Hindsight Reflection After the Journey: Dan’s Perspective
The following is a chapter of our book: Embracing the Autism Spectrum: Finding Hope and Joy Navigating the Neurodiverse Family Journey. At the end of each chapter of the family narrative, I provide my hindsight learning what I learned and mistakes I hope others will learn from in order to make changes in marriage and family.
Context: Stephanie shared in the book a painful memory of going through infertility alone and when we had our first child, I did not leave work to take her to the hospital and after the birth of our daughter, I left the hospital in the middle of the night. To hear/read the complete backstory you can purchase the book at www.christianneurodiversefamilies.com
A little about my personality is important to navigate this and the narratives to come. I am generally an even-keeled guy. It takes a lot of sustained pressure for me to evoke some type of response. To describe it would be to compare it to a high-capacity sponge. Most of the time what I consumed over time would also get pushed out in indetectable increments. When that didn’t happen, on very rare occasions, measured in years, there would be an explosion and it typically surfaced as anger. Additionally, I am very introverted, taciturn and enjoy silence and being alone. I am by occupation a software programmer and without boasting, I am good at it. The reasoning, logic, creative problem solving, data analysis, system design, the completeness and everything that goes with getting the computer to do what you want and have it done well, that is what I enjoyed. What is absent from that list is anything to do with people. At this point in my career, I definitely didn’t understand the human side of software development. I wasn’t then and even now not really good with people. I didn’t know what they were thinking; I couldn’t read them. I figured if you wanted me to know something you would tell me. That is how I operated. Not only was I not good at understanding others, but I also wasn’t good at understanding myself.
Only in hindsight do I know this. I relied on my routine. That usually came in two forms: getting to work and being at work. I didn’t like to deviate. I didn’t like to run an errand on the way (or home). I woke up. Got ready and left. That was it. Nothing added. At work, I like the ‘groove’. That was the portion of the day, usually started around 3:30, where I was intensely focused. I was alone in a crowd. I didn’t hear you. I didn’t know how much time had passed. I was in the groove.
Now to connect this to the narrative. Let’s take the call to go to the hospital. Evaluating the timeline, the call would have come in mid-afternoon. I was in the groove, and this was an interruption. The interruption blinded me to the cause and the call for help. It overshadowed the human. It wasn’t a conscious thing. I wasn’t thinking, hmm… well I can disregard her plight and get more work done. I was interrupted, which at the time I wouldn’t have been able to describe, and that is all that is going on here. The consequences both in perception by others in the moment and history wasn’t a thought. It wasn’t the right time to go to the hospital even if it was to have a baby. There was a date for that, and this wasn’t it.
In the situation in the hospital room, I said I was going home to take care of the dogs. That was the pretext. Everything about the hospital was unsettling. It was loud. There were a lot of people coming in and going out; it never stopped. It was overwhelming. In hindsight, I needed to escape to somewhere I knew well and that was home. Again, what I didn’t consider was anyone else nor even myself. There was an ineluctable urge to leave.
Both of those events started, even continued, the formation of a fear of abandonment in Stephanie. I wasn’t mature enough to understand what fruit that created, nor did I really understand how I contributed to that many years later. That was an unintended consequence of how I reacted. For one so reasoned, this eluded me.
Jumping back to the infertility part of our history, I am a literal thinker. That includes Biblical interpretation. I also believe you the first time you say something and that includes God. Pile on top of that and during these years I had a fatalistic streak in me. Mix all that up and God said that he would bless us with children and if he didn’t there wasn’t anything I could do. I could accept that lot and move on.
And moving on, was something I was good at. Remember when David’s baby with Bathsheba died? He wept and prayed until that moment and when that moment came it was like a switch turned off. He stopped that and declared it done and moved on. At least that is all that is recorded. And what I did (do). I very much wanted a boy. I wanted baseball and soccer and playing catch and … the stuff I did as a child. When it became clear we would have a girl, those dreams died quickly, and I moved on to new dreams of what having a girl would be like. Playing dress-up didn’t sound like as much fun as ball but that is what there would be so that is what I would do. I didn’t process any emotions mostly because I didn’t feel anything strong to process. The whole process was over and done in a day at most. I didn’t understand how Stephanie held on to those types of things for so long. It didn’t make any sense and it seemed to make her unhappy.
There’s a writing I made for Sydney before she was born. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever written. I didn’t know how to write to someone I didn’t know. There was too much unknown involved. What I hoped would happen seemed irrelevant because I had no power to cause that to be. I was willing to experience that joy as it happened (unless it interrupted me). I did write something, but it was flat and wholly uninspiring.
Many of the themes in this chapter will surface again and again. Many of the seeds were sown early in our marriage and with children grew strong roots and fruit. Some of those seeds I very much regret. Leaving at the hospital is certainly in that camp. I fight shame about that memory every time. I can forgive easily unless it is myself. I am getting better at it but in reading this story again shame raises its ire and I have to work through that again.
This was written with the benefit of maturity and hindsight. Much of what I learned from these days happened only recently. What a difference it might have been had we known someone that could have shown us what 20+ years did the hard way. I would also have my own identification journey along the way.
In the Holmes’ book, a four person perspective is provided on marriage and family on the autism spectrum. This blog represents a chapter hindsight of the book. Each chapter has hindsight learning from Dan now knowing of his later in life spectrum diagnosis, what he missed and the impact made on marriage and family. Our hope , for you the reader, it know there is hope for this journey and next steps if you want to learn and grow and make different choice in your neurodiverse marriage and family journey!
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