Little did I know 17 years ago at this time Mike and I would be spending our last weekend alone together as a married couple. I was 8 1/2 months pregnant with a couple of weeks to go to my due date. I knew time was quickly approaching, but I had no idea that by this time Monday our world would be forever changed.
After a complicated start to my pregnancy everything leveled out and we had the chance to enjoy preparing for the arrival of our first child. Even though we were still living with Mom and Dad’s in their basement, there were lots of renovations to be made (adding a second bedroom) and decorating of the baby’s room. It was a fun time now that I was feeling better and everyone was starting to get quite excited.
I don’t remember a lot of what we did that weekend but a few things stand out in my mind even now, 17 years later. Mike had worked back shift at dispatch Saturday night so he came home and went to bed Sunday morning. I went to church with Mom and Dad and ended up sitting out in the parking lot for almost an hour after mass while Dad helped someone change a flat tire. For the life of me I can’t remember whose tire it was. Mary’s, I think?? Or Cathy? Debbie, maybe. I’m sure it was one of the three. All I knew was that I had to pee really bad and I couldn’t get home quick enough.
Mike and I went for a drive that afternoon as the weather was so nice. He had to work again that night which meant we were limited to how far we could go. Our drives could take us anywhere and everywhere but we had to stay relatively close by today. We had traditional Sunday supper with Mom and Dad. She still, to this day, makes the best roast beef dinner I have ever tasted. That Sunday was no exception.
I remember hanging around on Sunday evening enjoying the videos on CMT. I went upstairs, chatted with Mom and Dad for a bit and made myself a roast beef sandwich. It was so yummy. Monday would be my last day of work before I was to start my maternity leave so I was heading to bed around 11:00 or so. I was looking forward to finishing up at work so I could concentrate on getting the last “to-do’s” completed from my list before the baby arrived. I woke around 1:00 feeling odd. More of those Braxton-Hicks contractions, I thought. By 3:00 or so I knew this was a little more than what I had previously thought. I got up, called Mike at work and told him that I thought this could be it. His supervisor, Sgt Joe Melnick, told Mike to put me on speakerphone. I don’t like speakerphone, however…. There was no way Mike could leave work. One of the other dispatchers had left earlier that night as she was attending a course off-island for a few days and had to travel, so there I was. Mike told me to keep him posted and hoped against hope that I could hang tight until he got off at 6:00am. Three hours from now. I got dressed, made the bed, got my suitcases all ready and by the stairs and then I paced. And paced. And paced. I felt most comfortable sitting on the toilet (of all places), so that’s where I spent much of the next couple of hours. Finally, shortly after 5:00 I called Mike back and told him I was waking Mom and Dad as I thought it was time to head to the hospital. I couldn’t handle the thought of walking up the stairs so I rang their phone and told them I thought it was time. The 2 of them sounded like elephants banging around up there. Mom came down and was surprised to see me standing there with my jacket on and ready to go. When we got out to the car Mom told me to get in the front seat. Good grief, that was big! I felt like a big girl now, hahahaha, I never got to ride in the front seat when I was going somewhere with Mom and Dad.
By the time we arrived at the hospital and Dad got us in and me registered it was close to 6:00. Mike would be here soon. I got settled pretty fast up in labour and delivery. It was nice having Dad there as he worked at the hospital and knew all the nurses. They liked him and carried on with him, which made life a little easier.
During all the mayhem of the last few hours I neglected to call my other support person. My sister was in university 2 1/2 hours away. Dad called her and told her to get ready, he was on his way. That’s the best place for him right now, not hanging around waiting. Mom stayed with me and would stay after Mike arrived. Shortly after Dad left, Mikey blew through the door. He was pretty tired after working all night but the adrenaline was going to have to get him through for a while. He started making phone calls. First and foremost to my work to let them know I wouldn’t be in. I’d have to use a sick day for my last day as I wasn’t quite going to make it. Then he called his Mom. We had to figure out how to get her to the hospital. No problem. My cousin, who happened to be one of Mike’s partner’s in crime, was currently off work due to an accident a few months before. He was pretty excited and happy to play chauffeur to Nanny-to-be. We spent the next little bit on the phone. I think Mike had a cell phone then. Maybe. But there certainly was no text messaging or posting online or anything like that. This was all pre social media. The “olden days”. Leslie arrived and her and Mom took their perch over on the side of the room. I was getting uncomfortable and wasn’t in the mood to be my jovial self. Mike was getting on my last nerve because he kept dozing off. The doctor and nurses were in and out and I was on display for med students. Whatever…. I was offered drugs and gladly accepted a shot of morphine. Well that was enough of that because all it did was make me want to throw up. We’re not having any of that. I’ll deal with the pain, thanks.
I was thrilled to see that my nurse was someone I knew. A distant cousin of mine. I got to know her and her family through a mutual friend and had actually spent time at her home over the years and enjoyed watching their girls grow up. I was surprised to find out that today was her oldest girl’s birthday. That was kind of cool. Jenna was born at 10:42 am. From here on in, I’d always remember her birthday.
