Emerging Incisors and Other Signs of SpringFamily — By Lucinda Sutton on March 20, 2012 at 6:01 am
Jaden Aubrey is a stunningly beautiful five-year-old girl with bronze hair and hazel-green eyes. She is the fire and the clown in our family, always moving at full velocity and stopping only to sleep (if then). She fears nothing and examines everything; we joke that when she grows up, she will be a doctor by day and a champion dirt bike racer by night. Everything about this girl is 100%.
She also happens to struggle with an Autism-related disorder known as PDD-NOS. She received her diagnosis at age four, but I had begun seeing the signs a year prior. I can’t tell you now what particular behaviors triggered my suspicions. I just had an overwhelming sense that she was in distress, but she couldn’t tell me why.
Before the diagnosis, I struggled with whom or what to blame for Jaden’s difficulties: myself for working outside of the home, her father for leaving when she was eight months old, the television for mind-numbing children’s programming, or even her for being stubborn. Afterwards, the new culprits became genetics, vaccines, environmental toxins, and God Himself for not swooping in to save the day for us all.
A major intervention occurred in Jaden’s life that fall, which was oral surgery. Her inability to communicate and extreme tolerance for pain landed her in the hospital with a severely abscessed tooth, several cavities, and five teeth that had to be pulled entirely. Her doctors completed the procedure in about two hours, and she recovered rapidly. We were surrounded by good people who understood and never indicated to Jaden that there was anything different about her, and so she was able to continue growing and thriving in her brave little way.
Nonetheless, that day brought to a head for me all of the natural fear and insecurity that come with having a special needs child. PDD-NOS is a diagnosis with no cure. Watching Jaden in the hospital move from prepping in little toddler-sized scrubs to screaming in post-op with an anesthesia hangover and blood dripping from her mouth, I plunged into battle with both inner and outer demons. I vacillated with nauseating swiftness between beating myself up for not somehow preventing it all and crying out to God, “Why have You forsaken us?!” It was a day of great darkness.
In the following year and a half, Jaden went on a regimen of holistic treatments and behavioral therapy to help her cleanse, cope, and overcome the physical inhibitors of her developmental progress. Challenges often outnumbered victories, and hope for us increasingly became something chosen but unseen. I felt strongly in my heart that Jaden would ultimately recover and then go on to help others, yet that feeling was solely an act of faith in the face of great opposition.
One beautiful spring day, as we were taking a walk in the park, Jaden smiled a new smile: her bottom right adult incisor had peeked through her gums. We all stopped mid-stride when we noticed and time stood still. In the silence that followed, there was all the awe of an Easter sunrise. It was real. She was healing. Where there had been death and decay, a healthy new life and promise for the future were emerging. It may sound melodramatic because teeth are “born” every day, but this was a miracle of the highest possible order for us.
Here’s the most important thing, and its value cannot be underestimated: I did nothing to bring this about. That tooth was there all along and even though I couldn’t see it, it was just waiting to come at its appointed time. All I did was believe in it, and God orchestrated the rest.
This remains a cherished memory for me, and for the entire family. It signifies that all of these troubles really will pass, and we can get through them. That there is an end to suffering and awkwardness and alienation, and that what we see is not the whole truth. That no matter how lonely we are, we are never truly alone.
And – just for the record – neither are you.