Friday, July 31, 2009

Our first date.

I promised myself I wouldn't get nervous when I picked Maria up for our first date but I could feel the butterflies in my stomach. I still was thinking about what we should do and what I would say. My dad offered me these simple words but they made the most sense. He said "just be yourself." So I promised him I would take his advice and have a good time. I remember driving from Bellmore to Bayside which was about a half hour ride. I listened to the radio and was feeling kind of excited and nervous at the same time. When I arrived at Maria's sister's apartment I walked up to the entrance and gently knocked on the door. Maria answered the door and she was so nice as she said hello and invited me inside to meet her sister and niece. I felt welcome and finally relaxed and greeted them. Maria's niece was less than 2 years old and was so cute. I spoke to her sister Fe briefly and told her what a cute daughter she has. It was time for us to go so I said it was a pleasure meeting you and your daughter and then we proceeded to go see a movie. The movie we saw was a comedy starring Rowan Atkinson who was playing his famous character Mr. Bean in a feature length movie. He was so funny in the movie we both couldn't stop laughing. It was a very good movie selection which Maria suggested. It was a good ice breaker as we laughed a lot throughout the movie. Maria told me she was a big fan of the Mr. Bean tv series and I actually enjoyed watching his show too. After the movie we went to dinner at Applebees and we talked while we waited for our dinner. We had a nice conversation as I was curious what it was like for her living here and what it was like living in the Philippines. I remember thinking how cute Maria was and how lucky I was getting to meet her. I also spoke about myself discussing the things that were important to me and the reason I was seeing the psychologist that arranged our meeting. I felt at ease and was glad I had this opportunity. We both were enjoying ourselves and were both alike in some ways and also different in some ways. As our dinner arrived we continued talking and finally took a break to enjoy our meal. I noticed Maria ate small portions while I had a much bigger appetite. I teased her and jokingly said she was eating small portions so she could have a bigger dessert. We did have a nice dessert and went to the mall for a little while and walked around. Maria said she would like to go out again and I was delighted. I drove her home and gave her a kiss on her cheek and made sure she got inside her home safely and I told her I would call her during the week. She said she looked forward to going out again and I told her I felt the same way and then headed home. I was so happy and felt like we were meant to meet and I felt my mom was also looking over me and she approved.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

How Maria and I met.

One question that is asked of me over and over through the years is a question that is a staple question with just about anybody who is married and that question is "How did you two meet?" In order for me to answer that question I have to lead up to it with some background information. I remember back in 1994 I was feeling depressed and uncertain about things. It had been 4 years since my mother's death and I was still struggling with her loss and felt sad for my dad who was very committed to her and to my sisters and I. When she died we sensed a part of him died as well. I saw my dad struggle and felt his loneliness and isolation. I was concerned for him as he was for me. I was still at home with him and it was a difficult time because we both were going through depression. I also felt the need to have a relationship but I was very shy growing up and found it hard to date. I was uncertain how best to help myself and did not find it by going to social gatherings as I tended to be a wallflower any way so I did not get any positive outcomes from those outings. I finally decided that I needed help and had to talk to someone and I really did not want to talk to a friend as I had private things to talk about and needed to find a counselor or therapist to open up to. The next question to ask was who should I seek to see and this was also just taking a chance. I happened to come across the name of a psychologist who had an office in Astoria, Queens which was convenient since I was working in the City. I decided to call her to schedule an initial consultation and to hopefully trust enough to talk about my worries and concerns. I had suffered from being very shy for all of my life and knew if I was going to help myself I had to make a change and I knew it was not going to be easy but I had to really work at it. When I met Michelle the psychologist I felt comfortable and found the session with her a good start and I knew I was hurting so after our session she asked me if I would consider seeing her again if I felt I needed to. I did think that I certainly needed to have some form of follow up and told her that it was certain I would schedule follow up visits. Our first session was an introduction where she asked me why I was seeking therapy and I discussed my mother's passing and my dad's situation and how I felt like I was not having fulfilling relationships as I was getting older and needed to make some changes. When I was preparing to leave she said I seemed like a fine young man and that I should hold on to my mother's positive memories and for me to be strong for my dad. She gave me a hug and made me feel good. I paid her for the session and decided to schedule another visit in 2 weeks. During my visits with her she encouraged me to write a journal and focus on all the things important to me and to list all the things I would like to accomplish. She also asked me to list my proudest achievements to date. She got me to think more about my personal well being and to be more introspective. The sessions were very helpful and I felt like I was making progress. On occasion I would have to reschedule appointments because of my busy work schedule. I began to relate as a friend to Michele and she was good in helping me to rethink my life and do some soul searching. I looked upon our visits as opportunities to share things I could not with others and I felt relief and much better as my perspective began to change and I did not feel down like I did when I first started the sessions. I was amazed when I found myself still going to see her after lapses of time. There was once a lapse of 4 months and when I started to struggle with my feelings I would seek to see her so I could discuss what was going on in my life. It was late summer of 1996 and Michele surprised me with a question after our session but I certainly was open to the idea. She said she was also helping a young woman who was living in Bayside and she was from the Phillippines and looking for a friendship. She suggested I give her a call to see if we could meet. She gave me her name and telephone number and I thanked her and told her I would call her when I got the nerve up to as it was always a bit unsettling for me. After a few days had gone by I decided I would try and call to arrange a possible date. I managed to dial the number and as the phone rang and someone answered I asked for Maria and was asked to hold on. As Maria answered the phone I introduced myself and mentioned that Michele had given me her number and asked me to call. She seemed happy to hear from me and I asked her if she would like to go see a movie and get something to eat. She said she would love to and so we made our first date. It was very exciting for me as I wanted everything to be perfect. In my mind I thought about which movies to go see and which restaurants to choose from and decided it's best to have Maria and I both decide together. As I thought about it I anxiously awaited our first date which was a little less than a week away.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Matthew's playground