Around 9:00 I was giving the all clear to start pushing. So I did. And I did, and I did. Nadda. Nothing. Or so I thought. They all assured me everything was progressing nicely. What the heck did I know?? I never did anything like this before. Finally it all started getting serious. They told me it would only be a few more minutes and to give it all I had. After what seemed like forever, our baby was born. By this time, Mike was down with the doctor and he pretty much caught the baby coming out and anxiously cut the cord. It was a boy! Matthew Allan Thomas. Time of birth 10:42 am (see above….pretty freaky, hey??).
And so began our journey. If you have been a regular viewer to my blog over the years you have a pretty good idea of what the years held for us. If you are new to my blog, grab a cup of tea a get comfy. Feel free to visit the early years in which I tried to describe the roads that were chosen for us to walk.
Looking back over the last 17 years we have had a bunch of different “stuff” loaded on our plate. Matthew was born with one kidney, no big deal, it just meant he needed to be closely monitored for the first few years and playing contact sports would be something he would have to stay away from. As he grew from infant to toddler to preschooler we learned how unique he truly was. He had his ways, his likes and his dislikes. Quirky, he was, but a more polite, well-spoken young boy would be hard to find.
Preschool and school validated for us Matthew’s unique views of the world. His teachers started to see things and alerted us to certain issues. There were many outcomes Matthew wasn’t quite grasping.
Over time we were introduced to a whole new life. Pediatricians, therapists, doctors and many school meetings started to become our norm. Before grade three we had affectionately nicknamed Matthew our Alphabet Soup Boy. We were going to get him business cards made up:
Matthew Allan Thomas Hilliard ~ ADHD, NLD, ASD, CHD
All of these initials answered many questions for us regarding why Matthew was struggling in certain areas and why he excelled in others. Mostly, it made us aware that he was going to have to learn what he needed to learn in a different way. His academics, his social skills, his everyday life skills. It was all going to have to be taught to him very carefully. Very much against the norm of society.
Now mind you, this wasn’t catastrophic. Many other families deal with much more life-altering events, we knew that. We tried to approach it all with a positive attitude. There were changes that needed to be made and we were his voice. It was that simple. Now don’t get me wrong, it didn’t all come easily at all. There were roadblocks, there were days where we wondered if we were going to be able to handle it all, there were many tears shed. We constantly reminded ourselves that Matthew asked for none of this. As hard as it was (and still is to this day) we became his advocates. We attended meetings, we sat in offices until we’d be seen, we pulled him out of school, we wrote letters and we researched endlessly. We fought (I so don’t like that word…no one should ever have to fight for something their child needs) for support at the school level which the school understood he needed, but the administrators needed a little more convincing . We educated family, friends and strangers alike. Matthew was the way he was because……….
Overall, we were very blessed. Our family and friends were more than supportive and offered encouragement and advice when needed. Matthew touched (and continues to touch) everyone he meets in a very special way.
Now that our boy has grown into a fine young man, our day-to-day struggles are still there but they are different than they were when he was younger. We understand a lot more about the life he lives, he understands that there are reasons why he feels and thinks the way he does and many of our earlier concerns and needs have been settled. Each day brings with it a new challenge, a new quirk, a new learning experience. One thing that hasn’t changed is change. Just when you think you’ve got him all figured out he rewrites the rules. Something that worked for him yesterday doesn’t work today (for whatever reason). Something that didn’t make sense to his world yesterday clicked today. There is never a dull moment for sure.
Our focus these days is the future. His academic world is stable and steamrolling toward completion. As a high school student Matthew has more schooling now behind him than ahead of him. Is it awful to say that that doesn’t break my heart?? I guess I should be careful of what I wish for though. School is somewhat of a controlled environment. We were able to get him the resources and modifications he needed to succeed within the 4 walls of his school. What is going to happen after graduation? How are we going to get the world ready for him? Matthew is one of many young adults about to enter into a society that isn’t quite equipped for him/them. It’s not going to be as easy as having him conform to society. It’s not that he won’t, rather he can’t. Lots of the little intricacies that most of are born with that allow us to “get” social norms and rules simply didn’t develop for Matthew and many others. How this is all going to play out is anyone’s guess. Society has adapted (for the most part) to those in wheelchairs who need help getting into buildings and up a flight of stairs, to those who can’t hear or see, to those who need many other types of assistance. The challenge now is going to be helping society understand that even though you can’t necessarily see that someone needs help and assistance, doesn’t mean the need doesn’t exist. Matthew (and many others) may always need help making change in a grocery store, scheduling appointments, transferring their way through a public transit system and making new relations. These needs are no less important than those needs that are visible to us as a society.
Little did I know 17 years ago. Little did I know. Regrets? Wishes? No, not really. I guess the only wish I had would be that I could have removed some of Matthew’s frustration over the years and wished that he would have enjoyed his earlier years in school more than he did. I wouldn’t change him though. My Alphabet Soup Boy is the way he is because he’s my Alphabet Soup Boy. Take away any of those letters and Matthew wouldn’t be Matthew.
On this, the weekend before his 17th birthday all I can hope is that he knows how much he is loved and how so very proud of him his Dad and I are. He lights our life in a way I could have never before imagined. There’s never a dull moment and nor would I want there to be. He has shown me what’s truly important in this world and I can’t wait to see what the next 17 years will bring.
I love you, bud. You are my Sunshine and always will be. Happy Birthday.
Until next time…