By Aisha Christa Atkinson | Published on August 27, 2020 | 7 Minute Read
As leaden tears fell from my eyes, I touched the glass of his isolette. My sleeping beauty lay there surrounded by wires and tubes and the muffled sounds of doubtful statistics and medical realism. My heart was so broken during that moment. He was living to me, but was dying to them. He needed love from me; a touch of love from me. Anything to make him aware that even though he was no longer within me, I was still with him. Even something as small as the gift of affection, I was not allowed to give to him, but the world was able to give him whatever it deemed appropriate including the label, “FAILURE TO THRIVE” in bold, glaring letters next to his name. It was my first day on the job of motherhood and I felt like a failure.
The neonatologist looked at Aries with a stoic face, but eyes of mourning. He’d seen this play out before. He then turned away from the isolette and reminded me that I’m “still young” and that I “can always try again.” “Interventions for high risk pregnancies have advanced,” he said, “The next one will be more successful.”
As he walked away from us, a maelstrom of emotions began to churn from within, but the one that evolved into the strongest waves was that of faith. I wasn’t going to have another child. My son was going to live. And I was going to love every single aspect of him. I looked upon his, tiny, translucent body, and uttered the words that would go on to become the beginning:
“Don’t listen to what they say. Just keep fighting, Aries.”
Nearly three years have passed since that fateful November morning, and my son not only survived 150 days in the NICU, but has thrived beyond medical expectations. His challenges of noncommunicating hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, and the additional two pages worth of “problems” on his paperwork are but words in this household. And while we believe that “words hold power,” we also know that it is up to us to ascribe power to them. I choose to believe that my son is simply his own brand of unique experiences, triumphs, and adversities, and that through optimism, grit, and the support of loved ones that extend beyond family, he will thrive beyond those labels in his own way and in his own time.
That type of mentality is precisely why during the Spring of 2020, when the word “Autism” was presented to Aries, I embraced it as yet another piece of what makes my son even more deserving of the love I hold in my heart for him. It also provides him with yet another, meaningful way to impact the world around him by simply being himself.
As only a toddler, my son has left impressions upon others that will have lasting effects on not only those he came in contact with, but those that are connected to them. He has encouraged parents not to give up on their babies due to negative medical reports. He has helped to raise awareness about micro prematurity and the rare neurological condition known as hydrocephalus. He has provided award-winning neuroscientists and medical engineers with the data needed to refine and show to the world that brain scans CAN be safely conducted on infants without the use of anesthesia through groundbreaking medical technology. He has even managed to teach me that life is not always meant to be lived within the boxes society tries to stuff us in, that we are all meant to “rock our different” like no one else can, and that the moment we let go of our pursuit of perfection, that is the moment during which we truly begin to live. That is precisely why, whenever my son flashes that “million dollar smile” at me, I know that he is communicating to me a love that is fully aware that I cherish every part of him unconditionally.
"Although, there are moments and even days that manifest in the form of difficulties, they are temporary experiences that eventually inspire me to be more creative in my approach to parenting."
Although, there are moments and even days that manifest in the form of difficulties, they are temporary experiences that eventually inspire me to be more creative in my approach to parenting. Problem solving and adaptability have become our signature strengths as a team. For instance, the time when he was in dire need of his first haircut after multiple brain surgeries and just the process of aging had taken its course. Silent clippers didn’t get it. Trying to cut it in his sleep proved unsuccessful two times over. Instead of giving up, I studied him like a graduate school textbook, and realized that the best time for “still time” was during meal time. It took well over two weeks to figure it all out, but the problem was solved with a resolution that helped me to achieve my goal while also accommodating his needs as well.
If there is anything that I have learned while on the journey of motherhood, it is that God doesn’t present parents with a “Guidebook to Parenting,” instead He gives us our kids. If we just allow them to be themselves and be willing to give them the tools (whatever they may be) that they need in order to live a joyful and successful life, we will find that the guidebook exists within them and our relationships with them.
About the Author:
I am an eighth-year, English Language Arts Teacher aspiring to become a campus administrator who advocates for the opportunities and resources that address the linguistic needs and the career and college readiness of English Language Learners and “at-risk” students. My scholastic background includes graduating from the University of Mount Olive with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Secondary English Education in May of 2013 with summa cum laude and campus honors program distinctions. Additionally, I was ranked #1 out of 365 students for possessing a 4.0 GPA and over 160 semester hours accumulated.
After giving birth to my son, Aries, in 2017, I was inspired by his resilience to “live my best life” by pursuing a Master of Science degree in Educational Administration with a Concentration in Pre-K through 12 Educational Leadership at Texas A&M International University. During this same year, I was announced by the American Association of University Women as one of fifty recipients across the United States to receive a Career Development Grant from their national organization. In March of 2020, I was inducted into the TAMIU Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi in recognition of my academic achievements as a graduate student in the top 10% of the Class of 2020.
In my spare time, I am an “ausome” mother and self-proclaimed “mommyger” to my son and his official Instagram account, @KingAriesReigns, and also serve as a Birth Equity Champion for the Houston March of Dimes. Additionally, I also enjoy traveling, learning new languages, and creating instructional and personal graphic designs.