We sat there glued to the hospital chairs, staring at the two grave faces looking back at us, not really believing our own ears. “I’m afraid your son is autistic.” I remember the extreme rush of thoughts going through my head at that moment. It was like my brain was working overtime, jumping between colorful images of my dear little boy with his bright blue eyes and vague depressing images of him in the future, sitting somewhere all alone and staring at nothing at all. To me, these drastically contrasting images didn’t make sense. While a part of me knew the truth of what was being said deep down inside, another larger part was screaming with protest. It couldn’t be! Not my happy little boy who was always smiling and giving me his special little hugs while declaring his love for me. I heard my voice slowly asking with a mix of doubt and hope: “Are you sure?” With all the certainty in the world, one pair of grave eyes looked directly at me, followed by a single word: “Yes”.
Suddenly it all became a little too much and I had to put all my energy into swallowing down the tears that were threatening to burst. My throat filled with this unbearable chunk and I couldn’t say anything for a long while. Probably sensing how uneasy we felt, the grave once started saying something but I had a difficulty following their words. I was utterly numb and opposed to earlier, it was like my brain had stopped functioning. The only thing it could focus on was the disbelief. How ignorant we had been in the waiting room, reassuringly convincing each other that there would be nothing wrong.
My husband was the first to get a hold of himself and started asking sensible questions about the future. “So… what does that mean? How is it going to affect him in the future? Will he be able to go to school? Will he be able to work and provide for himself? Will he be able to date – to marry? Will he be able to have kids?!?” The answer came as an ice-cold gush of water in the face: “Well, it is known that autistic children sometimes have problems with school, not all of them of course, but it’s common that they are struggling – especially socially. Most of them get to finish elementary school with some support. In regards to work – well that depends. And I would not necessarily think so far as to marriage and kids but as we said before, individuals with autism can have problems socially.” The chunk in my throat somehow managed to grow bigger while in my mind, the future I had always imagined for my son collapsed.
When thinking back to that day, this last part is what I remember as clear as it was yesterday. I am sure they were trying to be professional. I’m sure they were trying not to fill us with false hope but simply telling it as it was. I’m sure they wanted to be considerate and sensitive. However, these words felt like a knife was being thrust into my heart and the only thing they left me with was despair. We were rather quiet on our way home, lost in our own gloomy thoughts, only addressing each other occasionally with hopeful suggestions about positive traits in our son’s nature. When we came home the usual choirs of making dinner, cleaning up afterwards and putting the boys to sleep delayed any further discussion on the matter.
When the boys were sound asleep I suddenly had an urgent need for something sweet so I decided to walk to the nearest shop to buy some candy. On my way back I remember thinking just how strange it was that I hadn’t cried yet. In fact, since we’d left the hospital, I had felt nothing but numbness. Since I was feeling remarkably okay I decided to call my parents to let them know. But as soon as I heard my mothers voice it all came crushing down on me and I could barely squeeze out a hoarse “hi” before my throat completely closed up and the tears came streaming down my cheeks. I told her about the events of the day with great difficulty, barely comprehensible between my sobs. I vaguely remember that phone call, where I sat on a bench outside of our building in the cold, with my mother crying with me on the phone with half the Atlantic Ocean between us and that all she wanted to do was to hold me. I have never wanted my mom so badly in my life!