All kids love to run around and play in the summertime or the wintertime. They enjoy the sunshine and the fresh breeze and taking a dip in the pool on a hot summer day and lying in the snow and making snow angels and throwing snowballs at each other on a snowy winter day. I remember when I was a kid I could bike with my friends for hours. I felt great riding and racing with my friends. Matthew is like any other kid and he enjoys playing and running around and having fun. In the summertime Maria, Matthew, Grandma and I enjoy going to the beach or the pool and once Matthew goes in the water it's very hard to get him out unless the ice cream man makes a visit. I enjoy spending days together as a family and seeing our son smiling and having a good time.

Maria and her mom take Matthew to Eisenhower Park where they ride their bikes and stop along the way for time at the playground and for ice cream. He loves riding his bike and I remember one time making the mistake of trying to keep up with him on foot. I learned my lesson and made sure that next time I go I have a bike to keep up with my son.

Autistic children tend to find comfort in doing things they feel safe doing and that does not require much interaction. As a concerned parent you try to encourage your child to participate in group sports so they experience socialization, team work and healthy competition. We tried to introduce Matthew to organized sports when we signed him up for youth soccer in the town of Levittown. Once I noticed Matthew was having difficulties following instruction and showing signs of boredom and not able to deal with the structure within a team setting we knew this was not going to work for him. We were disappointed but knew we could not force him into playing. We just wanted to find an outlet for him that is healthy, provides an opportunity for him to make friends and to learn a little healthy competition.

I know for me little league was a lot of fun and it enabled me to make lots of friends and to challenge myself. Matthew does not seem to have that interest so I want him to find what does and I will support him and encourage him if we feel it is beneficial for him.

Matthew's most favorite place to go is the playground. He still loves it and everytime he goes he does make some friends for the day and he gets to run and jump and climb and have a good time.

We are fortunate to have the ability to send Matthew to camp for the summer and he always looks forward to it. We were looking for a place where he can have fun activities planned and where he would be supervised properly and have the opportunity to interact with other kids that are similar and learn to get along and have fun. We found that place which is Camp Kehalia which is run by the Sid Jacobson JCC.

He has been going now for the past 5 years and he has made progress and we are happy that he enjoys it because the most important thing we want for our child is for him to be happy and have fun and the opportunity to make friends. In life the simple things are the most rewarding.

Matthew's playground is where he finds his happiness.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Learning to cope.

It was a major reality check coming to grips with the fact that our son had serious medical concerns that required medication and ongoing medical visits. As any parent would say their first impulse or reaction when it comes to their child is providing for their safety and protection. Knowing that Matthew had a seizure disorder changed things because now we felt that providing for our son's safety was now compromised as we had no control over the situation but were trying to intervene with the use of medication. My wife had been filled with such anxiety over our son's safety that she could not let him sleep in his room alone. She felt it was a necessity that he sleep in our room under close watch just in case he would have another seizure. I also felt this was our only choice as we needed to make sure he was safe in the event he did have a seizure and because we would never forgive ourselves if he was alone and there was no one there to come to his aid. The experience Maria's mom went through was difficult enough. We did not want to have to go through that again. In researching seizures I learned that there are many different types of seizures and varying degrees of the disorder similar to autism. I was deeply moved after reading some of the experiences of others living with children who suffer from more severe disorders. I could not help but cry when I read about a family that had a young baby who apparently suffered from the disorder shortly after birth and literally had multiple seizures all day and night. It was so sad seeing what that poor baby and the parents had to go through. All I could do was to say a prayer for them. You always ask sometimes "Why me?" then realize there are others who have struggles more profound than you.

In researching and looking to find support groups it was our way of trying our best to cope with the situation and hopefully gleam some hope so we can learn how to provide the needed support and proper parenting for a special needs child. As a parent you are learning every day and generally there is a 2 way line of communication between the parents and the child. However with an autistic child that 2 way line for all intents and purposes is non existent. So we were dealing with seizures and autism at the same time and seeking proper medical care and a support system.

