Plan on That! (The art of unpredictable parenting)

My son Grayson came into this world on his due date. My closest friends and family often laugh about this and say “of course your child came exactly as scheduled.” I am a planner and an organizer. Nothing brings me more joy than when all of the pieces of my life are arranged just so. And so, when my contractions started the evening before my due date I laughed to myself and thought “now this is a kid after my own heart.”

The irony of this, or course, is that arriving on his due date was the first and last thing that Grayson ever did on-time or just according to my plan. Every single moment since has been part of a crazy, amazing, wild, wonderful, and terrifying journey.

Grayson started to shake things up for us immediately. As in, while I was still in labor! My unpredictable son came out with the cord wrapped three times around his neck. After delivery, when I learned about the cord, I burst into tears. Mostly because I was a total hormonal mess, but also because I just experienced my very first new mommy lesson…there are so many things that we cannot control or plan for.

I learned in that moment, and in so many moments since, that parenting is not predictable. It is not easy or organized. It does not fit nice and neat into a schedule. Being a parent is the most terrifyingly wonderful experience. It is a whole bunch of days strung together of parents doing the best they can. It is nights of going to bed wishing you could have done more. It is moments of second guessing and panic. It is a complete loss of control. But, it is a total gain of so many wonderful things.

Grayson continued to keep things interesting for us in his first few months at home. He was such a happy and content baby. I spent many nights getting lost in his big brown eyes. And then one day around three months something just seemed off. Grayson seemed to have flu like symptoms accompanied with a rash on his body. I did my fair share or crazy mom Googling and then I decided to take it to the professionals. When the cold did not pass after a week and the rash did not clear with cream, the pediatrician recommended allergy testing.

As awful as you are imaging the process of allergy testing a three-month-old…multiply it by 100. They drew blood from my sweet baby while I cradled him in my arms. In my memory of that day the needle was 18 inches long (it gets longer every time I recall this tragic event). After 24 hours of processing the verdict was in; Grayson was allergic to eggs.

As a nursing mom the egg allergy meant a total overall of my diet. Did you know that eggs are in flipping EVERYTHING? We buckled down and I made it through 9 months of egg-free eating. Our pediatrician believed that Grayson’s early exposure to eggs through my breast milk along with breast-feeding for a full year could potentially help Grayson outgrow his allergy. At age 2 Grayson’s blood work showed a significant decrease in the allergen level. And by 2.5 we successfully integrated eggs into Grayson’s diet. Ironically enough, to this day he absolutely refuses to eat a plain egg.

Just three months after our egg monitoring and allergy worrying ended, Grayson was diagnosed with autism. And, I have come to learn that that is what the parenting gig is all about; moving from one obstacle to the next with as much grace and sanity as possible.

When Grayson was allergic to eggs we became experts in egg-free living. We purchased an “egg allergy” ID bracelet and we made sure that everyone in our life knew about the allergy. We took our own snacks everywhere we went. Instead of the traditional first birthday “cake smash”, Grayson smashed egg-free ice cream. Grayson was allergic to eggs. So, living egg-free became a way of life.

We did the same thing when Grayson was diagnosed with autism. Well, not right away. First we hid for a bit. And cried. And then after we hid and after we cried, we became autism experts. We look for opportunities to know as much as we can. We attend seminars, we read books, and we network with other autism families. Living with Grayson’s autism has become a new way of life.

I recently ordered Grayson an autism ID bracelet. And, as I purchased the bracelet I thought back to that tiny egg allergy bracelet he had as a baby. And, then my heart grew a little sad. You see, Grayson outgrew his egg allergy. When the allergy was gone we unclipped the bracelet and threw it in the garbage. Happy to be rid of it. And this time, it is likely we will never throw away Grayson’s autism ID bracelet. Whether he needs to wear it every day as he moves through his life is yet to be determined. But, it is a part of him now in a way that is very real. Maybe too real. He will not outgrow his autism. Autism is a lifetime diagnosis. His symptoms may change. The treatment will change. His needs will change. But, Grayson has autism, and that will not change.

My beautiful, smart, and silly boy came into this world exactly as scheduled on his due date. And, in every moment since he has kept me guessing.  I will follow him wherever this journey takes us. I know that it will not be planned. I am pretty sure that it will not be predictable. I can almost guarantee you that it will not go according to schedule. But, do you know what I do know? I know that it is going to be wonderful! And, that, you can plan on!

JS

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