And the verdict on the car is…
We decided to pass on the friend’s minivan; there’s nothing technically wrong with our car, other than the fact that it is cramped and wee and getting Moira in and out of her car seat has left a semi-permanent welt on the back of my head. Waiting a year will allow us to save a little more, check our options, and see what we really want.
And can I be honest, here? Let’s be real.
It’s not about the car.
This frustration, irritability, overreaction to a perfectly lovely and functional vehicle that I’m actually grateful to have? It’s an outlet. An easy target. A convenient distraction. It’s so much easier to sit down and research cars and spend an hour here and there on Edmund’s, spending money in my head that I don’t actually want to spend, simply because it is an easy way to ignore the fact that for the last four months, we have been overwhelmed. I have been overwhelmed. And I’m not proud of any of this.
We know, now, after umpteen million appointments (and several more to go) that Maggie is almost certainly on the autism spectrum, which is news and yet not news. We’ve known for a long time that something was different–a very long time. Getting a diagnosis, as I’ve told everyone who will listen and surely some people who are very, very bored by the topic, is the key! A silver key that will unlock a room, wherein therapists and doctors and a plan are waiting. I have been surface smiles and cheerful, so glad–just so goddamn glad!–that we were finally going to know. There’s going to be a plan! A plan, I tell you!
Then three things happened.
One: Moira had surgery in the midst of this silver-shiny spate of denial. Two: one of my dearest friends–the one who encouraged us to have Maggie evaluated in the first place–found out that her daughter (younger than Moira) would need to be tested for cystic fibrosis as a possible cause for her failure to grow properly. (Spoiler: the test was negative, but we didn’t know it then.) And three: Tom’s friend asked us for a list of baby product recommendations.
So innocent, that last, no? Just a recommendation for carriers and maybe some swaddling blankets. But it broke me. I cracked. As I started writing the recommendation email I started hysterically laughing. Actual, ugly hysteria. And I wrote, and fortunately, deleted, the following (though I did post it to G+): “Autism. Holes in major organs. Cystic fibrosis. I hate to be a downer to new parents, but holy shit. There’s nothing I can tell you that will really prepare you for what life is going to throw at you. There isn’t a swaddling blanket in the world that can make any of this okay.”
And isn’t that the truth. The pattern on that lovingly chosen swaddling blanket for Moira? Bloodied from the recovery room. The darling little tam hat I picked out for my friend’s daughter in Scotland? Gonna look real cute in the waiting room at her umpteenth doctor’s appointment for a disease that would all but guarantee her parents will outlive her. And what about that plan, eh? That plan that a diagnosis–upon which we are still waiting–would give us? What did it really matter? It could work. It could not work. And what would “Work” look like? What if we could never have a back-and-forth conversation with our daughter? What if we went bankrupt–literally, actually bankrupt–trying? Haha! Go ahead! Pick your nursery colors! Think about that car seat pattern instead! Spend hours researching new cars and obsess over the things you can control, because it’s all going to fall apart on you in the end! I laughed until my throat was raw and I wanted to throw up, and spent the rest of nap time in the hottest shower I’ve ever taken.
Clearly, this was a grim time.
It’s better now. The test came back negative–no cystic fibrosis. The bloodstains washed out, and Moira’s scar is fading. Maggie is wonderful and will always be wonderful. And I’m trying not to bore people with my shiny-silver denial, because I know I’m not fooling anyone. I’ve caught a glimpse of myself a few times in the mirror this year and I can see the strain–eyes puffy and threaded red from insomnia, knots in the side of my face from where I clench my jaw without realizing it, shoulders sinking and only kept afloat by emails and texts from the three or four people with whom I’d entrust with the information that I’m about to be eaten alive by the panic rat. Don’t take it personally if I’ve shut you out of that information; that list of confidantes doesn’t always even include my husband, although we’ve had a few knock-down hash-outs trying to find our way. We’re better than before; dented, bruised in a few spots, but better. We are being tested in fire and being made stronger; that can’t come without occasionally feeling like you’re burning alive.
Having a child is such a leap of faith; it’s the ultimate act of optimism. It’s a promise to yourself that you think the future will be bright enough, worthy enough, of this pure and unblemished soul that you’ve endeavored to bring up in the world. And it’s a hopeful thing to think about yourself: that you’re also worthy and will be capable of being the parent that child deserves. Along this year of tragedy and ugly surprises and gut-punches I’m figuring out how to get that faith back and reclaim that optimism and hope for the future. We are getting there. I’m getting there. The silver-shiny denial is being slowly eroded and replaced by titanium. We’re actually, truly on the road to feeling worthy and okay again.
And maybe, just maybe, if we last and persevere and, kicking and screaming, find our way? Next year we’ll treat ourselves to something literally shiny.