At times when I felt overwhelmed I would turn to my dad and seek his advice but sometimes I felt I should not burden him. I always looked up to him and was always grateful knowing that he was only a phone call or a short visit away. In the recent months since his tragic passing I have come to realize how much of a pillar of strength he was and how much of an influence he was in our lives. Sometimes you don't get to fully appreciate what you have until you lose it. With my dad I knew we were truly fortunate to have him in our lives and I really feel the impact of his loss.

In learning what my dad endured in his life and having faced such adversity and struggles of his own I felt that I could learn to be strong and deal with Matthew's medical issues and rally for him like my dad did in his way for his family. We approach things differently but seek the same result. I learned a lot in acquiring the necessary coping skills from my dad and am very thankful for his guidance and his love and support. I will always have the picture of him in my mind sitting in our living room watching tv and talking with Matthew. He was one of Matthew's biggest supporters and he was "Pop"!

Matthew's first visit with the Pediatric Neurologist

I was prepaing myself for our visit with the Pediatric neurologist at Schneider's Childrens' Hospital and wanted to make sure I spoke about all my concerns about Matthew's recent seizure which was his first and actually was not witnessed. My mother-in-law happened to find him aleady fallen from our bed lying in a box to the side which was there from our recent move. I could only imagine what was going through her mind when she first saw him. When she described what she saw I could tell how scared and frightened she was. He had lost color in his face and was not breathing. She immediately picked him up and cradled him and gently lied him on the floor pumping his chest until she got him to start breathing. She literally saved his life and was fortunate to get to him just in time. She explained that she was in the kitchen cooking and wondered why there was such quiet in our room. She said Matthew is usually very active and always playing so she decided to walk down the hallway to check up on him and to her horror she saw him in that apparent lifeless condition. Upon reviving him she ran to the owner's side of the house and knocked on his door which leads to his living room. He is an elderly gentleman and he stayed to help out as best he could until family arrived. My mother-in-law had called me at work and immediately I then sought help from family and friends. I told her to always call 911 when an emergency such as this occurs and my wife and I hugged her for coming to his aid when she was so traumatized. I know how much she loves Matthew and I saw her face so red from all the tears she cried that very night. She was his guardian angel and we were so very grateful to her. I asked her to come with us to explain what she witnessed and I wanted to discuss the incident as best I could so the doctor would have a clearer picture and determine if he did indeed have a seizure which my sister felt he had immediately when she saw him.

When we arrived at the hospital, Matthew was his typical self and he was clutching his teddy bear which he seems to like to bring with him when we go places. He was doing well considering having the apparent seizure and we didn't really notice anything different about him. I still was very concerned because we were not sure what to make of it and he is already affected by autism. I was wondering if there was a relationship between autism and seizures since the brain or neurological system seems to be connected with behaviors commonly associated with autism and also with the missed signals to the brain that can trigger a seizure. I really needed to discuss this with a professional as it was worrying me to no end knowing our precious little boy was having to deal with all these obstacles. I just had this terribly sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and I wanted to scream as I felt so helpless.

As we waited and had completed all the paperwork I was thinking about how I would lead in with the doctor and then we heard our son's name called out by the doctor's assistant. We immediately walked over to her with Matthew and heard her quietly say "Follow me". We were led to a small office down the hall where there were nurses stationed around and we were asked to wait. Within a couple of minutes a nurse came in to introduce herself and ask us how old our son is and then proceeded to weigh and measure him. She asked when he had the seizure and we told her a few nights ago and mentioned that no one actually saw it as it happened. She mentioned that seizures can be scary but if all the right precautions are taken and medication administered then they can be controlled a lot better. She said the doctor would be in to see us shortly and she managed to get a smile from Matthew. We felt more at ease after talking with the nurse.

We were happy to see the doctor as he introduced himself and immediately faced Matthew and said so "How are you doing little guy?" "I see you brought a little friend with you!" We told him that Matthew is autistic and apparently suffered a seizure. The doctor told us most likely it was a seizure and that he should go on medication to help control it. He mentioned that if someone has 2 or more seizures then generally they are diagnosed as epileptic and would have to be administered medication daily. He told us the medication usually prescribed and indicated that most young kids and babies are given the same medicine known as depacote. He also felt we should schedule an appointment with the hospital to have him monitored through the night if he has another seizure but did not feel it was necessary at this point. He discussed the relationship between autism and seizures and did indicate that many children on the autistic spectrum do also have seizures so he was able to answer one of my questions immediately. We told him that we were concerned and asked him what we would need to do once we start him on this medication. He was very informative and seemed to have many children as patients. He said that the child would have to start on the medicine at the recommended dosage and stay on it consistently and then the dosage would be increased over time as the child experiences body growth. They have to be monitored closely and their blood levels have to be checked regularly. He advised that we start him on depacote and if he experiences another seizure then we would bring him to emergency and then they would have to schedule the video monitoring. He also suggested that an MRI would also be requested. This seemed a bit to much to take in but we realized the severity of the situation and were in agreement. The doctor assured us that our son will be fine and we would just have to monitor him more closely. We were grateful to see him and the nurse and felt we would certainly be back.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Matthew's first seizure

There are moments we never forget and as the parent of a young child we are always concerned for their welfare and have them on our mind just about every minute of the day. It doesn't matter if we are at work or running errands when you become a parent you are a parent 24/7, 365 days a year for the rest of your life. It at times seems overwhelming but a responsibility gladly accepted and one taken with immense pride and heartfelt joy.

