From the first moment the nurse placed my newborn son in my arms, I was consumed with worry. I had no idea how to handle such a fragile, tiny being and became convinced that I would be on the evening news that first day – exposed as a fraud. I counted the seconds until someone of authority (a doctor, a nurse, a family member, anyone from the hallway who looked somewhat competent) could come in and provide me with tips and tricks to keep him alive until the next day.
The worry didn’t subside once we got home—was I feeding him enough? Is it normal to have to cut off a onesie when things go very, very wrong? When he seemed to zip through some milestones and lag behind with others, I panicked and consulted every parenting manual ever written. Since none of them were consistent, and I never could confirm anything as “right,” my worry became overwhelming.
As he grew, he seemed happy and loved playing, but he seemed far quieter than most children I had been around, which was limited to cousins and a few kids from random babysitting jobs when I was 12. Something was clearly wrong, so my soon-to-be ex-husband and I worried constantly as we went from hospital to doctors to therapists searching for the answers and interventions he needed. We watched as he was tested for hours and listened as expert after expert confirmed our fears. I made a plan to get him the help he needed and worried it wouldn’t be enough. As the stress increased, our marriage broke and he became all I had—and I worried about the pressure that put on him at such a young age.
I worried as his apraxia resolved but his fine motor skills decreased. I worried as his fine motor skills improved and his speech again grew difficult to understand. I worried as his speech and fine motor skills improved and another problem became the norm. I became convinced that this would be his life—doctor visits, therapist intervention and a broken family and I worried that I was somehow at fault for all of it. I hadn’t read enough, didn’t do something right in those first years, didn’t do the right things- ever.
I realize now how much of those early years I lost to worrying about outcomes I could never have predicted. I never thought he would speak normally or be able to hold his own fork. I never thought he would have friends, be able to socialize with others or carry on a typical conversation. I never thought he would have the life I had imagined for him, and I was right.
He has more friends than I ever thought possible, plays basketball, loves guitar and has a fantastic sense of humor. He is the most empathetic kid with big emotions beyond his years. He is the center of calm, reminding me that the terrible driver I am yelling at may very well be just learning. My worry about him fitting in and reaching his potential has finally subsided, replaced by excitement for all that is yet to come. As he continues to surprise me at every turn, I worry about being there for him when he needs me, being the support he needs to continue to grow and change and learn. I look at him every morning and remind myself that I am lucky to have him to worry about—to have the weight of these worries as he continues his life filled with promise.