God does some weird things sometimes. Things that make you go hmmm. When I woke up in recovery at Mt. Sinai hospital, a mother for the second time, I had no idea the ride I was headed on that landed in Autismville. I knew there was something different about my son at about 2 weeks. I thought it was because he was a boy. I knew all about girls. What I didn’t know about them at the time (1990) was that 1 in 150 boys of all nationalities, all walks of life, would end up with Autism. I say end up, because some are normal until age 2. But my son was always the same. I’m kinda glad about that. Although you CAN miss what you never had. I digress. Now 1 in 50-68 people, both genders included, are diagnosed on “the spectrum”. The spectrum, in layman’s terms, is a scale from severe & profound moving upward to near savant, or genius status functionally. The underlying behaviors, however, is the common thread woven into their lives, and make Autism what it is. Usually only the closest of family members are privy to witness the behaviors often enough to accept them. I’m not sure we understand, but we try, then tolerate…it’s a process.
We are special caregivers. We are mothers. A special kind, with special needs children. So, there are a LOT more of us. There are mothers of children with physical and mental disabilities and a host of what are so called invisible disabilities because the affected person looks normal. I have met and connected with so many mom’s like me.
But this story is about the first mom I met who is a special needs mom. It was in that recovery room at Mt. Sinai on the west side of Chicago that we met again. Although my husband and I mostly grew up on the southside, and my Doctors office was there he worked at Mt. Sinai and both our children were born on the west side.
The recovery room was different from the first time I was there. I remember because it was dark with only enough room for a couple of gurneys. I was on one, and another mother who had just given birth was on the other. I remember thinking,
“It’s not happy in here. I want to be in a happy place! I just had a baby!” Just then, the other mother woke up. A nurse walked in, as if on cue from stage left.
“Ms. Thang?” She said approaching the other gurney. I’m thinking Ms. Thang? I know that name. (It was an unusual name, and I am respecting her privacy now. Many reading this know her)
“The doctor will be in to talk to you in a moment”.
“Is my baby alright? ”
(depends on what you mean by alright)
“Oh yes, you have a healthy baby boy”. The nurse said as she left.
“Ms. Thang? I know you! You sat behind me alphabetically all through high school!”
“Right!” Small world! Both south siders having baby boys on the west side with the same doctor! Old high school chums! (Nothing is ever coincidental when God is in your life)
Enter the doctor. In a sweeping motion he pulls a curtain that separates sight, but not sound. Certainly not the sound of Ms. Thang ‘ s heart when it shattered as it hit the floor.
“Ms. Thang how old are you?”
“Hmmm.” Usually over 40….Ms Thang is there any history of downs syndrome on either side of your child’s family?”
“Ms. Thang, your child has Downs syndrome” , I’m sorry. And then he unceremoniously left.
Ms. Thang was a silent weeper. She never said another word except yes, when I asked if she’d let me hold her hand and pray with her. I think God knew we were both mom’s of special needs children. Mom’s who on that day, had special needs. Hmmmmm.
I never saw or heard from my classmate again. But Happy Mother’s Day to Ms. Thang, and all the other special mom’s in my crew worldwide!
Angela Barnett Smith