I was working at the office and it was around 7:15 pm as it was not unusual to work some late nights. My wife was working too so it was my mother-in-law at home watching Matthew and we were living in a rented house in Levittown, NY.

As I was working on completing a financial statement I received a frantic call from my mother-in-law screaming that Matthew was not breathing and his body was limp. I immediately told her to call 911 but she seemed reluctant or did not understand so I told her I will be home shortly and quickly left the office and headed for my car. I was quite shaken up not sure what was going on and I reached out to a neighbor to run over to our house to check in on Matthew and Terry, my mother-in-law. She said she would head over to the house right away. I also called my sister Kathy who is a nurse and told her that something happened to Matthew but I was not sure what since I was not home. I asked her if she could check in on him and she said she would. As I arrived home I quickly ran into the house and was greeted by my neighbor and sister and they pulled me over and had me sit while my sister said she had seen Matthew and that he is breathing and getting color back in his face and was comfortably resting with grandma watching him and it was her opinion based on what was described to her that Matthew had a grand mal seizure and that we should schedule to see a pediatric neurologist and if he has another seizure to take him to the emergency room. I asked her if she thought we should take him to the hospital now and she felt that he was doing better having come out of the seizure and was resting comfortably. My sister felt if we took him to emergency we would probabaly just be waiting for a long time to be seen and it was best to speak with a pediatric neurologist and try to schedule an emergency appointment in the next few days at Schneider's Children's hospital. She said it is more than likely Matthew had a grand mal seizure and will have to be administered medication to help control the seizures.

I checked in on Matthew with my sister by my side and saw him resting and in good hands with grandma by his side. I asked her if she spoke to Maria and she indicated that she could only leave a message. I tried to call her and managed to get her and asked if she checked her messages and she said she was just about to call when I did. I told her Matthew had a seizure based on what Kathy told me and told her to come home now. She said she was on her way.

It was a long night as I was very worried and not sure what to expect. Matthew did sleep the night as the seizure must have exhausted him. Maria and I had him sleep in our bed and we monitored him through the night.

First thing in the morning I called Schneider's Children's hospital to schedule an emergency appointment as soon as possible since our son apparently suffered a grand mal seizure and we were very concerned about it. The operator transferred the call to Pediatric neurology where I spoke of our situation and we were scheduled an appointment for Thursday which was a few days away and I asked her what we should do if he suffers another one before then and she advised we take him to the emergency at Schneider's if we encountered that. She scheduled the appointment for early afternoon so I arranged with my office to take the full day so I could make the needed appointment with my wife and they were very understanding and accomodating. I now had another area of investigation now to read up on which was alarming and I started researching on the internet grand mal seizures and epilepsy and I wanted to make sure we are doing everything we possibly can to help Matthew with this condition. I was really starting to rely on others more as this seemed a bit overwhelming to me and I was very concerned for our little boy.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Matthew's Early Intervention Years

We were very fortunate that Matthew was eligible and approved for the early intervention programs funded by the state. I remember feeling encouraged that he was getting services and special attention for his autism diagnoses. When you are charting unfamiliar territory for the first time you must put your faith and trust in others and you are always hoping that each day builds upon the next and that with all the resources being made available to us that progress will be certain and consistent. I remember feeling very appreciative that our son was considered and provided these services. We were always treated nicely by the staff working on Matthew's case and we were fortunate to have home visitation for the first 2 years. I remember a couple of visits with the assigned teachers as I was usually at work when the sessions were conducted. My wife would be home with Matthew in his first few years and she would be home when the staff would visit. I made it a point to take a vacation day here and there so I would be home for a few visits and see how Matthew was progressing. It was a one on one session with Matthew and his teacher. The teachers that came to the house over the first couple of years were women and they were very dedicated and very friendly. I remember on one occasion when the teacher came to visit Matthew she would be so excited on her arrival and she would address him by his name and she had a tape/cd player where she would play music to him and she would pronounce words and speak to him and mouth words with him. She also used a lot of visual cues and picture books to help him with learning and developing vocabulary. She would always start the session with the ABC song and she had Matthew sing with her. He seemed to be responsive when he was having a good day but sometimes he would be very cranky and the teachers would have to plan for those difficult times as autistic children can be very unpredictable from one day to the next. We were always informed how the session went because the teacher would keep a log book where she would explain what her session focussed on and how Matthew interacted and followed instruction. We would read the daily entries and provide feedback and raise questions.

