In the Beginning

The photo above is our little family of three the day of Camden’s birth.

Brian and I married in our early 30s. Camden arrived when I was 33. I had lived overseas and worked as an elementary teacher for a few years and a children’s librarian for a few years. I enjoyed children and teaching.

We moved to a new home three days before Camden’s birth. Left my job, our church, our network. I had always wanted to be a stay-at-home mama, but the longer I was home, the more I seemed to stink at the task. My sweet husband never knew which Candace was going to greet him at the door after work.

Those days were so hard, and they are still difficult for us to think on too long. Please hear me out. Our children are a gift and we are beyond grateful for them. We would much rather have Camden and autism than no Camden at all.

Camden was a very unhappy baby. He cried a lot. For the record, “a lot” should be in all caps. He slept very little. I’d ask our pediatrician, “Camden cries a lot. Is everything okay?” And he’d tell me that I just got a temperamental kid. I’d question the fact that Camden didn’t sleep much. The doctor looked at me and looked at my husband, and asked, “Well you guys don’t sleep the same amount, do you?” When I’d mentioned my concern about milestones missed, he’d chalk it up to my age, my first child, the fact that my child is a boy, etc. So when reports come out about better diagnosis for autism, I tend to shake my head. I am not alone in my story. We never even received the autism screener. Sigh.

Our pediatrician wasn’t the only one that thought I was making a big deal out of things. Several good friends, family members, and specialists didn’t see it.

We attended a neighborhood get together when Camden was two and our younger son was a newborn. All the other children were playing together in the family’s playroom while Camden found a brunette with long gorgeous hair. He obsessed over her hair. No desire to interact with the other children. In the dark of our bedroom that night I told Brian that maybe I just needed to stop stressing over Camden’s development and realize he was a little quirky. Brian’s voice broke and he replied, “It’s more than quirky, Love.” Glad it was dark because the emotions at that moment came flooding out. You see, Brian had been on the fence, so for him to come out and admit that something was going on was big.

The next day I called to make an appointment with the Developmental Pediatrician who could see us the soonest. And at 2 years and 2 months of age, Camden received an official diagnosis of moderate autism.

There were a lot of things happening to help us to keep going. God’s mercy, mostly. Lots of people praying for us. A wonderful team from Early Childhood Intervention that came to our home every weekday.

We had such a longing to hear Camden’s voice and to know him. Our ECI coordinator had a daughter with autism and I remember her asking, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

That’s what we have tried to do. Small improvements over time that have led to a lot of improvements for Camden and our family. We lived in survival mode for a while (probably a couple of years), especially right after the diagnosis and a new baby. I feel there is a time and place for survival mode. Sometimes it’s all you got. But at some point, you gotta kick it up a notch and start moving forward, no matter how slowly. Because you know why? There is always plenty of room for HOPE!



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