Embracing the Spectrum: A Journey of Love and Neurodivergence
As I leaned over his crib, a tumult of emotions swirled within me as I attuned to the gentle cadence of his rising and falling chest. His soft, rhythmic newborn breaths and those distinct half-lidded eyes—a trait he still holds onto—whispered of dreams beyond my comprehension. My fingers gently cradled his petal-soft newborn hand, its warmth contrasting with my own anxious, chilled touch. Holding him this way, he felt delicately fragile, and I hoped my embrace wouldn’t rouse him from his slumber.
Tears threatened to spill and I chastised myself internally, echoing my mother’s beliefs that tears of a new mother before her child might be an ill omen.
We had been home for merely a week, the memories of labor and delivery still vivid. The birth had been a whirlwind of emotion, chaotic and intense. Yet my tears weren’t for that. Those memories, though raw, sat on a shelf reserved for later reflection. Instead, I felt overwhelmed by how vulnerable my baby looked and felt in my arms. As I released his hand, he curled it into a tiny, protective fist. Even in the depths of slumber, he appeared to respond and react to the overwhelming sensations of this vast, unfamiliar world.
He was our second son, born after an eight-year gap. The preceding nine months had been a tempest of emotions for me. A persistent inner voice had been my constant companion, incessantly whispering apprehensions, suggesting that our child was perhaps too ethereal, too fragile for life’s stark realities. This voice had fueled an intense urge to shield him, and with his arrival, that urge intensified. In those early postpartum days I found myself lost in his gaze, longing to cocoon him back into the safety of my womb.
Our journey since then, punctuated by challenges like sleep disorders, sensory processing and food sensitivities, only confirmed my earlier instincts. Battling for advocacy and access to essential services, I frequently found myself on bended knees, imploring for the fortitude to be the mother he required and praying for God’s guidance, craving His role as the unwavering parent I so deeply yearned for.
In recent years, I’ve found myself amidst friends who are treading the poignant path of an autism diagnosis for their child. With curious and hopeful eyes, they inevitably ask about the moment I felt the weight of our son’s place on the spectrum. As I cast my mind back, the memory comes to life, as vivid as the brushstrokes on a canvas.
I always knew, right from that eagerly awaited, silent, heart-stopping moment when the two little pink lines appeared, signaling his impending arrival. The joy I felt found itself obscured by a looming cloud of uncertainty. Within me, a fierce protectiveness surged, reminiscent of a lioness prowling the arid savannas of my native country, Kenya, ever ready to shield her cub from unseen dangers.
The subsequent, almost natural, question is always: did I mourn the absence of a “typical” child? My heart answers with both a yes and a no. The stormy journey, the nights enveloped in earnest prayers, hoping for relief from both his and my anxieties—all of these etch a profound narrative of our challenges. Yet interwoven into this tapestry of trials is the multiplex beauty of neurodivergence: the brilliance of absorbing vast amounts of knowledge juxtaposed against the innocent challenges of mastering simple tasks like tying shoelaces.
It’s not that I wasn’t pained by the unexpected intricacies of our son’s diagnosis. From the moment I held him within my body, there was an innate, maternal solace in recognizing and accepting his uniqueness and creation. My deeper sorrow stemmed not from his neurodivergence, but from the gnawing realization that the world might not perceive and cherish his distinct beauty as instinctively as I had.
Recently, as we marked our ninth year enveloped within the luminous and constantly evolving fabric of neurodivergence, one strand shone brighter than others: the awakening of my beloved husband to his own position on the spectrum. For those who cherish and know him deeply, this insight resonated with affirming nods and unsurprised acknowledgments. This revelation has been like the first rain that graces parched earth—rejuvenating and freeing. It has deepened his self-understanding, amplified his unique essence, reinvigorated our familial bonds, and breathed fresh vigor into our marital journey.
My husband’s awakening to his own being was a soft echoing whisper from the divine creator to the yearning depths of my heart. A reassuring nudge from Jesus: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope,” signifying our son’s destined path (Jeremiah 29:11). He wouldn’t tread this path alone, but rather in the footsteps of his father and also other men in our family graced with profound faith and gentleness, emblematic of humanity’s finest virtues. In their neurodivergence lies the unveiling of traits like humility, empathy, diligence, and unwavering faith, revealing the profound depths of God’s true nature to all of us.
In contrast to those anxiety-filled first nine months, the last nine years have been a crucible, refining and defining me. Through all the ups and downs, Proverbs 3:5-6 has deeply resonated: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make straight your paths.” A reminder of God’s constant presence and His desire for my constant surrender to His plan and goodness.
Entrusting my son’s future to Him transformed my anxieties into serenity. As I faithfully stepped away from a full time career outside the home and embraced homeschooling, I began to witness my once fragile child evolve into a wise older brother, leaving me endlessly marveling at God’s handiwork. The very child I once believed I needed to shield is now our family’s pillar. He enlightens us about wanderlust-filled road trips, shares insights into the world of automobiles, and probes into deep theological musings. To say I am humbled by the blessing of having a child and spouse on the spectrum would be an understatement. And as I reflect on our journey, Psalm 139:14 encapsulates my emotions: “I praise you, for [We are] fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.“
*Photo by Nancy Nyabuti