Daughter’s a ‘gift to ponder’

Published 12:20 am Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It is late and I sit in the dark, knowing it’s time for sleep but not ready to settle down. From behind the closed door across the hall, I hear my daughter softly talking to herself while her television plays in the background.

She isn’t so much talking as repeating words and phrases at a lightning pace, something she does a lot of the time. I can’t quite make out what she is saying as her voice grows lower and slower.

Maybe she is quieting herself down to sleep. I hope so. It is easier for me to sleep knowing she is finally resting. That is what I think as I sit alone in the dark house.

On another night 18 years ago, sleep was as elusive as it is right now and like tonight, thoughts of my daughter filled my mind. I awaited her arrival imagining how she might look and sound as I felt her moving under the hands resting on my belly.

Now on the eve of her birthday, I think about the first hours of her life, about how she came into the world with big bright eyes looking around as if she wanted to see everything at once. When I held her tiny body close to mine, she looked up at me in a way that opened my heart so wide I thought it might burst with the love I felt for her.

There is a passage in the Bible that says after Jesus’ birth Mary kept all the happenings and pondered them in her heart.

I understand pondering. I guess that is what I’m doing on this night, pondering things in my heart. It is what we do whether we become mothers by giving birth, by adopting a child or by marrying into motherhood. No matter how it happens, we have special moments with our children that we keep wrapped inside us — gifts that make us smile and comfort us on long nights.

And, there have been long nights over the past 18 years, nights when my husband and I took turns walking the floor wondering if our child would ever fall asleep, nights when her cries broke our hearts and left us feeling helpless.

Oh but there were the miracle times too, the sound of her laughter and a spontaneous hug from a child for whom such an interaction is a challenge.

She still, in the precious moments when we connect, has a way of looking at me that fills my heart to overflowing with unconditional love. Those moments come unexpectedly because we seem to move in different orbits most of the time.

She spins through life in the whirl of autism, while I travel in the experience of what society defines as “normal.” However, sometimes our orbits intersect and then we really see each other beyond all the separation of our different worlds, for me that is a wonder.

The house is quiet now. My family is sleeping and morning will be here before I know it.

Still, I sit silently, thinking about the years since my daughter became a part of my life, remembering the baby I watched grow into the person who tomorrow celebrates 18 years of life.

It hasn’t been as I imagined it would be on that long ago night when I waited for her birth, because autism was not something I imagined. Still, everything about being her mother has been, and is, an adventure and a blessing — a gift I ponder in my heart.