Matthew seemed to enjoy the visits and we felt that they were very important in his growth and development. All the teachers that worked with Matthew all indicated that he is a very bright boy and is on the spectrum where he is considered high functioning. As Matthew approached his 3rd year he seemed to be developing more of a vocabulary and he was singing songs and showing an eagerness to learn and explore. He was so cute in his interactions with his teachers and they all fell in love with him and seemed to take a personal interest in his development.
As parents of a special needs child there are so many concerns and questions regarding your child's stages of development. We knew we were on the right track with the Early Intervention Programs and the trained and dedicated teachers. We learned to take one day at a time and to have a lot of patience and to always be proactive with Matthew's training with the Early Intervention teachers always expressing any concerns or questions we had. The teachers were all so very accomodating and very helpful.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My take on Autism.

When I learned Matthew was diagnosed as autistic many thoughts and concerns occupied my mind and I was not sure what I should do initially as I was trying to first understand what autism is and how it affects my son. The first thing I learned in my need to investigate and understand autism was that most autistic children have difficulties with making eye contact. We realized this as young parents and it was my wife who noticed this and was not sure why Matthew seemed nonresponsive to her words and not able to make a connection with her. It was traumatic for Maria because she felt she was not properly mothering him and felt very sad and depressed about it. We spent many nights talking together and I tried my best to explain to her that it has nothing to do with her and that she has to get past her feelings and to try to just nurture and keep talking reassuringly and give him all the love and time he needs. I also told her that on the weekends I would help with his feedings and allow her some alone time as I recognized this was very important and I had to also take an active role in his care. I remember trying to find ways to elicit a response from Matthew by playing soothing sounds from my cd collection of natures landscapes. I remember playing tracks of the ocean waves against the shore, the sounds of gentle rain against the leaves and the sounds of birds chirping in the early morning. This seemed to relax him and I felt it was good to introduce different sounds and sensations to him. With autism it seems children have to shut down their senses at times because there is far to much stimuli and they can not cope and this results in the child reacting out by screaming and getting very obstinate. This is typically known as a tantrum. We have gone through many tantrums with our son and they can happen anywhere and at anytime. In understanding an autistic child you have to try to help them through this tantrum and try to penetrate their world as this is happening which is not an easy task. Sometimes it is very easy to get discouraged and to react in an inappropriate way. The first thing you learn when your child is going through a difficult time is to try to maintain calmness and to try to be in control of the situation. Autistic children tend to be very repetitive in their behavior and a break in their normal routine can cause such stress that they will lose it and have a very bad tantrum or a meltdown. We have seen this type of behavior with our son many many times and we have to work to try to keep Matthew on an even keel and try to keep things as much the same for him as we can. We also have to reinforce routines that he needs to follow as normal children do. Matthew has exhibited repetitive behavior like most autistic children. I remember when I was a kid I loved playing with my matchbox and hotwheels cars and spent a good part of my childhood with those cars. Naturally when my son was born I started a collection of matchbox and hotwheels cars and also boxed sets of baseball cards for him so when he was ready he could play with them as I did. As he grew and started to play with his cars he had arranged them by color on some days. On other days he would arrange his cars by type and on other days he would arrange his cars by size. I remember our livingroom would look like a parking lot. It was quite a site to see hundreds of cars lined up so perfectly. This obviously is a tell tale sign of autism. Matthew could spend hours at a time lining up his cars. Naturally knowing his situation I would tell him how wonderful his arrangement looked and admire it along with him. I always remember my mom and dad encouraging me and I know that is very important in promoting self esteem and autistic children always need reinforcement and encouragement. My son's interest in cars went beyond the livingroom and I remember when he was 2 years old he could name the make and model of just about any car you pointed to on the street or highway. It didn't matter if it was at home or at a relative's house in New Jersey or upstate New York or a friend's house in Coram, NY. You pointed out a car to him and he would know the make and model of the car about 95 % of the time. It really amazed us and many others. Autistic children on the autistic spectrum with Asperger's are usually high functioning and they have seemingly amazing abilities though they follow repetive patterns and have very poor social skills. Our son falls into this part of the autistic spectrum. As I researched and learned more about autism I realized that like anything else there are positives and negatives and we decided that we would try to help Matthew develop the positive aspects and give him support and guidance and we would help him with the difficulties that autistic children normally encounter. We also realized as parents of an autistic child that we were overwhelmed and very caught up in the emotional aspects of trying to understand what our son is going through and trying our best to help him. We needed to seek support for our fragile psyche.

I am still learning about autism and will be learning about it for the rest of my life and I will always be there for my son as will my wife. I feel as our son grows and we give him the support and encouragement he needs we will see progress. We have to have a lot of patience and put our minds at ease and hold on to hope and realize we are sometimes powerless over our situation but we will try all we can to give our son the necessary support and love to enable him to grow and develop and achieve as he most certainly deserves the same opportunities that all children deserve.

