Recently, sister H's daughter, baby C, was diagnosed with autism. She's just 19 months old, which is very young for a diagnosis and that's encouraging.
Most of the autistic children I've met have what they call a "regressive" form of the condition. Everything seems perfectly as it should be, with baby reaching milestones on or before "schedule", and then sometime between 15 months and two years the child begins losing previously mastered skills and milestones.
This is not baby C. For us, her family, it was very obvious almost from birth that something wasn't quite right. Sister H was blind to it, but my mother, other sisters and I could see. She never looked at you. It always seemed as though she lived in a different...world?...than the rest of us. She used her feet as most children would use their hands and could sit for hours opening and closing a drawer. She just began walking at 17 months and spins in circles frequently, and still isn't speaking beyond the babbling you hear in a 6-7 month old baby.
As I said, we could all see that baby C needed help, but we were afraid of insulting sister H. No matter how gently you suggest something like that, what most mothers would hear you say is, "your kid's messed up." Thankfully, sister A sees the same pediatrician as sister H, so she mentioned our concerns to the doctor, and the doctor (who also has an autistic child) brought up the subject with sister H at baby C's 18 month well-child visit.
The diagnosis hit sister H very hard. She became deflated, a shell of her normal self. It was so hard to watch. Surely she must have suspected something before, but to be confronted with it finally...
She's very sensitive in general, but even more so about baby C now. It's hard to talk to her about anything related to C's autism. There's so much I want to tell her. I want to tell her that we all love baby C to death, if not as much then even more than before. I want to tell her that every mother experiences the "death" of the baby she'd imagined. The baby birthed from a woman's womb is never the baby she conceived in her mind. For some of us, the differences are minor but for some they're dramatic. I want to tell her that baby C is precious in the eyes of the Lord and that she is "beautifully and wonderfully made," just as we all are. I want give her my whole body for support; arms to wrap around them both, shoulders to cry on, ears to listen, mouth to speak encouragement, eyes to view every victory and feet that are swift to run to her side.