"Loving the Soul Beneath the Autism" excerpt by Janele Hoerner (CatholicMom.com) My pregnancy, up until my seventh month, was nothing close to happy. Although unknown to me, the future was just about to open up. By the grace of God, I was introduced to a very sweet and caring man who understood how deeply I needed a friend. Even though he was only a friend, our daily talks gave me something to focus on, other than my sickness. With the sight of my son in mind, I developed a true friendship with no hidden agendas for the first time in my life. As time progressed, without the intention of it, we both felt drawn to each other as we discovered similarities. I kept my walls up out of fear, but for some reason he kept wanting to spend time with me. Even though I felt nauseous until the day of my delivery, it did not seem as bad now that I felt worth something instead of feeling like a piece of trash to be discarded. I had my 13th ultrasound at my 38th week checkup and was told that I had a healthy child getting ready for his debut. I was able to stop my medication, and I felt great for the first time in my pregnancy. I was now able to leave the house again. I felt free! The constant rolling and kicking inside me brought great joy during the next few weeks as I anticipated my first-born son’s arrival. I went on my first official outing with my newfound friend, and he poured out his heart and soul to me. I was in total shock that anyone could be interested in a girl in my current state. I was ready to deliver a baby any day, one that he had no obligations to care for, yet he wanted both of us, and that baffled me. As he kissed my baby bump and told my little boy that he would take care of him no matter what, I felt a rush of feelings. In my own fear, torn as to what I should do or say, I pulled away. In my mind, I questioned everything. How could I begin a relationship with someone right now? How would I feel if it did not work out? The questions continued to gnaw at my mind. I did not want my son to experience any more pain than I had already bestowed upon him. The first snow of the year marked the day of my anticipation. I arrived at Labor and Delivery as my contractions were getting progressively closer together. I was moved into my own birthing room. This was it! The moment was here. I was in pain but ecstatic. I knew within the next few hours I would be holding my little child, a boy, whose name was yet to be determined. The moments that followed were nothing short of remarkable. In one instance, feelings of love, excitement, compassion, and a healthy fear were flooded into my exhausted mind. It was unfathomable to me that this tiny 6 lb. 12 oz. child grew inside my body for the last 41 weeks. Witnessing him take his first few breaths was spectacular. His skin was so wrinkly, warm, and soft! His head was perfectly round with tiny remnants of blonde hair. His eyes were a deep emerald green. I felt complete with him in my arms. This child was mine, and I was solely responsible for his upbringing. There I was, 21 years old, holding this tiny baby, with no real idea of who I even was as a person. I was so young, so incredibly unaware of all of the situations that were going to unfold in the next few years. In that moment, though, I felt peace and love. The one and only thing I knew I could offer this child was my dedication to become the best mother that I could be, and that is exactly what I was determined to do. Gracin was welcomed into this world on November 22nd at 6:23 a.m. He was my saving grace, so the name fit perfectly, and my first day with him was pure bliss. He was so content to lie in my arms. He barely opened his eyes to look around before drifting back into a dreamland. He mostly just slept cuddled in my arms. He was perfect! His first night the nurse came in to check on us almost every hour because I was a new mom. Each time she patiently asked me to place him back into that plastic bin that they called a cradle. I tried my best to listen to her advice, but as soon as she left the room, I promptly picked him back up into the secure fit of my arms. I felt as though he was the puzzle piece that I was always missing. After years of yearning for these moments, I was not going to miss any part of the experience. I could not understand how she thought I would be so negligent to drop him as I slept. I could not sleep. I did not want to miss any moment of his existence. Night became morning, and Gracin celebrated his first day in the world. Time sped by.  We were discharged from the hospital. We celebrated Thanksgiving five days after he was born. The entire holiday had more meaning than ever before. Two days later, he had a week-old portrait taken. My precious sleeping child was draped on my chest as I kissed the top of his tiny head. That moment will never leave my mind. Standing there in awe, viewing his adorable sleeping face in digital format, I held back the tears. How was this child already a week old? I was overwhelmed by all of the firsts he was already making. His first yawn, first day, first hiccup, and first week already gone by. Time really does fly once you focus on an individual other than yourself. As time passed, I noticed he rarely cried. I believed it was because I was attentive to his every need. He slept almost constantly and was held day and night. The first time he let out a real cry was during his first bath. At the time, I believe I cried almost as much as he did, realizing that I could not save him from everything, even though it was only water. I was completely dedicated to this little child, but this was the first of many times that I would come to realize that I could not help him through all of life’s problems. I saved that little umbilical cord tip as a reminder that at one time he was attached to me and lived because of me though now it would be because of my teaching example that he would grow and learn in the world to be the child, teenager, and adult that he was made to be. Loving the Soul Beneath the Autism is available at Amazon.com.

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Copyright 2018 Janele Hoerner