Our son may be autistic but he also is a young child who has the same curiosity and the same desire and the same passion that other children have and he is our pride and joy and we are so proud of him!

Matthew, You're our shining star! Go fourth and do all you can in life because you are truly special and we love you so much!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I look to my Dad for guidance and inspiration!

The love I have for my son is so strong and is with complete and total devotion. I always felt that if I could be half the father to my son that my dad was to me than I know my son would be fine. I always looked to my dad for his advice and when I needed to talk about my concerns and my achievements. My Dad was such a caring and compassionate person and he was from the old school and held on to the traditional values that have somehow gotten lost with the changing times and attitudes. I, like my dad value his same beliefs and values which I share and teach to my son. My dad had grown up in a family as the second oldest of seven children, 4 boys and 3 girls. His father, a hard working man was very stern and quick to holler and was very demanding of him as a young boy and this certainly affected him. I remember my dad as very easy going and very understanding. He never hollered at us when my sisters and I were young and he and mom disciplined us through talking to us. We certainly had the right model of parenting to follow.

My dad was very proud of me and made me feel very worthwhile and he always spoke encouraging words to me and treated me with complete respect. I could see my dad was so delighted for both Maria and I when we brought Matthew home from the hospital. He loved Matthew and would come and visit and play with him when he was a toddler. He was always very kind and a wonderful grandfather. When we informed him about Matthew's autism he was very concerned for him and made it a point to continue visiting him and treating him like his other grandchildren. He told us Matthew is special and that we are specially chosen to shape and mold him and provide him the love, support and guidance he needs. My dad was always good at looking at the positive side of things and providing such sound advice and genuine concern.

If I was asked who I looked up to or would like to follow in the footsteps of, my answer would be very quick and with strong conviction. Of course the answer is my dad! He's the one who was very loving and supportive of our mom who suffered from mental illness and was in and out of hospitals for many years. This took its toll on him and the family and we all had to deal with it in our own ways. We lost her when she was only 50 back in 1990 and it was a very difficult and painful time as I was a young man and I also had looked to my mom for advice and guidance for many years.

My dad carried on bravely but he was deeply affected by her loss and a part of him died the day she died. That year was particularly difficult for my dad because within a span of 2 months he lost his wife and his younger brother, Donald. My dad had a wonderful relationship with his brother Donald and it really affected him terribly.

Despite the tragedies and hardships my dad encountered in his life he always had a sense of purpose and an undeniable strength and courage to forge ahead and he always stayed true to his responsibilities. I get my strength and courage from him and I will make it my life's work to help my son as my dad helped me. I only wish we had him here still so I can tell him how much I love and miss him. I too wish I could introduce my beautiful wife and son to my mom who I love and miss despite the many years that have passed.

So I say to my Dad thank you for all your support and love and for encouraging me to be the best I can be and most of all thank you for spending so much time with your grandson Matthew. He will always remember that and so will we!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A little glimpse into my childhood!

One thing I learned growing up was that I had a strong support system in my family and was very fortunate to grow up in a loving home with mom and dad and my two sisters. I was kind of a loner type but I did have a very stable and nurturing upbringing and was a very happy child. I got along well with my sisters Kathy and Joannie and was very close to my mom. We had a special bond and I remember as a young boy being encouraged and learning through her devotion and dedication. She would always make sure I did my homework and that I understood it. My mom had a lot of patience and she was very dedicated to my sisters and I. My dad was a very proud ironworker and he was very dedicated to his work and his family too. I always looked up to my dad as he had a quiet determination and was a very humble man. I learned both respect and humility from my parents and the importance of trying my best no matter what the circumstances. I was a very shy kid and found it hard to express myself and I would withdraw from social situations a lot because I just did not feel comfortable. I was driven though in things that interested me. I remember when I was 7 years old I really never participated in activities outside of school and I felt lonely at times. I was interested in baseball and remember like it was yesterday watching Met games with my Mom as she was a very loyal Met fan and she passed her love of the team down to me. She felt betrayed when the Brooklyn Dodgers left to play on the west coast in 1957 like most Brooklyn Dodger fans did.

She would tell me how her love of baseball and the Brooklyn Dodgers evolved. She and her dad would go to Ebbits field to catch a few games during the summer and she always enjoyed the crowd, watching her favorite team and being with her dad. She related how special those few games a year meant to her and she always cherished them.

My mom was the second oldest of 5 children with 3 girls and 2 boys. Her parents emmigrated from Ireland after having married there and moving shortly thereafter to Brooklyn, New York with plans of starting a new life together and raising a family. Within a short time after moving here her father opened an Irish pub and worked very long hours to support his wife and growing family.

Now getting back to baseball and the Brooklyn Dodgers my mom told me that her dad would like to catch a Brooklyn Dodger game on occasion during the baseball season as a break from his exhausting work schedule and when she was a young girl they would go and enjoy a nice day at the ballpark. She said it was an amazing experience being at Ebbits field and getting caught up in the excitement.

