In the Blink of an Eye

When I pictured my life 10 years ago kids were not in the picture. I just could not picture myself as a mom, then one almost breast augmentation later, I was pregnant with my first.

Finding that out on the operating table was one of the most comical experience I’ve been through – let’s just say plastic surgeons are not used to telling people they are pregnant!

Nonetheless, now I am a mom to two beautiful boys.

Our road to getting here has not been easy, my husband is an active duty marine going on 15 years.

For the majority of Bodi’s childhood and my new motherhood, he was gone on 8+ month long deployments every year. Then our little Ryder bear came along, we PCS’d from California to Maryland and this perfect little boy changed our world and our hearts.

Never in a million years did we think that that we would be receiving not one, but two autism diagnosis.

Our once seemingly normal life turned into chaos with nonstop appointments and paperwork. Some of the hardest paperwork I have ever filled out was the evaluation paperwork.

It is so hard to write down on paper things that your child is not doing. No mother ever wants their child to struggle in any way.

He should be talking, he should be making more eye contact, he should want to play with these kids that are his age.

Why was he not talking? Why is he always in his own little world?

It is simple really – because he IS in his own world.

I was blessed to have had a wonderful team of therapists in the birth to 5 program in Maryland who eased me into the possibility that autism could be what Ryder is challenged with.

I will never forget the day that I asked Susan, his speech pathologist, “when will I know if there is something wrong with him?”

Her face said it all – I had just said something offensive and she was going to let me know that. She responded firmly with “you mean like autism?”

That was what I meant. But what I did not know, was that it did not mean there was something wrong with him – it meant that I could finally start to understand him.

He fills our life with joy, happiness, and frustrations daily. Over the last year and a half a lot of learning had to happen and many incidents occurred to really help drive home the fact that he is on the Autism Spectrum.

One day I will never, ever forget.

It was football season at the end of the summer for Bodi, and dad was a coach. It is not very often that Bodi gets ANY one on one time with either of us so this was a great bonding experience for them.

We both work full time, which meant practices and games were hard to make – but we did it somehow.

One evening, the boys were at practice and I stayed home with Ryder. We liked to take him sometimes, but he was a handful on the field – he wanted to be out there with his dad and brother and no is not his favorite word.

This particular day was a busy one, I decided I would whip up dinner while they were at practice so we could all eat and get in bed.

At this point I did not have any extra security measures in the house – I did not know I needed them.

Suddenly it was quiet in the house, like scary quiet.

I thought Ryder was in the basement playing as usual so I ran down, but he was not there. I started running through the house looking in every spot I had ever seen Ryder hide.

Closets, dad’s shop, the playground, under the bed, in the bathrooms, showers, outside the fence, down the trail. This was the longest 5 minutes of my life. He was nowhere to be found and I was shaking, I lost my kid.

I called my husband hysterical and told them to get home I had lost Ryder.

Every thought imaginable was running through my mind at this point. Had he gone down to the train tracks? The train was about to come, would he know to get off the tracks?

Was he walking down the trail? What if a strange person happens to be on the trail and takes him?

What if he encounters a stray animal and acts the wrong way and gets hurt?

All of these thoughts and more were running through my brain. How far could he have really gone in 5 minutes or less? He was not on the trail he had to be at the house and I am just missing something.

At this moment, my gut told me to go to the car- I was terrified of what I might find. I ran so fast to the car, opened the child locked doors to find my sweet boy covered and drenched in sweat laughing and smiling.

My heart was pounding out of my chest. I was standing outside my house squeezing my sweaty boy bawling my eyes out.

I was almost that mom that left her child in a hot car and made the biggest mistake of her life.

I was almost that mom who would have to wake up in the morning with one less child. But I wasn’t.

Somehow, someway I knew to go to the car – I like to believe that one of my loved ones was guiding me that day. And because of that, I still have my perfect baby boy.

It was in this moment that I knew – everything must change. He does not know that being in a hot car is not safe – that is not something his brain can understand. Not yet and maybe not ever and we have to accept that, learn from this almost tragedy and fix it.

Do everything we can to keep that little boy safe from himself, that is my job now.

From this day on our house has been equipped with security cameras, locked gates, hinge locks, video doorbells – everything but a microchip.

Friends think I am a little crazy for having zero privacy in our house, but the thing is – they do not know what it is like being the parent to a child who does not know fear or danger – and that is okay.

So, I will be crazy.

I am Ryder’s mom, I love him fiercely and I WILL protect him.

Written by, Jessica Cook

I am a former marine, Marine wife, current full-time nerd working in the Cyber Security field. I am a mom of two boys and 6 fur babies. My youngest, Ryder, Is 3.5 and autistic and my 6-year-old Bodi is typical in every way. He adores his brother – they were put on this earth to be brothers and I was definitely meant to be his momma.

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Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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