Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lesson 93: She's My Brown Eyed Girl

Eloise is happy today.  I am happiest four days of every year:  the birthdays of my three children and the birthday of my Lord.  A quadrant of days that make my heart sing.  Each represents a day that love was born.  Love was made real eleven years ago today, September 22, 2000, the birth of Ellen Louise---and what a day that was.

That day eleven years ago started out stressful. Me, a full 9 months pregnant to my very due date--was also due into the pediatric neurologist's office for our then two year old Natalie's evaluation.  After a full year of therapy and waiting and hoping and charting and praying, the inevitable was finally upon us.  Our precious little girl, our first born, was not moving along the developmental spectrum as she should have been.  It was time to face the facts.  Something was wrong, dreadfully wrong, and it was time to put it on paper.  The final decision to determine the probable autism we suspected that she had, needed to come from the neurologist.  We needed the diagnosis written on a prescription pad in order to get the wheels in motion to receive much needed services to get Natalie some help.

The day of the scheduled appointment made months in advance, happened to land on my due date for our second child.  We didn't know if the baby was a boy or a girl, and hadn't really chosen names.  About a week before that I started praying (hard) to God that I really needed to be at this appointment.  I wanted to be there to hear it.  I asked God to give me the strength and grace to handle whatever the doctor determined.  Yes, knowing me as you do through my writing, I am sure you can guess I was holding on to the hope that Dr. Neurologist would say that my baby girl was just delayed and she needed some more time.  But in my heart I knew the truth.  I knew it because God gave it to me and that is a knowing that you can only explain to those who have ever received something like that.  You know and understand and are at a state of peace all at the same time.  That is how I knew.

God heard my prayers because I waddled into that appointment wearing flip flops and the only dress I had left to fit me, a very large black and yellow monstrosity that could have been used as a shower curtain.  I sat down at 8:00 am with hubby by my side and a screaming Natalie on the last four inches of space left on my lap.  Within 30 minutes we had what we needed, our diagnosis on a prescription pad--the golden ticket so to speak.  I was expecting a little more that what we received.  The cold words written in scratchy black pen read:  This child has autism.  Period.  That's it.  What?  No X-Ray attached?  No EEG results?  No blood tests?  Just a four word sentence based on observable behavior and data from the Early Intervention team.
The four words that changed my life forever.

I was disappointed, but I was filled with the power of God that morning because I handled it with dignity and grace just as I had asked Him for.  I felt relief that our nightmare had a name.  I felt gratitude that I lived in a city where so many services to special needs children were readily available.  But most of all I felt at peace because I knew God had my back.  I felt his hand there that day and still do.

As we were walking out of the doctor's office, I was trying to determine how I was going to deliver the news to my family that we just received the one-two punch.  Less than a year earlier, my sister's son Erik was also diagnosed with autism.  My nephew Jack was only a year old, and now I was about to have another child.  We were scared because we did not know what was in store for the two other babies.  As I am literally dragging Natalie out of the office and my mind is considering all these things, I felt a wetness running down my legs.  Could it be?   No.  Not that.  Must have peed myself again from the shock (for those of you who know me well.........).

On the ride home, the trickle turned to a steady stream and I assumed that my water was breaking along with my heart.  My hubby is known for having a tricky ticker, and I thought sending him into atrial fib that day would be a little too much to bear, so I did only what Eloise does--I told him a little fib.  "Honey--I got to go see about these cramps I'm having.  I could be leaking water and I better go have it checked."  I dropped off my hubby and screaming child and drove myself back into the doctor.  No purse.  No identification.  No overnight bag.  Just me in a mu mu.

I lumbered to the front desk without and appointment and said to the receptionist, "I'm having a baby."  She looked at me with her thin smile and said, "I can see that.  Do you have an appointment?"  "Yeah," I replied.  "It's called right now."  I left the window, walked around through the side door they usually usher you through, found an empty room, and plopped down in it.  I get ballsy when I am in shock.  The Nurses were none too happy with me and I could hear excited, hushed whispers of them outside of the room in the hallway.  I was sensing I was just about to get yelled at when I felt the gush--the whole dam let go.  No time to argue with Florence Nightingale now.  I had a baby to bring into the world.

Luckily my doctor's office was directly across the street from the hospital, so I walked myself over.  Well, actually, I was escorted by Nursie, who suddenly was very caring and compassionate.  All I could think of was Mary riding that damn donkey and how much that must have sucked.  The walk across the asphalt was no picnic.  I can't imagine contracting through the desert wobbling on the back of a donkey.

I was taken to a room, given a gown, and had a few minutes to think while they left me to change.  The lights were off, it was very quiet, and I began to cry.  "Today, God?  Really?  Today?  This is not good timing.  I'm not ready to do this today, so if you could make it stop, I would appreciate it."  The contractions came on stronger.