My mom did mention though after the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to LA that for 5 years she had lost interest in baseball until the whimsical Mets appeared to fill the void. She was hooked from the start and I was destined to be a Met fan since birth according to my mom. I remember watching my first Met game on a black and white tv in our living room in Brooklyn New York in the summer of 1968. I was a fan of baseball too and remember having catches with my dad on our block. I could not get enough of throwing and catching and I was pretty adept at it. I remember a family relative of our neighbor who coached little league saw me throwing with my dad and called me over after we had finished and asked me if I was interested in playing in little league and I said yes, of couse I am! He saw in me the skill and talent and he took an interest in me and encouraged me to play. I am very grateful to him because it was his encouragement and interest in me that gave me the confidence to try out and successfully make the team. It was a love from day one as I just felt so natural playing the game and it allowed me the opportunity to make friends and develop and be a kid and have fun. I remember my mom and dad would come see me play and I was so proud when I played and made the catch to record the out or hit the ball and safely get to 1st base. In my first year I was rewarded by my coach for being the most improved player in 1970 and that was a proud achievement for me and it still is as I have that trophy proudly displayed on my mantle along with our team's 1st place trophy. It's those seemingly simple things that stay with us for a lifetime. I remember when I was in kindergarten I was so afraid to be called on or to have to talk as I preferred just to be left alone. I remember my teachers, Mrs. Blackbear and Ms. Rubin took an interest in me and worked on helping me open up and helped me with my reading and math and with the combined efforts of them and my mom I was able to excel in school and learned from an early age to try to do my best. It is these things I learned as a small boy from my parents and teachers that I try to instill in my son and I can relate to him in so many ways as I was very sensitive and shy which I feel are similar attributes in autistic children, especially my son.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Understanding Matthew's Autism

When we were informed that Matthew was autistic I admit I was quite surprised and not sure what this actually meant. I remember many years earlier reading a book about a young girl who lived in her own world and she described it as an isolated one with very little communication and a lot of madness. I know there are differing degrees of autism and realized her's was severe and I was concerned that we implement all the necessary systems of support to help Matthew as suggested by Beverly from the New York State Department of Health. I knew now I had to avail myself of every possible resource and publication to help deal with our son's autism. We often wondered why our child had to be affected by this puzzling diagnoses and not even sure how it was characterized. Was it an illness, a disease, a disability? Could it be cured? If so how so? The flood of questions were coming at me like a blinding snowstorm and I needed to take a step back and think rationally about it. I certainly wanted to do all the right things for Matthew and needed to find some clues and answers which I felt would come over a long and exhaustive process. In revisiting my son's birth I wanted to try to understand what may have led to this condition. I do remember when the doctors were preparing for Matthew's delivery there were concerns that his position was awkward and the doctors were trying to relax my wife and at the same time help move Matthew through the vaginal cavity as safely as possible. They needed to use suction and forceps to assist in his birth. I feel this was a bit traumatic and I remember Matthew was born with a slightly cone head shape and the nurses put a knitted hat on his head immediately following his birth and cleaning. Upon his birth I had come to realize that nothing can be taken for granted in the birthing process. When we left the hospital Matthew's head did take a normal shape and things seemed fine. In Matthew's first year we had seen patterns of behavior that are typical of autistic children. I remember from an early age he was sensitive to ringing and if he heard a bell or alarm it would set him off and he would cry and it was difficult to calm him. He also had difficulties with responding to voices and cues. His eyes did not follow with hand movement or gesturing. At that time we did not suspect anything being wrong but was concerned enough to raise the question to his pediatrician. I do remember when I had some time alone I would wonder if there was a possibility that Matthew was misdiagnosed and that he was just slow in his development. I remember as I read medical terms and personally related experiences about autism I was hoping that it was not relevant but became resigned to the fact that Matthew most likely was autistic by his reactions, responses and behavior. I remember crying and just praying for his situation. It was a difficult realization to come to terms with and I knew I had to be strong and do whatever I could to help him.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Matthew's diagnosis - Autism.

We were awaiting the results of the testing from the New York Department of Health and we were anxious about it because we were not sure of what to expect and we were concerned because Matthew seemed delayed in speaking and his eye contact was not consistent. We were relieved the results of the surgery with the tubes worked out nicely.

