Most dreams are unremarkable. They are the soft refuse of daily life collected and stored; matter unorganized. My dreams usually stay with me in the morning, lingering souvenirs of the twilight. I can recall the faces that I spent much of my sleeping hours with, the themes with which I wrestled and the many emotions accompanying each scene. The closer I am to the ocean and her tidal temperament, the more vivid, colorful, and surreal this night theatre in my head becomes. I have dreamed that I was flying. I have dreamed of meeting my young child self and rocking her in my arms as I told her I loved her. I have dreamed in color and dreamed without color. As it is, the high desert is dry and so both my dreams and my lips are often parched, thin and shallow.
About 10 years ago I dreamed about my son just before he was born. I don’t know if I believe in prophetic dreams. Or better stated, I don’t know if I believe in MY ability to have prophetic dreams. But I do believe in a deep kind of intuition. The kind that is imprinted in my cells; truth that is written on my very molecules. And I believe that the body and the spirit will communicate. Perhaps this was one of those dreams.
After two little girls, Brig and I were thrilled to be expecting a boy. This pregnancy was unlike my former two in every way. Where I had spent almost all nine months of my previous pregnancies throwing up, I had little more than the occasional aggravating nausea. I craved heavy, fatty foods and as a result, found myself round in every possible way. But it wasn’t just that I was round, this baby that grew inside me seemed to have soft angles. My girls had both felt like they had one hundred limbs each and when they moved inside of me I felt like I was constantly being poked on all sides. They were endlessly active and every movement felt like a knee or an elbow. But not with my son. His movements were slow and liquid. There were no angles, just softness. And he moved so little that many times I found myself watching the clock, poking him from the outside, praying I’d feel some evidence of life inside. Just when I’d begin to worry, that soft movement would ease my nerves. It was around my eighth month when the dream came to me. And I didn’t think it remarkable until long after he was born.
Two women came to me. They were neither old nor young. How they looked and what they wore was forgettable. They didn’t speak to me in any language, at least not the conventional language of voice and words. Rather it was a practice in intuition, reading each other's thoughts and impressions. I still find it difficult to translate everything that was portrayed to me in the dream. There were many thoughts that I have yet to find adequate language to describe. I was lead to understand that they were like nurses but not for the physical body. Possibly more like missionaries, but it was not their duty to preach. They were simply there on my behalf and there was a warmth about them.
No sooner had I recognized their presence than we were suddenly walking the long halls of an enormous building. Each hallway opened up to more hallways and each new hallway seemed to ascend to a higher floor without ever taking a staircase or elevator. There were no memorable markings in this building. And no windows as far as I can recall except that the whole thing seemed open to the universe at all times, if that makes any sense at all.
Each hallway was lined with rooms and I was directed to look inside each room as we passed. Every room had a crib in the middle, a baby in the crib, a mother standing near and one of these nurse-missionaries attending. As I approached the first crib I noticed something wrong with the baby. Its sweet face slept soundly but it had only one complete arm and one shriveled limb where the other arm should have been. The next room held a baby with a cleft lip and palate. The next room a baby with a clubbed foot and so it was that we went on one room after another, each holding a baby with some kind of malformation or abnormality. Some rooms the baby looked perfectly fine, but I was made aware of the chromosomal mutation or mental impairment. And none of these seemed a mild case, but rather the most extreme that anyone had ever seen.
With each room that I visited, each mother that I saw was strong and capable. None of them sat mourning over their infant. Love seemed to be effervescing from the rooms and through the walls of the building. And every room seemed to have one end opened to the entire universe; the night sky and all its mysteries were accessible.
So we made our way up and finished at the very top of the building. I understood that they wanted me to have perspective; that babies are born everyday with abnormalities and physical and mental challenges; that their mothers are able to meet their various needs. They wanted me to know that my son would have his challenges. That something in his brain wouldn’t work quite right (and here they explained more about his brain function and what areas would be working at what percentage of normal and how his chromosomes would affect that function. In my dream I understood all of that, but now I can’t make any sense of it), but that I could be comforted knowing that other mothers were handling far more difficult tasks and that I would be capable. Through all this they communicated their love for me, and I woke feeling exhausted from the journey.
My son will be ten years old next week. When he came home from the hospital his cry was so tiny and so weak. His movements were as slow as they were in the womb and by the time he was 6 weeks old, I knew he had come with challenges. At the age of 3 he had no language at all (he still had not said “mama) and he was diagnosed with a Pervasive Developmental Delay. When he was 5 and he could not speak in complete sentences he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Over the years we've discovered and pieced together a grab bag of challenges that he faces including Dyslexia, Visual and Auditory Processing difficulties and sensory challenges. These diagnoses are not definitions of him. And I’m not completely satisfied that they are even entirely correct. But they are an important way for his challenges to be recognized legally so that he can receive help through school and other programs. This year we are pursuing genetic testing.
The most significant struggle he faces is his difficulty with speech and language. I have watched him struggle to communicate over the years. He still struggles to recount events, telling me what he did at school is so difficult he often stops mid-sentence and says, never-mind. He asks me regularly, “Who are my friends, mom?” but struggles to understand the nuances of childhood play. With all of this, he is as happy as any child I’ve met. He can ride a bike and has a wicked 1980’s BMX style spin-out, he loves all things having to do with cars and trucks, can watch the car chase scene from the original 1967 Gone In Sixty Seconds over and over, and has a weird 6th sense about geography and direction. He is constantly showing love and affection. It is the one part of communication with which he is gifted.
I have embraced my son’s challenges. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t cry when I put him on his first school bus at the age of three as I watched him roll away with a lost and terrified look on his face. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t read and researched and tried every possible new trick to help him in his journey and been crushed to learn when a particular fad or diet wasn't going to help. It doesn’t mean that whenever I see a child push him away or treat him unkindly I don’t have to fight the urge to give them (and their parents) a piece of my mind. And it doesn't mean that I don't find myself re-accepting where he is and re-evaluating my expectations of him. It means that I’ve made peace with how he came to me. I don’t pretend to know what his future looks like. I celebrate each and every little milestone that he reaches because it comes only after hours and hours and sometimes years and years of practice and therapy. It means that I don’t wish for another child, or another life with this child. I’ll take the one we’ve got.
I am learning that there is no foreseeable time when he will wake and be able to explain to me all that he has been thinking about. And I find myself looking back on that dream. I have learned to listen to him, less to the words and language he is struggling to use and more to intuition, interpreting often through thoughts and impressions. These days, more than anything I’d like to know about what he dreams.
A little video Brig made when Eli was 5.