In the past few years since Jonah's diagnosis, I have shed many tears for him: tears of fear, tears of regret, tears of stress, tears of sadness. It is next to impossible not to celebrate a "Pity Party" for one on occasion given the circumstances of being a single parent raising a child with autism. I don't like to martyr myself, but sometimes, it is a tough spot to be in.
I think I do a decent job of staying positive about Jonah's condition, finding the best ways to work with his developmental delays, and adapting to his behaviors. Ultimately, I would not change our experience. I love Jonah more than I ever could have imagined. But, there are times when I think back on his infancy, how different things were, and all the little things that I miss.
I remember looking at him in complete 'awe'. He was so cute! He was so alert! He was so happy! He was so exceptional! He smiled for the first time when he was 3 days old. He would 'coo' in conversation with us when he was a week old. He had his first really hard laugh when he was around 6 weeks, and he was all giggles after that. He had (still has) the most kissable cheeks in existence, and if you give him kisses on the back side of the cheek (right in front of his ear) he erupts in laughter. He loved to be tickled, and tickles and cuddles are a regular request now everyday. He was such an amazing eater! He ate everything I gave him and loved it. But, the sweetest thing that I remember is the way his entire expression would light up when he saw me at the end of the day after being with his nanny. He would get so excited, squealing, wiggling, kicking, smiling. Oh, how I would crave that reaction when I was apart from him. It was that image that made it worth it to be away from him.
Some of these things started to slip away so gradually that I hardly recognized when they were gone, but I am always searching every day when I pick up Jonah. I search for that reaction, where his entire expression cheers up when he sees me. Most days it is absent, and it is very rare that I get to see it at the same level as was shown to me when he was a baby. But, today... Today when he saw me, he smiled really big, said "Hi Mommy" and reached up for me to hug him. I bent down to hug him, and he gave me two big kisses with a very hearty laugh. There it was! It has been so long since I have seen it or felt it. There is no greater feeling to be experienced in a lifetime than feeling how much your child loves you.
Jonah is making progress more and more everyday. Today, there were tears of joy.