We do not yet know the gender of the baby, but for future reference, let’s call him or her Stringbean. No HF, I am NOT calling the baby Grandpa Wilkins. Yes, I know it’s a perfectly nice handle. No, I don’t want to attach it to a baby.
So yes, Stringbean. Khalid was my Jellybean. Iman was my Mysterybean because she evaded gender detection for almost 7 months via artful positioning and kung-fu fighting during ultrasounds. Stringbean is Stringbean because at my last ultrasound, the doctor took a look at the screen and said oh, that’s a long baby! I asked her what she meant. She said the head size was normal for the number of weeks of pregnancy, but the rest of the baby looked to be pretty long. This, she said, made sense because I was ‘tall too.’ I didn’t have the heart to tell this lovely, petite Asian OB that I’m only tall compared to lovely, petite Asian OB’s, but that’s ok. We have a long baby. We have a Stringbean. 🙂
When I first learned that we were expecting Stringbean, I refused to admit that I was hoping for a Boybean or a Girlbean, and I held the line that I would be happy with whatever Allah gave us and that was that. I already had Khalid and Iman, Boy and Girl, Salt and Pepper, so it’s not like I needed any specific pieces to complete the matching set but the truth is, I was in denial. I wanted a boy, and I wanted a normal one. I felt horribly guilty about this, and when I finally confessed this to HF one tearful night, he hugged me and asked me why I felt bad about that. Hoping for a boy, I felt, was like implying that I didn’t already have a son- like Khalid was not valid as a little male human being and I was telling the Manufacturer this one’s not working right so I want a new one.
And HF nodded and said I know, I want a boy too. And I was shocked, but it seemed less heinous coming from HF than it felt in the dark and guilty recesses of my mind, because wanting a boy has nothing to do with Khalid and everything to do with Khalid at the same time. Wanting another son isn’t a matter of betrayal, but practicality. Khalid is special, unique, difficult, academically advanced and socially delayed, verbally unintelligible to the uninitiated and physically confusing in his quirks and stims.
InshaAllah, he has a future and a rizq and a place in this world because Allah has written all of these things for him and is not unfair to any of His creations. But Khalid is going to need some help, and one day, HF and I are going to die. Iman will be married, and while I have no doubt that she will always share a special bond with Khalid, she may not always be in a position to support or help him when he needs it most. Or rather, let’s put it this way: Iman will have an easier time looking out for Khalid if she’s not the only one. Adding another Salt shaker to the set means that Khalid has a matching set of siblings to count on after his matching set of parents- Father and Mother, Provider and Nurturer, Protector and Soother, are gone.
The pregnancy is starting to show, and other autism mothers I meet look shocked when they hear we’re expecting our third child. “You’re so brave,” one mother told me last week, whose son was just diagnosed a month ago and who has lost seven kilos from the stress. “We want to have another baby but we are so scared. We don’t want him to be left alone when we die, but what if we have another child with autism?”
I told her, frankly speaking, that when I found out I was expecting Iman, I cried and it was NOT out of happiness. It was out of frustration and hopelessness and the feeling of failure that I felt from raising a little boy who didn’t even respond to his own name. This was before Khalid was diagnosed, we just knew that Khalid was different and difficult, and I felt like I could barely handle him, so how on earth would I cope with another one? SubhanAllah, to say the least, Iman is a blessing. When most parents of autistic children pay over 300 dirhams an hour for their child to take part in a specially structured ‘play group session’ with neurotypical children, Khalid lives with one. Iman was his first play-mate, his first enemy and the first peer he had ‘conversations‘ with. Iman taught Khalid how to pull hair, pinch, kick and run- and also, how to defend himself and rise to the defense of others.
Iman has been a challenge, a laugh-riot, a pretty pink princess crowned with ferocity, slathered in resilience, and lovingly adorned with sweet little kisses and precise deadly pinches. We will never need a TV- watching Khalid and Iman simply coexist is more hilarious, dramatic, entertaining, riveting, frustrating, and awe-inspiring than Comedy Central, Discovery, NatGeo, and Hallmark all rolled into one.
And now, InshaAllah, there’s going to be three of them. And what if the next child has autism? Well, the good news is, we already have a full-time therapist. And program materials. And a great case manager and a better idea of which nurseries, schools, play-areas, toys, people, malls, shopping-carts, are best for children with autism. So SubhanAllah, we’re better prepared now for an autistic child than we ever were with Khalid. So if Allah decides to grant us another special little child with very special needs, than I am grateful that we’ve been prepared this time. 🙂
And what if the next child is a girl? Then I would like her to be named Khawla, after the amazing Muslim heroine that would have been completely unknown to me were it not for a cross-posting on Badass of the Week (actual site name, pardon my French). Khawla travelled with the army of Khalid bin Waleed, ironically enough, accompanied by her brother, a commander and famous warrior-poet named Derar. She would tend the wounded and sick, but one day, would move beyond that role when her brother went down in battle and was captured by Byzantine soldiers. Khawla, seeing him taken from a distance, dropped what she was doing, covered her face with a strip of black cloth and her body in a shawl, and rode off, sword in hand, to go rescue him.
“Khalid watched a knight, in black attire, with a big green shawl wrapped around his waist and covering his bust. That knight broke through the Roman ranks as an arrow. Khalid and the others followed him and joined battle, while the leader was wondering about the identity of the unknown knight.”
Other soldiers in the battle saw her fighting with such ferocity that they thought her to be Khalid Bin Waleed himself, and when Khalid Bin Waleed appeared with a number of knights to reinforce Khawla, one knight turned to him and said “Who is that knight? By God, he has no regard for his safety!”
Eventually the battle was won, but her brother was nowhere to be seen. Khalid Bin Waleed demanded that the unknown knight reveal his identity, and when Khawla was discovered to be the sister of Derar, Khalid ordered his army to chase the fleeing Roman Army with Khawla leading the attack.
I won’t give the entire and seriously awesome story away, you can read the entire (and profanity-free) article here and I am not linking the place where I originally read it, due to the use of four-letter words used gratuitously, albeit, in admiration of Khawla. But I digress.
It is a mercy, blessing, and gift from Allah that when we see things through the lens of trust and Taqwa that we have the opportunity to relax. All good is in Allah’s hands. All difficulty is a trial through which we may become stronger. All ease is a blessing and there is no hopelessness for those who trust unfailingly in His will. If our next child is a healthy, neurotypical boy, Alhamdulillah. If our next child is a healthy, neurotypical girl, Alhamdulillah. And if our next child is autistic, regardless of the gender, Alhamdulillah.
I am praying for a healthy boy, because Allah tells us to call upon Him and ask of Him, even for a shoelace. He is, after all, the Owner of every treasure, known and unknown, seen and unseen, in the universe and beyond the known universe. Hoping for a healthy boy and then not asking the One who can provide one would be a gross oversight on my behalf. But I am also praying that Allah grant me a child who inherits Jannah, and if that means a person who is never questioned because they can never tell the difference between right and wrong, then that too is a blessing.