There are four years between my kids.
My husband Neal and I joke there were “severe negotiations” going on during that time.
He wanted one child. I wanted two.
I guess you could say I prevailed. But I don’t look at it that way and neither does Neal. In the years since our second child was born we have come to understand more and more why marriage is called a partnership. We work to help each other achieve our goals, our dreams, and together, make the life we have imagined.
Since I can remember I always wanted to be a mother and have two children, a boy and a girl.
I just have and I have been so fortunate the man I have loved for 27 years, who has been my husband for almost 23 of those years was selfless enough to put aside what he thought he wanted and let me have what I wanted. It is my sincerest desire that he can say that I too have done that for him.
The birth of our daughter Meg, just a few minutes after midnight on June 30th, seventeen years ago completed our family and the years spent watching our two children grow has been the most awesome experience of my life. And when Neal says he feels the same way, well, I simply cannot imagine anything more rewarding. I just can’t.
Now let me tell you more of why Neal was, and justifiably, anxious about having a second child.
Our son, Ted, has Aspergers.
Now, I wrote that and it doesn’t sound so bad. Aspergers. Okay. My point?
When I got pregnant we didn’t know Teddy had Aspergers. We just knew something was happening with our child. He was, well, different.
He was challenging.
He was puzzling.
He wore me out.
I even changed my mind about being a stay-at-home mom, and after 32 months home, went back to work.
Because it was easier.
Working full-time was easier than staying home with Teddy.
There, I said it.
I also believed that I had not done very well as a mother. That conclusion was gut-wrenching because as I said earlier, I always wanted to be a mom and I felt like I had failed and I believed that a preschool, with teachers who knew more than I did about child development, would do a better job.
Yet, despite Teddy’s behavioral challenges and my insecurities, deep inside me, in that place that speaks louder than logic, was the very strong desire for another child.
Kinda crazy, huh?
See why Neal had concerns.
We talked. We talked about everything we were feeling. And as we talked, despite all our worries about Teddy, I still wanted baby #2. And he understood.
So we got pregnant.
By mid-November 1994 we were expecting another child and by January Teddy’s preschool was reporting that he was not adjusting at all. The story I most clearly remember was how daily, after they set up the lunch table, 3-year-old Teddy would find his lunch box, move it to a table in the far corner of the classroom and eat with his back to the class. When asked about this he said,
I just want to eat in peace.
Four months of Teddy being in a university run preschool program taught me I was not crazy and his teachers, three loving, caring women I was fortunate enough to have care for my child, convinced me I was not a terrible mother.
And suddenly the reprieve I got from going back to work was over. We began our journey for a diagnosis.
We spent from February 1995 until the week before the baby was due trying to get a diagnosis. It’s not a fast process. You get a referral, make an appointment, wait weeks for the appointment, go to the appointment, they look at your kid, write down some notes, you schedule a follow-up appointment, wait more weeks and then go back to hear their conclusions. We went through this process twice.
The first psychologist’s conclusion was Teddy had ADHD. I listened. I looked at the report and the treatment suggestions. I said nothing. I then went out and bought books on ADHD and read them. My conclusion, “Close but not there.”
So we started the process over again with Psychologist #2 and his conclusion was “Teddy is really smart and needs to go to Montessori School.” I sat there and smiled at him and on the inside I felt my self-confidence as a mother grow. “What an idiot,” I could hear myself saying.
This was one week before our due date. We packed up and left the guy’s office and gave up on having a diagnosis before the baby.
We switched our attention to the four of us. As soon as the baby was born I was going on maternity leave and Teddy would be back home with me. I was looking forward to not worrying about Teddy. Ironic that I put him in preschool because I worried about him being with me, and after I did, I worried about him not being with me. Welcome to motherhood.
Then, while at work on the afternoon of June 29th I started not feeling right and called Neal to have him pick me up after work. I didn’t want to take the Fraternity Row bus across campus like I normally did to pick up Teddy at the university preschool. At 4:35, five minutes after I got off work, when I would have been on the bus, I was with Neal in the car, driving the same route as the bus, when right in front of the university bookstore, my water broke.
To this day I laugh at the idea of being on the Fraternity Row bus, with a bunch of 19 and 20-year-old college guys and me, this hugely pregnant old lady (I was 30 after all), my feet in a puddle, and how they would have moved away from me so fast and with a “never seen her before in my life” look on all their faces.
It was with a smile fueled by that story that we picked Teddy up at daycare on Thursday, June 29, 1995. The last day of preschool for him as an undiagnosed child with autism. The rest of that day and into the night was an awesome adventure. He has been a good big brother, trying and troublesome at times, but the relationship that my two children have formed is solid and based on a deep love, understanding and appreciation for each other.
My family is complete and it all worked out, as it always does.