I'm sure that every parent frets a little over a new baby. Such a helpless, vulnerable little creature naturally inspires extra watchfulness and protectiveness. After having two children already, I would have thought I would feel more confident in the care of my third. Maybe I do on some levels, but I still find myself checking to see if he's breathing and worrying over every sniffle and bout of fussiness. Those who know me well, know that I worried my way through this pregnancy; afraid my "advanced maternal age" might bring with it some devastating genetic disorder. For the first couple of weeks after Oliver was born, I still found myself dreaming that he'd been born without arms and legs or other frightening deformities even though I knew he was healthy and whole.
Now, as I tiptoe past that stage of worrying, I am confronting the darkest fear of all those in my arsenal. The latest statistics are out regarding the prevalence of autism and the news is bad. Autism disorders now affect 1 in 100 children, with the rate among boys being a scary 1 in 58. Having a sibling with the disorder increases the risk to some figure I don't even want to contemplate. When my oldest son was diagnosed, it was the darkest time of my life. Fourteen years into his life, my heart still aches for him everyday. Those are not steps I want to retrace. Nor do I want to see my second son sandwiched in between two special needs brothers.
So I find myself analyzing every nuance of Oliver's development. I worry over whether he's interactive enough. I worry over every bout of gassiness; every sign of allergy. I worry over the vaccine schedule, trying to strike the right balance between overwhelming his system and protecting him from dangerous illness. I keep him constantly by my side--afraid he will slip away if he doesn't receive enough social stimulation and determined to be alert to the earliest possible sign of a problem. Part of me believes I can stop the inevitable if I'm vigilant enough. The other part just wants to savor every time he looks into my eyes, every time I hear his voice, and every time he lets me cuddle him--just in case.