Wednesdays With My Daughters

A mom reflects on her two daughters and the day one of them was diagnosed with autism.

by Karen Carvelli • Member { View Profile }

My first child, Theresa, was born on a Wednesday nearly 15 years ago.  BC, before children, disappeared that day, and the rest of my life had begun. Wednesdays for me are a day to get things done, pause and take stock, and I love that there is still time left in the week to accomplish so much more.

Theresa came home, all of 5 lbs 3 oz, and one of my most vivid memories is of her wearing powder-blue onesie pajamas. They were a hand-me-down, sized for a premature baby and stretched to fit my daughter’s tiny fragile physique perfectly.

My daughter was full term, beautiful (really and not just through mom goggles), and, after the initial sleepless few weeks, an incredibly docile, pleasant baby. Before I knew it her smiles were lighting up the room, and her eyes were meeting mine with a gaze I had never experienced before.

“Bluebird” quickly became a nickname, whenever Theresa wore her powder blue pajamas. Always lifting her above my head in flight and perching her on my knee, she provided endless entertainment to her father and me. Her flight was well within our control and we adored the journey we were all on together.

At one year old, Theresa’s birthday party consisted of a houseful of family from near and far. She is named after her grandmother, deceased at the age of 42, but whose memory and presence is heavy and profound within our family. The significance of my daughter’s name is something that I come to embrace and value as time goes by but somehow my daughter seemed to understand very early on the beauty and gift of her name.

The powder blue pajamas became too small but stayed in Theresa’s drawer. The drawer was filled with pajamas increasing in size, but somehow I could not remove the reminder of my bluebird.

Something was different. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Oh what joy though when I discovered I was pregnant again, and my second child was due in January 2000. My children would be 18 months apart — an ideal gap in my opinion since my siblings were five and six years older than me and always seemed just a bit out of reach.

When Theresa was a year and half old, she did not eat well and her sleeping habits were not great either. If only I could have wrapped her in her powder-blue pajamas and rocked her to sleep. She didn’t seem too interested when her dad came home and, wow, she was not looking at me like she used to.

My second child, Jessica, was born on a Wednesday, nearly 13 years ago. It was a day to get things done,  absolutely a day to pause and take stock and there was still time in the week to accomplish so much more.  She was 7 lbs 11 oz and so solid and strong from the beginning. She was beautiful (really and not just through mom goggles) with the softest blondest hair I had ever felt, and bright blue eyes that matched that gaze I had experienced before with Theresa.

I’ve long ago packed away the powder blue-pajamas. Theresa’s drawers were overflowing, and they were too small for Jessie even on her first few days. They will remain packed in a box of special items I will cherish.

Theresa was diagnosed with autism on a Friday.

I hugged the powder-blue pajamas and loved that they still smelled like my daughter. I couldn’t believe how small they were and that they once fit her so perfectly. How could that be? How could any of this be?

BA, before autism, disappeared that day, and the rest of my life had begun. I was bewildered, devastated and scared. I was also very lucky to have a partner, my husband, who faced this news head on as he had done before at the loss of both his parents. This was a different kind of loss — one of control, dreams, confidence, and of our family as we knew it.

When she got older, Theresa’s room was painted sky blue with a white cloud-like faux paint finish. She struggled mightily with things that typical children learned without much thought. At bedtime, she would often tell me that her bed was like a soft fluffy cloud, and she liked to imagine she was floating in the sky as she drifted off to sleep. 

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