimes, it is through the valley of the shadow of death that the light of Christ shines all the more brightly (Psalm 23).

Through Christ, the Good Shepherd, our dark valleys of uncertainty can become a rainbow valley for our soul.

As we trust in Christ, rely on Him, and look to Him for all our needs, we will become more and more like Him.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Romans 8:28, 29)

In a way, everything, even hard things like autism, can be a blessing, a gift, if we continue to trust God and offer up our thanks to Him. He knows what He's doing. And, we can keep looking for those glimmers of grace along the way.