I was alone in the room, had nothing with me, and I had been crying.  I removed all of my rings the week before, including my wedding ring, because my fingers were so swollen.  The nurse that was assigned to me was soft spoken and sweet.  She seemed to sense something was wrong and asked me as much.  I'm not much of a talker when it comes to emotional stuff like that, so I said, "I'm having a really crappy day and I don't want to talk about it."  She looked me in the eyes, held my hand, and assured me things would be OK.  I felt her energy run from her hand to mine and I believed her, and slowly over the next couple of hours, I told her my story.  Nursie sat on the edge of my bed, brushed a tear from my cheek and said, "I know what it feels like.  My 13 year old daughter has autism, too."  God is good.

Hours later hubby made it to the hospital with sister in tow.  We rode out the labor together, the three of us flipping topics from autism to the new baby to the Olympics.  The Summer Games were in Sydney that year and we put those on the TV to pass the time.  If there was ever a pain free labor, that is what I would call mine with Ellen.  I tossed and turned in the bed a few times out of discomfort, and after a quick peek, doc said it was time to push.  Three pushes later out she came.  A little ray of sunshine, a beam sent directly from heaven, a punctuation mark on a long, dark day.   She was a beautiful little girl with a shock of brown hair.  I named her Ellen Louise.  The pain free birth and I mean that.  They say God only gives you what you can bear, and I do believe he took that labor pain from me that day because other parts of me were hurting so much.  God knew exactly what I needed and He sent me Ellen.  God is great.

Ellen was born at 11:00 at night and I don't believe I let her out of my sight for the next two years.  When it was time for the nurses to take her from me to clean her up, I walked down to where they were and watched through the window at 2:30 in the morning.  No nursery for Ellen and no rest for Mommy.  She stayed in that high, see through crib right next to me all night.  And there began our attachment.  Ellen rode on me like a barnacle on a boat for two straight years.  Not out of clingyness as much as a need for one another.  It was like I grew another appendage and it seemed quite natural.

In the eleven years since, Ellen has become not only another appendage, but my right arm.  The two of us click around my house like the gears on a well oiled machine.  Our house is busy and there is always a lot to be done.  I can just look at Ellen, without saying a single word, and she will know what I need and get up and do it.  Ellen has an intuition of a ninety year old.

My brown eyed girl the the sweetest, kindest, most tolerant and selfless kid I have ever known.  You can see it in her smile.  When making this slide show I had hundreds of pictures to choose from because she always takes a good picture.  Someone said to me once, "Ellen is so photogenic."  I agreed, but knew that her true beauty comes from within, and it shines through just like a ray of sunshine.  If I was a Californian, Slovenians, I could have named her Sunshine.

Ellen would give the shirt off her own back to anyone, and has done so for Natalie on several occasions when Natalie wanted to wear it.  She handles the quirkiness of her sister's autism with humor and love.  Ellen tolerates the antics of her little brother with the patience and grace.

 I never had known a kid who wanted a little brother or sister more than Ellen.  I had suffered a heartbreaking miscarriage when Ellen was five.  She asked me afterwards, "Does this mean I'll never have a little brother or sister?"  At 36 years old, I didn't quite know how to answer her.  I said, "We'll just have to ask God and see what he says."  For a straight week, we could hear Ellen's prayers through the baby monitor we still kept in her room.  This is what she would pray in the softest little whisper:  "God, please send us another baby.  I don't care if it's a boy or a girl.  I don't even care if it's autistic, because then Natalie and Erik would have another person who understands them.  I'd love it with my whole heart.  Please send us another baby."
If your heart hasn't broken with this story yet and you just felt that twinge, that's what it was.  Don't worry though.  God made it so that broken hearts always heal.  This story should prove that.  God sent us another miracle less than a year later, and if you haven't met him in person or through my words, his name is Sam.  God is a wonder.

Speaking of Sam, he's going through this crazy phase of weird fears.  Right now he is afraid to sleep in his room and has set up camp with Ellen.  He refuses to sleep without her and has been parked on her floor on a futon sleeper for almost three weeks now.  Ellen doesn't mind...yet anyway.  I keep telling her (weakly) "It's just a phase......"  Ellen loves to read before she goes to bed (just like her mama).  When I went in to check on her (them) the other night, I saw she was reading in bed with a flashlight.  I said, "Oh, Honey.  You may strain your eyes.  You should turn on your lamp."  Ellen shushed me and pointed to Sam, mouthing to me that she didn't want to wake him.  Selfless for girl who has only lived a decade, huh?

God did hear my prayers eleven years ago.  I didn't need to know nor care if my baby was a boy or a girl.  I just needed to know that God sent me the right child, the perfect one to hold a place in my heart for all eternity.  Boy, howdy, did he ever!  He sent me my brown eyed girl.  Thank you, God for your perfect choice.

Happy birthday, Ellen Louise!
Mother Eloise

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