This I Believe

Melissa - Hampstead, Maryland
Entered on February 28, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: birth

I believe in Julia time.

When my due date came and went, my obstetrician wanted to induce labor. But my son had been delivered by c-section, and I wanted the experience of delivering this baby naturally. I wanted to be surprised by my daughter’s birthday. As long as non-stress tests showed that the baby was okay, my doctor agreed to wait a little longer to induce.

Two weeks after my due date, I went into labor. Julia entered this world six years ago on her own schedule. And that’s how she’s been living her life ever since.

For the first nine months of her life, Julia amazed us by beating her milestones. She was smiling and rolling over ahead of schedule. She was feeding herself with a spoon. She started saying “mama” and “dada” and “cat” and tried to sing. She was on a trajectory like the one her precocious brother travels to this day.

And then she slowed down. And then she took a few steps back.

By her first birthday, her words were gone. She couldn’t use a spoon anymore. She stopped responding to her name. She didn’t crawl until she was 14 months old or walk until she was 18 months old. The day before her second birthday, she was diagnosed with autism.

We had a small window to influence Julia’s prognosis, the neuropsych told us. We had the coveted early diagnosis; now we needed to get the early intervention.

Time sped up for me and my husband. Days and then weeks blurred by in a frenzy of research and support group meetings and desperate phone calls to agencies and specialists. I felt breathless for about two years as I raced to save my daughter. In the distance, I could almost see the window closing.

It wasn’t easy to accept Julia time at first. I wanted to speed up her clock to run with her brother’s, and mine, and the rest of the world’s. A lot of times, I still think about the child she might have been had she kept going at the pace of her first nine months.

But it’s impossible to ignore the bright, beautiful child she has become, as full of potential as she ever was. She taught herself to read before she turned 5. With a lot of therapy and hard work, her spoken words are coming back and new ones are emerging, one at a time. She is getting better with her hands. She is learning how to play with her brother. She smiles and laughs easily.

Julia is growing on her own time, frustrating and strange as it often is to me. But I believe in her. And I believe that in Julia time, it is always spring, that magical time of blossoming, possibility, and open windows.