With all the frustrating trials and unbelievable challenges we face in raising Ethan every day, it’s no wonder that my thoughts are literally consumed by my firstborn son.
What does surprise me, though, is how much I worry about his little brother. Alex, so far, is not only apparently “normally-developing,” but seems to be the complete reverse of Ethan; where Ethan was late on everything as a baby, Alex is early. He rolled completely over at 2 months, sat up at 4 months, stood up at 5.5 months. At 7 months he was crab-walking while holding onto the furniture, and by 8 months he was toddling around the living room, completely unassisted. Crawling happened somewhere in there, too, but didn’t last long once he figured out he could just get up and run wherever he wanted! He’s been babbling and saying simple words (mama, dada, baba, yum yum, bubble, bye-bye) for quite a few months now. He’s 11 months and 6 days old as of today.
Alex does so many things that Ethan never did as a baby. Alex reaches out to us to be picked up. Ethan never did that. Alex already blows kisses, gives us kisses, he hugs us, for God’s sake! Ethan is 4 years old. He literally just started giving us proper hugs within the last 6 months.
Alex dances. Like, actually dances to music. He laughs and jokes with us. He mimics our movements and tries to repeat words back to us. He loves to be held. He even breastfeeds better than Ethan did as a baby. At 11 months, I’m worried about how I’m going to wean him once his first birthday comes around. I was barely able to get Ethan to breastfeed for 2 months. It was very stressful for both of us, and a feeding usually ended with us both crying and me begging my husband to just give him a bottle of formula so he would go to sleep.
The last couple of weeks, we’ve noticed that Alex has learned how to spin in circles. He doesn’t do it for extended periods of time; in fact, he doesn’t even seem to do it long enough to let himself get dizzy. But I was actually concerned enough to Google it, and apparently it’s perfectly normal for babies his age to do that. But let me tell you, the first time I saw him do it, I felt sick to my stomach. I had a moment of sheer panic. I still find myself checking every day to make sure he’s making eye contact with me, testing him out to see if he’s losing any of his words or regressing at all. When I see him crawling somewhere instead of walking (which he almost never does, unless we’re in an unfamiliar place), I catch myself rushing over and hauling him up to his feet… and why? I guess maybe I’m reminding him that he can walk, I don’t know.
We also have some serious reservations about letting Alex cry it out, because we used the Baby-Wise Method with Ethan to get him to sleep through the night when he was a baby. It worked, he slept through the night by the time he was 8 weeks old, but it was tough. The Baby-Wise Method is all about teaching your baby to self-soothe and involves extensive crying it out. There have also been some reports (though admittedly all of them are unfounded) that there may be some correlation between the Baby-Wise Method and autism. So I’m sure you can see why this is a method I haven’t been entirely on board with where our second child is concerned. We’ve tried, and the effort usually culminated in my husband or myself rushing in to pick Alex up and cuddle him after approximately 12 seconds. We always give up and rock him to sleep. We just can't bear the thought of the alternative.
I recently read an article that said parents of children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) have roughly a 5% chance of having another child with ASD. It also said that the chances of having a second child that does not have ASD is over 90% and that having one child with ASD should not affect the couple’s decision to have another child.
So why do my husband and I agonize over this very decision? We can’t seem to decide whether or not we want to have another baby. We go back and forth almost daily. Why do I check Alex out every day to make sure he’s still developing normally and that he’s not showing any signs of autism, signs of regression, signs of… well, becoming like Ethan? Because I’m so afraid of it, this mysterious…being…that is Autism. I have nightmares about it. I have dreams of walking into a room and seeing my precious babies’ faces disappearing. One minute they’re smiling at me, laughing, talking, and the next minute, they have no faces. No expression. No voices. They’re nothing. And they’re sitting in the room with me, but I’m alone.
I’m pretty sure that’s straight out of an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” How original.
I guess the only thing I can do is listen to that old song (I happen to prefer Doris Day’s rendition), Que Sera, Sera, and realize that the most important thing to remember is that “Whatever Will Be, Will Be.”