I have been spending a lot of time looking through old photos. My goal for 2017 is to finally print off all the 1000’s of pictures I have taken over the past 6 years and stick them in albums. The task is a bit daunting.But, it’s important to me to get it done.
I am a bit snap happy. I love pictures. I love pretty pictures and funny pictures and even the ones where my little family looks absolutely bonkers. And I especially love showing what autism looks like to us. It’s fascinating. And beautiful and sad. And sharing our story has become one of my favorite things.
Anyhow, I have been looking at pictures of my beautiful boys. And I noticed that something seemed off.
I started to notice a theme. So many tears from Cooper. He is in constant motion. He is often screaming. He always has a nuk in. He isn’t making eye contact. Arms are flapping.
The pictures are a constant blur.
I look so stressed out.
Then it hit me.
I’ve been lying to myself for years.
Lying to friends and family.
And it all came rushing back.
Cooper didn’t acknowledge that I was pregnant with his brother. There were no belly kisses or hugs. Even today at age 6 I don’t think he would acknowledge a pregnancy. Cognitively he isn’t there.
Everyone would ask…is Cooper excited to be a big brother. I would lie. Yes, I would say. Or if I told the truth people would say something like…’well, he’s a boy. Boys are different.’
Then his brother was born. My parents brought Cooper to the hospital to visit.He ran up and down the halls screaming. He had just turned two.
Something was off. He didn’t seem to even notice the baby. It was almost like he didn’t notice any of us. He tried to tear the sheets off of my hospital bed. He turned the lights on and off. He pushed the bassinet into the wall.
I tried to get him to sit with me and Sawyer for a picture. He started flailing and hitting himself in the head. My anxiety sky rocketed. I was so sore. I was holding a tiny baby. And I had a 2 year old losing his shit next to me.
I remember nurses staring. Fellow patients peeked in the room to see what was going on. I started sweating.
I remember giggling with a feeling of dread in my stomach. I was terrified. I knew something was off.
People would be quick to say…’It will come. Some boys are just not maternal.’ Or my other favorites…’Boys are late bloomers.’ Or, ‘Boys will be boys.’
I remember being so thankful when my parents left the hospital with Cooper. That sounds so terrible. I was exhausted. Cooper hadn’t slept through the night yet. Meaning, I hadn’t slept through the night for 2 years. I had just given birth. And my 2 year old was tearing apart my hospital room like he was possessed.
I remember thinking….I need to stay here. I can’t go home.
Obviously I did though. The first night home my newborn slept through the night. Jamie and I played musical beds with Cooper. He woke up 8 times that night.
When I tell the story of Sawyer’s first night I always say that sweet little Sawyer slept from 8 pm to 8 am and woke up with a stretch and a smile. Jamie and I were on the verge of death. We had been up the whole entire night. Sawyer looked at us like we were crazy.
That was the beginning of the year I faked everything.
I faked it all. For years. Happiness. Sanity. Joy. I faked being a happy mother. I pretended my son was fine. I pretended like I wasn’t so consumed with fear I couldn’t sleep at night.
I lost so much weight. I had bags under my eyes. I looked like I had been through hell.
And I just kept faking. I smiled my way through well child visits and play dates. I had perfected lying about my son. And in the most messed up way people believed me. They believed I was fine. They believed Cooper was going to be fine.
They believed me because I appeared happy. I never gave up. I kept going.
I just had to keep smiling. I had to be one step ahead of Cooper at all times. I felt like a puppet on a string. I was overcompensating for his speech delay. For his constant crying. For his TV watching and obsession with trains.
I faked big things too. Hell, I faked whole milestones.
I faked Halloween. Cooper refused to dress up. We had plans to take him trick-or-treating and he screamed so terribly when I put his costume on him it actually ripped down the back. We never even left the house.
I got the picture though. I staged it later. Notice the Christmas tree.
I faked his 2nd birthday. We threw him party but he refused participate.We had friends and family over. The party was Thomas the Train themed. Cooper screamed until he fell asleep. We took these pictures weeks after his party.
I remember feeling crushed. I wanted to do all of the things that mothers are supposed to do with their babies. I felt robbed.
So I faked it.
Looking back I feel so silly about it. Who cares right? I did though. Lord I cared. I wanted the baby and the life that I had pictured.
I started scrolling through more pictures and memories of that year came flooding back.
Constant tears from Cooper. He was so stressed out all of the time. I don’t even recognize myself in these pictures. I was a shell.
Ages 2 to 4 were the hardest. Pre-diagnosis. Denial. Grief. Exhaustion. You name it and I had it.
So when did I stop faking? I would say 6 months ago. I stopped lying to myself. And lying about my son.
I started telling the utter honest truth. And I felt like a weight had been lifted.
Now I get pictures like this one from Christmas Eve. It actually turned out too!