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As I mentioned in my last post, I am officially on maternity leave.  When I was pregnant with Justin, my last day before starting my leave was my due date, March 5, 2008, he wasn’t born until March 19.  That was one of the longest 2 weeks of my life.

This time around, I promised myself I wouldn’t subject myself to that kind of anxious boredom and committed myself to working until labor started (fully aware that I would very likely run late with Miss Georgia as I did with Mr. Justin.  It turns out there’s a difference between working part-time with no kiddo at home and working full-time with a sensitive and ill-sleeping 4-year-old Autistic boy at home.  (Who would believe it?!)

So far, maternity leave has not been the burden it was last time, for which I am thankful.  I’m working hard to keep busy, not thinking too hard about being past my due date – and I’ve been successful.  This morning I actually had to count on my fingers how many days past my due date I am (3).  My kitchen is clean enough to cook in.  All the bottles, pacifiers, nursing support gadgets (nipple shells/shields, etc) are sterilized.  Laundry is caught up.  Heck, even my bed is made!  My kitchen floor is disgusting (swept, but needs about an hour with a magic eraser and some elbow grease) and my tub could use a scouring – both projects I’m sort of saving for the bout of hormonally induced nesting that is sure to find me in the next week or so.

The crazy part?  I was in bed last night for nearly 11 hours (minus of course the few trips to the bathroom and my 45-minute, middle-of-the-night cuddle session on the couch with my sweet boy at 4am).

My anxiety is as low as it can be and I’m as tired as a woman in her 40th week of pregnancy should be – as opposed to simply being an exhausted puddle of irritable grossness.  Sure, I have moments where I think, “What if my body will never go into full labor on its own?!”  But all in all, I’m actually enjoying being home and able to focus on getting and keeping my house in order, spending time with my Little Turkey and getting my head around the whole idea of having another little person in our home.

I have been, and will continue to try all the usual methods of encouraging labor to get going.  Many of the things I’m doing I did with Justin (fruitlessly), but there’s no harm in them so I figure, why not?  I’m also trying some new things too.  Here’s my shortlist of things I’ve been doing so far:

– Evening Primrose Oil

– Blue and Black Cohosh Tinctures

– Rest

– Walking (particularly carrying something heavy – like a bag of groceries)

– Red Raspberry Leaf tea

– Greasy meals (on occasion)

– Rebozo Sifting (oh man, that felt so good!  like a belly massage!  I’m so thankful to my doula for offering this!)
And things I’ll be likely to do in the next few days:

– Hiking the stairs

– Having my membranes stripped

– Balloon Catheter induction (which I’m going to push to have done early next week at the latest)

– Taking the new breast pump for a spin

Then finally, the ultimate natural induction technique:  tempting Murphy’s Law!

On Facebook today I tossed out requests for activity recommendations so that I can build a schedule for the next week or so.  I’m thinking that if I can build a full calendar of activities, then our little princess will have to interrupt with her arrival, right?  The trick is coming up with activities that don’t wear me out, cost a fortune, require childcare, or aren’t schedule-able.

So far I’m thinking I’m going to schedule a day to finally take Justin to the FIG at the Whatcom Museum (Friday), and go on a morning coffee date with Matt (Thursday while Justin is at school).  If we can arrange childcare for Justin, I’d really like to go see The Hobbit at the new theater in town, and go have my Red Robin Birthday burger (which might happen on the same day as seeing The Hobbit).  I’m thinking tomorrow would be a good day to give Matt the haircut he needs and finish the detail on the hat I knitted for Georgia.

I have a few things in my freezer for postpartum time, but I hesitate to trash my clean kitchen only to wear myself out midway through.  And there are a few other things that I could prep, but I wouldn’t want to just make waste by prepping too soon.  Plus, a lot of the deep-cleaning sorts of things won’t work with Justin around.  Hmmm…

Any other ideas for fun day-time things to do around Bellingham with a hyperactive kiddo?

