I have been having a hard time falling asleep lately. This is very out of character for me. Maybe it’s the Candy Crush puzzles running through my head that keep me from nodding off. More likely, though, it’s the thoughts running through my head about my life and my children. The most common thoughts I have lately are about Stella and her development. She is developing just as she should. She is definitely not on the autism spectrum. I lie awake and I wonder how I could have missed the signs in Mara for so long. I wasn’t seriously concerned about Mara until she was 23 months old. At that time I thought she was regressing (and she was, she lost words that she had been using), but there were signs WAY before that. Reese did everything on time. When Mara’s development was different, I just thought that she was different from Reese. I thought that was normal and everyone said I shouldn’t compare them. Stella is 21 months old. She is doing things that Mara never did…things Mara still doesn’t do. Stella is a little ahead of the game with her speech. She has been in therapy, essentially, with all of Mara’s therapists around all the time. I naturally talk to her the same way I talk to Mara, insisting that she use language to get what she wants. It isn’t her speech, though, that is so different. When Mara was a baby, she never cried or called for me when she woke up. She would lie in her crib for an hour or more and happily look at her mobile. I thought that was normal. I thought she liked her alone time. Stella loves to play with baby dolls. Mara never did. I thought she just wasn’t a girly girl. Now I know that all little girls are supposed to play with dolls. They are supposed to get excited about dressing up. They are supposed to have preferences about what they want to wear. Little girls are supposed to dance. They are supposed to push other kids when they want a toy (Ok, maybe that’s just Stella). They are supposed to say “mine!” Little girls are supposed to enjoy coloring. They are supposed to get excited when they do something new and say, “Mama, look at this!” Stella does all of these things. Mara never did.
I don’t feel guilty anymore about missing the signs. I know now that I couldn’t have known. I knew nothing about autism 2 years ago. Knowing what I know now, I would have seen something in Stella months ago if there was something to see. Even though I am past the point of blaming myself for missing the signs, I still lie awake some nights and wonder how I could have missed them.