In exactly 5 days, my 9 year old daughter will be starting 3rd grade in a fully mainstreamed setting without an aid, with only the assistance of a resource room teacher. This accomplishment has been years in the making and is proof positive that she is on the road to recovery. Unfortunately, this transition comes with great anxiety for me. I wonder how she will cope with a new setting, new teacher, new “friends”. Will the kids be good to her? Will she be disruptive? How will she adjust to days of school and nights of therapy and homework? There are so many worries.
When my mind begins to get frightened by the unknown, I find myself having vivid memories of when Marley was a baby. These were the days before an autism diagnosis, but scary days all the same. She had received a diagnosis of a Grade 4 brain bleed (the worst grade) when she was only 2 weeks old. She was born 7 weeks early. Those were the scariest days of my life. But they were also the days that were extremely enlightening for me. Until then, I lived in a state of blissful ignorance.
In my current state of anxiety, I find myself slipping back in time, to a place where a 3 month old baby cried through the night and slept in 20 minute increments and only when placed on your chest. Chris and I would take shifts staying up with our new beloved tiny baby. He took the 9pm-1am shift and I would take the 1am - 7am shift. These shifts consisted of sleeping in 30 minute increments and rocking and consoling an incredibly colicky baby (which we later discovered was due to food allergies).
Thank goodness for a glider purchased for me by my mom. We lived in that thing. During my shifts, I often found myself doing my best to console a baby with soft adult words. “Everything will be okay, Marley. I promise. I will make sure of it. You can trust me.” Then my tears would stream right alongside hers because I had no idea how I was going to keep that promise. It was a nightly routine. Singing to her, both of us crying, the feelings of helplessness and my unwavering commitment over and over to her that I would make everything okay. But I was scared. I am a do-er, but I had no idea how to “do” this. I promised her in the dead of night that I would always be there for her. No matter what. Always.
Then one night, at about 2am, I was weeping quietly as I held my crying baby close to my heart in my favorite glider when suddenly I felt a sense of calm come over me. There was nothing but a small nightlight on in the room, but I felt a presence with us. And oddly, it was as if I knew who it was. It was Chris’ much-adored grandmother who had passed years ago, when my husband was only 12. This woman is revered in my husband’s family for her sweet and generous nature and although I never met her, I feel as if I know her from the stories that are told about her. The baby I was holding is her namesake.
My crying baby settled suddenly and I felt as if I was holding my breath. My tears stopped and I was in wonder about what was actually happening. I could not see her presence but I knew where she was in the room. Somehow, I knew she was diagonally across the room from me, yet I could only feel her. Why was she here? My exhausted mind was racing. Was this actually happening? Was I hallucinating? Was I really THAT tired?
I just sat there with my awe and peace and bewilderment until suddenly, I snapped out of it and started to become scared of what was happening. My heart started to race wildly and at that very moment, my husband walked into the baby’s nursery. This was very odd, because he had no reason to come in. He should have been sleeping. The crying had stopped and he and I always took advantage of our allotted sleep time. Yet, there he was and he asked “Is everything okay?” I said, “I’m a little scared because I think your grandmother was just here.” Then, my skeptic of a husband said, “Well, there’s nothing to be afraid of because she would never hurt you.”
I realize now, that when things get scary, there are people looking out for us. Those that have passed and those that are still here. And I know they are there to help me keep the faith that everything will be okay. They will guide me and help me through the rough patches. I have since vowed to follow my instincts and watch for their signs because they are all around us.
Incidentally, a few months later, I was searching high and low for a light purple / lilac colored dress to match Marley’s for our mother-daughter baby photos. After scouring the mall and on-line for a week, I finally gave up and ordered a plain white dress on-line. And wouldn’t ya know it? It showed up in lilac color. It wasn’t even offered in lilac color, but who was I to question such a wonderful gift. And it turns out that Chris’ grandmother’s favorite color was…. drumroll, please….yup....Lilac.