In my last post, I alluded to Justin not being a typical kid.  He’s not.  But neither was I or Matt for that matter – though not for the same reasons.  This last year has been a year of self-discovery.  of horror.  of pain and suffering.  of deepest joy and greatest gratitude.

This last year we learned that our sweet, smart, quirky little boy has Autism.  Not “some signs”, but classic Autism.  A little Rain Man in our midst.

There were clues.  Clues we missed.  Hell, there were punches in the face we missed.  But as usual, hindsight is 20/20.

Justin had always had impressive well-child checks.  His growth was always notable – typically upwards of the 95th percentile for height and weight (still is).  He hit all his milestones and then some.  But we were getting more and more exhausted from lack of sleeep – Justin was still waking at night as frequently as a newborn and nothing seemed to help.  His outbursts were getting louder, more physical, and lasting longer over things that should have been easily redirected.  Then at his 18-month check, the checklist got a bit troubling.  2-word sentences?  Nope.  Copying drawn lines?  Nope.  For the time being, we chalked it up to being just before a developmental leap.  Justin’s pediatrician made the concerned face watching him aimlessly wander around the office, refusing eye contact, or direct attempts at communication.  Without trying to alarm us into a panic, she recommended we follow-up in a few months.  Note: While this may sound irresponsible on the pediatrician’s part, I am thankful for the slow “heads up”.  It allowed me the space to research, watch, investigate and ask questions rather than go into a full on panic.

Not a month after that visit, a good friend of ours at Church pulled me aside.  This friend has a son with profound Autism.  Her intent was not to alarm, just to let me know what she was seeing.  She pulled out old photo albums with her son in them.  As she pointed him out in the yearly Pascha picnic group pictures, you could see – his face looked different.  Not in a way that would suggest he was deformed or anything, if anything he was – is – a beautiful boy.  He was often looking in the direction of the camera, but not in the same way as the others in the picture.  Rather than looking at the person taking the picture, he was looking at the camera itself.  I recognized this boy.  Not because I knew him, but because I saw what my friend was seeing – she was seeing Justin.  That’s when it hit me.  It made it real.  We talked and cried for about an hour.  She told me how she saw behaviors in Justin (even in just the short period of time she saw him at Church) that were painfully similar to those of her son.  She couldn’t keep quiet.  And I thank God for her intervention.

The very next business day I called to schedule an appointment with Justin’s pediatrician.  It would be 3 long weeks before we could be seen.  The first week, I cried.  A lot.  The second week I searched, researched, and asked questions.  By the time we got to that appointment, I was sure.  And I had a sort-of plan. Justin’s MCHAT (Modified CHecklist for Autism in Toddlers) was so painfully positive (as in indicative of Autism) that we were nearly blind-sided.  We expected to see a weak positive – it can’t be that bad, we thought.  At the visit, the pediatrician filled out the referral forms for the Seattle Children’s Hospital Autism Center for a diagnosis.  I was told the waitlist for an evaluation was right around 6 months.  In the meantime I was to contact the Opportunity Council in town for a qualifying evaluation for entry into the local Zero to Three program for early intervention services.

Within a few days of my call to the Opportunity Council here in Bellingham, we had a woman in our home asking us questions.  LOTS of questions.  About Justin’s behavior, his responses to this and that, what he could or couldn’t do.  All the while watching Justin in his home environment.  At the end, Justin easily qualified for Early Intervention services.  In another week we would meet Justin’s Primary Coach – a speech/language pathologist from the Whatcom Center for Early Learning.  She would meet with us in our home at least once per week until Justin’s 3rd birthday.   Words cannot describe how she and the Occupational Therapist who sometimes visited along with her changed our lives.  By teaching us how to recognize sensory issues vs. communication difficulties, they gave us the tools to learn how to diffuse before the meltdown.

The Tuesday following his 3rd birthday, Justin started public special ed. preschool.  We’re starting to get a handle on our new life.  Justin is a lot of work.  But we know the scope of our journey – and we expect a great many surprises for good and for the not so easy-to-manage.  We still have much to learn as a family, and it is ridiculously hard sometimes.  But, it is what it is.  Autism.

