If there was a moment in my life, when I understood the meaning of the word “Responsibility”, it was on October 3rd 2010 at 8:30 AM. Adhruth was born at 7:42 AM that day and had to be admitted into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) immediately. It was 8:30 and I was writing details in his admission form, and one of the questions was relationship with the Patient and for first time in my life, I started playing the role of a FATHER. Yes, I have heard from many that life after a kid will be different, but I never anticipated HOW different it would be.
Adhruth is now 6 year old, energetic, bubbly, ever smiling, happy kid diagnosed with Autism. He is non-verbal yet, formula fed through G Tube in his stomach gives him 60% of his nutritional needs, takes a Growth Hormone injection every night, diagnosed with hearing loss and needed a surgery in his head to correct Chiari Decompression. But, all these doesn’t stop him from living a happy life.
Respect the Woman
The very first lesson Adhruth taught me immediately after he was born, is to value the woman in my life. I always knew Adhruth will get my name as his last name, because I am his father. I did not realize; it is the Mother who is given importance in the Hospital. For first 35 days after he was born, Adhruth was in the NICU and we did not finalize his name yet. Yes, it is illegal to know the gender of the baby during pregnancy in India and until the baby is born, we don’t name the baby. All through that 5 weeks, he was only called as “Baby of Subhashree” by everyone in the Hospital, all his Hospital records and discharge summary. I wondered and looked through everywhere to find my name, it was nowhere. It’s Subhashree, who carried him in the womb for 35 weeks and will carry him in her heart for rest of his life, and realized it’s due to give her that recognition. Immediately after his birth, Adhruth taught me to respect women.
Be Happy, Always Be Happy
In all situations, Adhruth is very happy and energetic. There is never a dull moment in his life. He is not bothered about the environment, what others do, what others say or what they would think. He lives his life happily bindaas. In his Special Education class room, Teachers and his friends will be involved in an activity and something will make Adhruth laugh. When he laughs, he really LAUGHS – He laughs his heart out, mouth open, lips to the widest point. His laugh is very contagious and soon his entire class including Teachers laugh with him.
There are days, when as parents, we think of his future and are worried, irritated or get into a swing of negativity. Adhruth understands our emotions, will come close to our face and keep his lips on our cheek acting as if he is kissing us, throw his arms around our neck and will start smiling and in a moment, it will turn into a huge laugh. If there is one medicine that can make me forget all my worries, tiredness, negative emotions – it’s his laugh.
My Guru has taught me saying “Children don’t need a reason to be happy. They can laugh for no reason”. Here was Adhruth, my Teacher – showing me experientially how to live life that way. Its just me as a grown up, look for reasons and tie my happiness to a lot of materialistic things. I will live my life like Adhruth – happily bindaas. Great lesson to the father from Son.
Understanding the Society and Family
During our weekend trips, we are used to feeding Adhruth through the G tube in public places. Initially we were very reluctant with lots of questions in our mind – what will others think about us? Will they think we are not encouraging Adhruth to eat orally? Will they think we have not done our part as Parents? Will they make fun of us? Will they tease Adhruth, because he is different? – all these questions would run in our mind. One instance changed it all for us and changed my perspective completely.
At Tulip festival in Iowa, we were feeding Adhruth through G tube in a Park. A stranger was constantly looking at us. Even before he could come, I was ready with my justification of Adhruth’s medical condition. But, this man walked straight, sat right next to me in the grass, put his arms on my shoulder as if giving a half hug and looking right into my eyes started talking. “As Parents, both of you are doing an extremely great and an important job. It is not easy to go through what you guys are going through for your Son. I can understand your sacrifices to make this little boy’s life better. There is only one thing I can say right now, it will all pay off for your Son in years and when you look back after many years, you will feel good that you did what is right for him. Over years, he will be better and I can say that confidently. Look…”. He pointed his hands to a girl who may be 8 years old, was happily playing in the garden with her family. He then continued, “That’s my daughter. She was in tube feeding for over 5 years, but that is what helped her in her growth and now is doing great. I pray to God to give you enough Strength, as that is the only thing I can do for you. Your little guy will make you proud, one day”. Saying this he walked past us, not even looking at us again. We then continue to feed Adhruth, with a teary eyes and a resolute heart.
Everyone cannot put themselves in my shoes for them to understand what I go through. But, this anonymous stranger was able to understand us as he has been through our journey. He is part of our family – a family of Special Parents. Through Adhruth, we know there are great, caring, wonderful people around.
Adhruth doesn’t understand everything we speak to him, yet, but, what is very important for me is when we look into his eyes, smile and say “I love you, Adhruth”, there is an instant smile in his face and I know that is a different smile and his way of saying, “I love you too, Appa”. It doesn’t matter to me what else he learns, when he learns or when he can talk – Adhruth knows what is Love and can experientially demonstrate it. It is just a matter of time, with the power of love, and my Faith, everything else will follow through. Thank you Adhruth, my boy.