Day One

It will be one of the worst days of your life. 


In all honesty I will remember “day one” for as long as I remember my own name.


It is funny how many vivid details you can recall about one of the worst things to happen in your life. Now, for those that disagree with me, unless you have lived through it you don’t know. It feels like you have been blindsided, been in a car crash, had a shot to the guts. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.


We still lived on the farm back then. I remember driving home with my wife pregnant with our second son in the seat beside me. I was angry, and this was before everything changed. We headed to the city for a hearing appointment for Ashton because he had lost his speech. One day we are sounding out letters in the bath or shower and the next he just stopped speaking entirely. New, young parents, we followed the usual steps which meant hearing loss is the first thing to rule out. 


I was angry because an hour earlier, I had wanted to knock-out a doctor.  We had been told that this was the best hearing doctor in the city, and he had essentially turned us away because our son could not calm down enough to do the exam. 


Now that I know the signs, I could have probably picked up on something being wrong sooner. In fairness, my wife had realized what was going on and was just holding it inside. Call it her own fear or call it her looking out for me, she hasn’t told me which, but I have my own ideas. Either way, I never thought a doctor would turn us away with a screaming child and minimal answers. In his words “I cannot get a good enough look, so it is probably not his hearing”. 


Okay, so what the hell do we do now?


We packed up and drove the hour back home. I actually remember being not only mad at the doctor but also mad at Ashton. Why couldn’t he just sit still for the exam? Why does everything these days have to be difficult? Is this what all new parents are facing? Nobody else’s child in the waiting room was screaming bloody murder. I regret it now, but it’s the truth –  I was mad at Ashton.


“You know that something is wrong with him, right?”


This was the first thing she said, and I could see tears in her eyes. Now, remember, I am naïve and also not comfortable being uncomfortable. I remember looking at her with a blank stare, “You mean his hearing?”. 


No, that is not what she meant.


Ashton started off life normal, as far as I know. He was hitting certain parameters, he started mouthing words and making sounds. He laughed, he cried, he had trouble sleeping (but all kids do). For me this was all new, so why would I question anything. 


For Amy, I believe it was slightly different. Call it experience from teaching, call it mother’s intuition, call it being more realistic than me. When Ashton got excited and started flapping his hands in the air, I thought it was funny. Actually, when he still does it, I still find it cute because he gets more excited than any other kids I see. But this “stim” was  the first thing I remember looking back on and thinking I should have seen it as something to be noticed. I am sure there were more things, but this was my first recollection after Googling autism. And yes, I had to Google it.


By the time we got home that day she had already said the word autism. I thought of a few kids I had known growing up that had autism and I talked myself out of it. Of course, I never knew these kids at two years old, so what could I reference? So then I did the worst thing I could have done, I Googled it again. For those that have Googled a medical condition because they thought it would calm them down, here is some guidance – it does not, it scares the shit out of you.


I remember the list of symptoms. 


I remember going down the list and checking more than we missed. 


If you have ever had your heart drop in your chest, double that feeling and then add one hundred and then you will feel what I felt. 


I also remember walking into the basement, sitting on the floor, and bursting into tears. I am sure Amy was crying while putting Ashton down to sleep. Then, to make it worse, I turned back to Google to find out what my future was going to look like…