As I was gathering my things to leave for work yesterday morning, my mother in law sat on our couch and chatted away about what she and Brooklyn were going to do that day. She wanted to know where her best walking shoes were. "I read online that she should be able to walk backwards by now," she said. "So I'm going to take her on a walk and we're going to try it."
"Oh, okay," I replied. "Just remember, she's been a little behind on her motor development, so she might not be ready yet, and that's okay."
"Yeah, I know. But she's ahead on some things too. And she only does some of the weird things that Jon did when he was a baby."
I swallowed hard. Jon is my husband's younger brother, who is autistic and mentally retarded. We have not told my mother in law that we are having Brooklyn evaluated by Early Childhood Intervention or that we are afraid something could be wrong with her. She doesn't seem to have noticed that Brooklyn is no longer speaking words. She doesn't know that we are taking her to the doctor this Friday because we are afraid of what this could mean.
I tried to find my words and pushed the lump in my throat back down. "Um. Uh. What does she do that Jon did when he was a baby?"
"Well, you know how she plays by herself, and she gets off in her own little world, and you can't distract her from it? And you say her name and she doesn't look at you or anything? Jon was the only one of my kids who was like that."
"There's a lot of other stuff he did that was off that she doesn't do. So I think she's going to be fine by the time she starts school."
"Yeah." Fake smile. Outside in my car, I make a panicky call to David, and he tries to reassure me and tell me just to wait until Friday. He says things like maybe his mom doesn't remember which child did what. He tells me that all kids "zone out" when they're playing, that it's normal.
Maybe. But maybe not.
I am distracted all day long at work. My fingers think for themselves as they type away at reports on criminals while my mind is racing, playing the "what if" game. At lunch, I look up the age-appropriate milestone checklists again. I read over the possible early signs of autism again. My baby doesn't have all of these warning signs by any means. She still makes eye contact with me, she smiles, she laughs, she talks to herself in her baby language. She doesn't flap her hands or arms or organize her toys into categories. But that big red flag keeps jumping out at me....loss of words. Where did her words go? Why? I try to look for other causes of this, but everything I read mentions that dreaded A-word.
That evening, I leave work and drive across town to pick up one of Brooklyn's prescriptions. I am blaring one of my mix cd's, and Peter Gabriel's "Book of Love" begins to play. The beautiful sounds of the strings fill my ears, and I feel my heart breaking.
Ever since we started trying to conceive, David has had dreams of a little girl, our little daughter, playing a violin. He wants so badly for Brooklyn to play the violin, because I love them so much, and he has dreamed it vividly so many times. It paints a beautiful picture in my head as well. We have been so excited to see that Brooklyn appears to be so musically inclined...she loves to listen to music, she dances to every type of music she hears with a big grin on her face, she seems to feel the notes and chords and rhythms deep down inside her little body. "I can't wait to get her a violin," David said the other night. "I can't wait to hear her play it."
Fear ran through my body as I listened to the song playing, the strings swelling.
What if she CAN'T.
What if she can't do all of these other things that I want for her, that I dream of her being able to do. Doing well in school, becoming whatever she wants to be, getting married, having a family of her own. What if she can't do anything.
What if she's like my brother in law and can't ever live independently? What if, like him, she has to live isolated, trapped as an angry child within a grown-up body, unable to relate to anyone else? What if. Oh. My. God. What if.
I lost it. I sobbed hard all the way to the pharmacy, tears blurring my vision of the traffic, my throat so tight that it was painful to breathe, my chest feeling like it was going to burst wide open. "Dear God," I whispered, "Please let my baby be okay. Please let her start talking again. Don't do this to her. I can't take this."
These fucking what if's, and this fucking waiting game. I am not trying to dwell on the worst possible outcome, and I'm not trying to be negative, especially when we know nothing at this point. I don't want to jump to conclusions or assume anything. But I am so afraid. My mind wanders off to dark places these days, and sometimes I can't bring it back.