Friday, December 18, 2015

Poetry Series: Phases of My Motherhood

Phases of My Motherhood: Fear

Tiny fingers, red sheen on her soft head, half-open eyes.
Nursing the day away, falling asleep in my arms.
Breathing her baby scent after a bath, turning my nose at diapers.
Waiting to see her first smile—did I see it?
I think so.

Reading baby books to follow milestones—why isn’t she rolling over?
Is that really a smile, or just a half grin?
Isn’t she supposed to be crawling by now?
The doctor says she will get there, don’t worry.
But I do.

She screams as we teach her to crawl, to walk.
We place little toys in her hands after we let go of her fingers.
We step away, beckoning her to come.
She cries, tears sliding down her baby cheeks, frozen in fear.
The doctor says she will be fine, she’ll catch up.
But she doesn’t.

She learns to sit, and begins flapping her arms, staring into space.
Her head shakes back and forth sporadically, making me dizzy.
I grab her arms to stop the flaps, her head to stop the spins.
She pauses but continues, stiffening her joints like electricity
Is jolting through her body.
What is wrong with my child?

The doctor now worries because she’s not walking yet.
He says she is behind.
But I don’t want to hear any more.

Phases of My Motherhood: Denial
I see her arms flapping, her head shaking, and I ignore it.
She’s saying words, naming colors and shapes, singing songs.
She’s my daughter, she’s perfect—she will grow out of it.
But in public places, there are stares.
And I want to hide from the world.

She begins physical therapy to learn to walk.
Soon my calendar fills up with appointments and therapists.
I just want to hold my child, take her to the park, and be normal.
Why does everyone think she needs so much help?
Why can’t I just believe them, too?

My fears for her grow, but I keep them sheltered in my mind.
Locked away, like a time capsule, never to be opened.
Maybe this can change her future, I think.
Maybe this can change her present, I hope.
Because presently, she is not progressing.

No more appointments, no more doctors.
I hold the key to her future, I tell them.
Go away, never come back.
Let me raise my perfect child.
Denial is a fierce emotion, until the keys don’t work.

Phases of My Motherhood: Breaking Point
Keys, so many keys, jangling on my keychain.
Why won’t they work?
Why won’t they fix her?
I force them in, I wriggle them in the locks.
But things are getting worse, and now I feel trapped.

This box I’ve created for us, it can’t be safe.
She’s biting herself now, screaming, and throwing her body down.
I’m crying every day, praying, hanging by a thread.
Who holds the key that I need?
How can I break free from this place?
Someone tells me autism, but no.
Autism isn’t where I picture my child.
She’s unique, she’s an individual.
She doesn’t fit in any one box, especially not autism.
So we sit together in this crowded, noisy space.
Doctors knock on the walls.
Family peer through the lock.
But the only way out is through me—
Through admitting that my daughter isn’t perfect.
I clutch the key, tremble as I push it into the lock.

And I open the door of the box.
I’ve had the key all along.

Phases of My Motherhood: Facing Reality
Stepping out of the box means stepping into reality.
None of my fears were kept locked away.
They were waiting for me outside that box.
They were circling around it the whole time.
And now, holding my daughter’s hand, I have to face them.

The fears begin to penetrate my mind again, like a woodpecker
Pecking his way into his eventual home.
Once settled there, the fears give way to understanding as I attack each one.
Flapping, head shaking, lack of expression, developmental delays:

Autism understood is acceptance.
It’s living outside the safebox—still with a large set of keys.
It’s admitting you don’t know what you’re doing,
But that you won’t give up, won’t stop trying your keys.
Autism is part of our reality now, and we face it together.

 Faith guides me, fears are gone.
The box is the world we live in.
Though, others might place us in a box at times.
They just need to find their own key to our world.
Everyone’s invited.

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