Before I close, I want to toss out my “offical statement” regarding my beliefs about autism.  Advice comes from everywhere, and I know that most all of it is well-intentioned.  I appreciate comments and questions, but I ask that before you post, you read my statement on my beliefs about autism.  These are items I will not argue about because I’ve already researched them to death and consulted professionals.  Here ‘goes:

1.  I do not believe in a “cure” for Autism.  I know my son to have been born with Autism, he had it at his very conception and is a part of who he is.  To try to “cure” Justin’s autism would be an attempt to make him someone he is not.  Autism is not a disease, no more than Down’s Syndrome is.  It is a disorder to be managed and developed.  I believe Justin’s autism is a gift in its own right, complete with challenges and powerful strengths unique to him.

2.  Yes, I’ve read about people whose children were “cured” by certain changes in diet.  It is my belief that these children had food allergies that caused autistic-like symptoms that were abated once the offending food was removed from the diet.  Justin is sensitive to dairy but not wheat or gluten.  Justin’s perseverative behaviors, as well as ability to appropriately respond to his environment are magnified when he is given cows milk.   He drinks a lot of soy milk.

3. “He can’t be autistic, he looks at people!” – Really?  I look at lampposts, does that mean I’m autistic?  Justin is reasonably high-functioning.  He does interact with people but his interaction is different from that of neurotypicals.   He is affectionate in his own way with a select few people, namely his parents and grandparents and few others.  His primary interaction is for fullfilling of his needs and as a feature in a game – my husband and I refer to ourselves as Justin’s “buttons”.  He uses us as “buttons” to make whatever action in the activity work.

4.  I do not believe vaccines cause autism.  I have never been comfortable with the traditional vaccine schedule in the US for my own reasons.  Even before we knew Justin had autism, he was on a modified vaccine schedule.  He got most of his vaccinations on time with the exception of MMR and chicken pox which he received just before entering the public school system at the age of 3, rather than at age 1 as recommended.

5.  I do not believe Autism is a curse.  Now I do get down sometimes, frustrated, aggravated even – but it is my belief that this is a journey given to us, and Justin, by God for our Salvation.  To struggle is to be drawn to God, and that is its own blessing.

Justin Elias Owen Status Update:

On 3/19/2008, his birth day, Justin was 21 inches long, weighed 9lbs 2oz, and frequently pooped himself.  He wore newborn sized clothes and a size 1 shoe.  0 teeth.

On 3/19/2009, his first birthday, Justin was 32 inches tall, weighed 26lbs 1oz, and slightly less frequently, pooped himself.  He wore size 2T clothing and a size 5 shoe.  4 teeth.

Now, on 3/19/2010, his second birthday, Justin is 36.75 inches tall, and weighs right around 32lbs, and despite our efforts at encouraging potty time, still poops himself twice a day.  He wears a size 4T (a little long in the pantlegs yet, but fits everywhere else), and is at the ends of his size 8 shoes!  >18 confirmed teeth (he tries to bite me when I check for those two last 2-year molars).

I’ve been telling Justin for a few weeks now that soon, he’ll be a “big boy”.  “Big boys” get to do lots of things: they get to make choices, they get to help get dressed and put shoes on.  But “big boys” also “no nerr”** (meaning “no nurse”), and they put their poop and pee in the potty instead of a diaper. 

** The first time I told Justin, “Big boys no nerr” he looked at me like I’d just told him the sky was green and asked very inquisitively, “No nerr?!” “Nope, no nerr.  Dadda no nerr, He-Man no nerr, big boys no nerr.” I said.  Justin then looked at the floor and shook his head from side to side saying, “no nerr. No nerr…”

Today we’ll be having a little family birthday party at Nanna and Poppa’s house (“PoppaNanna House!” as Justin calls it).  Since the cakepan didn’t come in time, the He-Man cake will have to wait, so Momma is crafting a Castle Grayskull cake from a sheet cake.

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