Garden of Milestones

Every mom knows the feeling when you enter those hospital doors, bulging at the seams, aching with every contraction. It’s a feeling of newness; something spectacular is on the horizon. A new world is being created, a brand new life for you and your growing family. Excitement and nervousness intertwine together to create this maternal feeling that can’t properly be described into words. It’s a newness that every child birth brings, whether it’s your first or fourth.

For moms, this anticipation and elation for newness never dims. It transforms into eagerness for your baby’s firsts: first coo, first step, first word. Even the most exhausted of moms can recall their child’s first step or their first word. I can remember all of these for my 4 sons just like it was yesterday, but with my third son, Charlie, the milestones and firsts were much different.

 Charlie has Autism, and unfortunately, when your child has Autism, those momentous firsts don’t always bud naturally. Most moms stumble upon beautiful blooming milestones, showcasing their growth with over excitement to anyone within earshot.

With Autism, milestones often require an abundant amount of tilling, cultivating and seeding. Patience and perseverance are also necessary as it often takes months and even years to grow your child’s garden of milestones.

Therapists as well as myself and husband carefully plant every seed, till Charlie’s garden in preparation for sprouting milestones, and anxiously wait for any sign of germination. We eagerly anticipate these spring flowers to bloom in what sometimes feels like a desperate winter in a dormant garden.

Some milestones have bloomed without much work, yet we are still waiting for others to blossom. We will never give up on my son’s garden of milestones, always pursuing the beauty of their first appearance even in the coldest and darkest of winters.

I can recall many blooms for my sweet young son, Charlie. Witnessing the first time he jumped at the age of 2 ½ will be embedded in my memories forever, tears and all. The first time he said: “Want apple” at 3, we raced to the pantry with much exuberance to serve him his requested snack. The joy was like nothing I can explain.

These milestones were seeded and sowed for so long. When the buds first arrived, it was such a glorious sight, but one of the most amazing harvests happened on an already marvelous day.

It was the spring right before Charlie’s 3rd birthday. The crisp air outside wrapped its warm arms around us as we ran along the rich green grass of our backyard. Giggles echoed through the yard and seeped into the front of our white house. Smiles shone through brighter than the sun on this dream-like day.

We played in the yard for hours, swinging, dancing, racing, enjoying this beautiful weather God had blessed us with. Orange and gold butterflies flew in and out of the garden inciting laughter and excitement. We were living in a picture-perfect day. Charlie’s therapist and I shared a glance, a look of understanding and acknowledgment that today was a success, one for the books, a day to build upon for the future.

After a few hours of sun-soaked joy, our bellies began to growl. Gathering up my sons, we all retired to the kitchen for lunch. Without hesitation, I began chopping and preparing lunch for my hungry boys.

As I carried the white plate of peanut butter and jelly coupled with fruit to our dark wood table, it happened. The sweetest, most amazing fragrant words poured from my son’s mouth like a pitcher of water quenching my thirsty soul.

With his tiny, soft hand on my leg, he looked up into my eyes and said: “Ma!”

Tears streamed down my warm cheeks, and we all began to scream with excitement. Even my other sons and the therapist joined it. Jumping up and down, tears pouring all over the tile floor, I whisked him in my arms for a triumphant embrace.

His cheeks grew pink in color from excitement, and his grin bloomed brighter than any spring garden I have ever seen. This moment, the first time my almost 3 year-old called me “Ma” will be imprinted on all of our hearts and will remain one of the most glorious memories I will always cherish.

The day could not have been any better, and nothing could destroy the immense joy in my heart from this one amazing milestone. You see, after 6 months of speech therapy with no success, I never knew if this day would come. I never knew if that one sweet word would be uttered from those tiny, red lips.

We worked so hard for this single milestone, and every day since, we have built upon this one success, growing these milestones into one beautiful, colorful garden. Some milestones were carefully tended to for growth, while my patience and perseverance grew in the process. These milestones are the sweetest, most fragrant of all, the ever bloom of my son’s hard work and perseverance through the obstacles of Autism.

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