My mom left today after a four day visit and emailed when she returned home. She commented "Louie makes my heart hurt if that makes sense. It's the only way to describe him right now." I understand exactly what she meant. It's the same way I'm feeling right now. My heart just hurts for him. For me. For his grandparents.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
You know, the funny thing about Williams syndrome, which really isn't funny at all. Why do we use such stupid language sometimes? Anyway, the not so funny thing about Williams Syndrome is that I'd never heard of it. Ever. So, when Louie was diagnosed, I could make it whatever I wanted it to be. Oh, here on the Internet, it says mild to moderate retardation, so of course I deemed that Louie would be the "mild" case. Many kids with Williams Syndrome are musically gifted. I envisioned Louie playing with the Philharmonic or touring the world singing in 100 different languages. I read children with WS were extremely extroverted, conversational and friendly and loved people. I imagined Louie making friends at every corner; the adored child.
Okay, so it's not turning out that way so far. I know, I know, there's still time. But he doesn't fit the Williams syndrome profile. One of his doctors labeled him as "low-functioning". He is not friendly. He's not showing any musical talent. He doesn't speak a single word or even attempt words. He babbles, 'a' and 'e' and even that is rare. Who would have ever thought vowels and consonants would mean so much to me? His speech therapist sent home a note this week saying she heard the sound "muh." Do I celebrate? Yes, I suppose I do.
Louie has a dual diagnosis. He has both Williams syndrome and autism. Point here is not poor me, as much as I realize it may sound. The point is that every moment, I'm learning more about what it means to be the mother of Louie. And who he really is. And it doesn't matter how many labels we put on him and how much I read about these labels. He'll still be Louie. But a Louie that tugs a little harder on my metaphorical, yet vulnerable heart.
I create all these expectations about what he should be like, according to the things I read, the doctors I talk to, the WS website. And then I find myself left with that feeling similar to the day of the diagnosis - not the "oh this could be anything I want it to be" part, but the wave of nauseous realization that this is what's happening. The reality part. Since Williams syndrome is rare, I wonder if my grieving process is taking longer? Since I had nothing to go by, nothing to compare it to? No knowledge of what I was facing and all the knowledge I have gathered has turned out not to apply to Louie.
I will continue to learn more about who he is and what he needs and stop reading about what he "should be". I will learn more about how he is not words on a page; he is the person sitting on the floor stimming out on a Crawl Ball - cause and effect toy. His current obsession. Cause and effect.
These are tough times with Louie. And as Ace reaches every milestone it's such bitter sweetness; or maybe it's a full-blown-elbow-jab in the ribs. Wow, this is the way a human develops. This is absolutely amazing. Chris and I watch in amazement, saying "Louie is just now doing that" or "Do you remember how long it took Louie to figure out the ball tower?" Ace has now surpassed Louie. We knew it would happen. Ace is beginning to walk and talk. Words! Real words! I need to call Mensa International right away.
So, Williams Syndrome isn't everything I thought it was going to be. Is anything? Hasn't everyone been disappointed by imagining something in the future and it turns out to be nothing like what you thought it was going to be? I'll answer for you. Yes. But haven't there also been those moments, those that you least expected that were amazing? The ones that aren't planned, the wet kisses from my boys, the full moon rising on the horizon, a brief but meaningful moment with a friend, sometimes just to let them know, "Yes, I'm still alive and I still love you." Camping on the beach cause you were too young to a.) afford a hotel, b.) think about and become frighted regarding the safety, c.) sitting on a lifeguard stand late at night, feeling the salty wind, watching the waves and the black water that went on forever and ever. d
We all struggle with the disappointments, unwelcome surprises and hurtful situations in life. We should own our pain and not feel guilty about it. Rachelle, breast-cancer survivor from my book club, said it perfectly the other day. "It's like if your whole hand gets slammed in the car door, it hurts. If your pinky gets slammed in the car door, it hurts." Doesn't matter what your hurt is or the cause. It still hurts. And that's okay. We are the ones who live with that hurt no matter how big or small we think it is. It's ours and we feel it and that's really all that matters. You have to feel it to get beyond it. But we can't lose ourselves so much in our pain that we miss out on those deliciously, hilarious moments that make you laugh until your side hurts or the appreciation of a sleeping baby; a sight that takes my breath away every time I see it. Sometimes we do, though, have to lift the covers in order to see these thing too. You know, go ahead and get out of bed.