Little Man was a couple months past his first birthday, and we were an emotional wreck. His daily therapy sessions with Infants and Toddlers were torture, he'd scream the entire 45 minutes until they left without being able to accomplish anything. We couldn't go out in public, because his fear of strangers was so overwhelming that if someone looked directly at him he would cry until we had to leave. No one could tell us much about his future except to tell us to wait and see what happened next. In addition to all the social anxiety, he wasn't able to walk or even pull himself to standing. His right leg and arm had so much tone that it was like trying to pull teeth to get him to stretch out either one.
That night my Ex and I were driving the two hours from my mother's house to our little apartment. It had been a particularly rough day, even Grandma wasn't immune to Little Man's stranger phobia. I don't remember what we did or what we were listening to on the radio... or if Ex and I were even talking to each other. We were both burnt out and overwhelmed.
And I looked back into the car, and saw Little Man staring out the window... and I just sobbed. It was just an intense sense of grief for what I felt I had lost. I just wanted Little Man to be able to be anything he wanted to be. I wanted everything for him. I wanted the baby I'd dreamed about for nine months, and this baby was so different than everything I imagined.
I looked over at Ex and just begged him to tell me if he was thinking this too. Did he worry every waking moment the way I did? Did he get discouraged and sad all the time? What if Little Man never walked or talked, what if he was going to stay just like this for the rest of his life? Was it always going to be this hard for him, this hard for us? Why couldn't anyone tell us what was going to happen next?
I don't remember what the Ex said. Maybe he agreed, maybe he didn't. In the end, I only remember that I walked in the door to our apartment with a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach and put the Little Man in his crib while we ran him a bath.
I walked into the nursery to grab him for the bath, and there he was - standing up in his crib. He was holding on to the side of that rickety old crib for dear life, and was more leaning than standing - but there he was.
I shrieked for Ex to grab the camera, and he ran into the room and snapped a shot of Little Man's first standing moments. I was squealing and clapping like a fool, and Little Man was so startled by all the attention that he fell back onto his little butt. He must have only been standing a second or two and so I figured it might be awhile before we saw it again. Instead, all that clapping seemed to energize him, and he pulled himself right back up in front of my eyes.
For the second time that night I started sobbing. And also clapping and smiling simultaneously, which must have been fun to watch.
This is the smile of someone who knows he has just made his Momma proud.
That moment is still one of the most vivid and amazing memories of my life. That was the moment I realized that Little Man was going to be okay. It was the moment I realized I was going to be okay, and that we could do this.
Lately I've been so discouraged with how slow progress has been for Little Man. He's four now and still not talking. He doesn't play with toys appropriately or enjoy long cuddles with me while reading stories. But then I go back to this memory, and I know just like I did then that we will be okay. Less than three years ago I was worried that he'd never be able to stand, and now he can run. I know life with Little Man will never be normal, he'll never "catch up" to other kids and he'll always need us in his life in some capacity. But I can't predict what will happen next, and I need to stop trying. Enjoy the journey and love all the memories we're making along the way, which are all the more special because I'm not expecting them.