I remember we received a follow up call from the woman who came to the house and did her evaluation and testing. She was very nice over the phone and was very matter of fact in her conversation. In speaking with us I asked her if we could pick up the phone call on 2 lines so Maria could listen in and she said that she preferred that so we would both hear what she had to say. Before she spoke further I asked her if she felt the results of the tests were an accurate read on our son and she said she had full confidence in the results and she was calling to inform us on the next steps we needed to take. So she continued on in her conversation and indicated that Matthew would certainly benefit from the Early intervention program and had been approved. We felt that this was a positive step and then listened further to what she had to say. She then mentioned for us to listen and just be open to her findings. She mentioned in her experience of dealing with young children and babies who's responses were similar to Matthew's that it was her professional opininion that Matthew was on the Autistic spectrum and had a condition called Asperger's syndrome which was named after a doctor in Austria who recognized this condition in children years ago who had difficulties in developing speech and interacting socially. These children also often have a difficult time with verbalizing and making eye contact. Based on what she was saying to us we felt somewhat relieved that he was diagnosed with someting that was on the medical landscape's radar. We were a bit surprised and in shock too. We wanted our son to be perfect in every way and we knew we would be there every step of the way for him and would do everything necessary to provide a loving, supporting and nurturing home for him despite any medical concerns we may have. We agreed with the woman representative that we were interested in pursuing the early intervention program and would need to be advised as to how we were to continue and properly enroll him. She indicated that the paperwork was mailed and included the recommended program and diagnoses that she briefly discussed with us. She said we should complete it as soon as possible so they can start sending the early intervention program agency representatives to the house for the recommended time allowed. She also mentioned that we should not be discouraged and just look at this as an opportunity to provide the needed support system in place for our son and to take advantage of the resources that are available to us for children diagnosed with early disabilities. She wished us the best of luck and said we have a very cute boy and she could always be reached if we had questions or concerns. We felt very appreciative and thanked her and now realized we had a special child and we had to provide all the needed support and resources we can to help him. I realized my work had only just begun and now had to stay focused and very open minded and draw from the strength of family and hold on to hope. I realized more than ever how much I loved my wife and our son, a very special little boy!

I thanked God for providing us our little Matthew and asked him for his guidance and to provide us with the strength and hope necessary to face the challenges ahead of us.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Matthew's development.

As a new parent you want to make sure that you are in tune with your baby's growth and development. It is a new experience caring for a baby which results in a great deal of learning and adapting. I remember in the first year we spent our share of sleepless nights and unexpected visits to hospital emergency rooms. I remember one time we were trying to bring our son's fever, a blistering 103 degrees down by soaking him in an icy bath while trying to calm him down as his crying did not help the situation and he would get all worked up seemingly making the fever get worse. We had no choice but to have him rushed to the hospital as my wife had me call 911. The paramedics that arrived at our house were there within minutes of our call and they were very reassuring as they readied our son for transport and they had my wife gently hold him and they placed him on a baby stretcher. My wife stayed with Matthew in the ambulance and I followed in my car. When we arrived at the hospital I remember we spent a long night waiting and speaking with the nurses and doctor and spending most of the time in a small room in the emergency ward. We knew we did the right thing and despite the lack of sleep and anxiety we felt we were feeling much better after the doctor gave us the ok to bring him home with a prescription to help him with reducing the fever and the nurses commented on how cute he is. In his first year I remember he had his share of visits with his pediatrician for all sorts of reasons as he seemed to be susceptible to getting colds fairly regularly. He also had normal scheduled visits for the monitoring of his weight and growth. He was also on a schedule for the required vaccinations which were hard to watch being administered to him as he would wail upon feeling the needle. I just felt so bad for him as he would cry until he turned red. You never want to see your baby hurting so naturally you always feel the need to protect and comfort them and you always rely on the doctor's and put your faith and trust in their judgement and medical opinions.

We shared in the joys that most parents experience in viewing our baby's first accomplishments. Things that seem simple enough to us are major feats for a little baby.

It was fun to watch our son smile as this was like a ray of sun shine that brightened up our day. When my son was a baby I remember always peeking in on him in his crib before I left for work and I always left with a smile on my face. When Matthew was a baby I remember those days when I wished I could be home and spend the whole day with him but I would always realize that I needed to work and Maria needed to nurse him. Thank God I had my wife's and Matthew's beautiful baby pictures to surround myself with at work when I was away from my family.

I remember when my son started to crawl and the very first word he said. They were positive moments in our son's development. There were some patterns of early behavior and development that raised some questions and concerns too. We were concerned about Matthew's early development because in the months after his birth my wife noticed that Matthew did not make any visual eye contact when she would talk out loud to him in that way we talk with our little baby. She would try to get a rise out of him by gently moving in closer to him and singing and saying calming words. We were concerned about his hearing as he did not speak. His early form of communicating with us was typical of most babies. He did his fair share of crying. We actually felt good about that. Matthew was a very good baby and he slept pretty good through the night especially with his baby lullabys playing and my wife's gentle and reassuring words.

I remember reading more about the typical stages of a baby's development to try to see how our son was doing and I felt we should discuss any concerns we have with his pediatrician. When we told her we were concerned about his limited speech development she seemed concerned and raised the possibility of having him evaluated by a state representative for early childhood development to see if he would qualify for the early intervention program with the New York State Department of Health. She also had us meet with an ear, nose and throat specialist to see if his hearing could be the problem.

We were instructed by the state department of health to fill out forms that would be mailed to the house and have a doctor's letter written explaining our son's condition.

As soon as we recieved the forms and mailed them with the doctor's letter we would receive a response within a couple of weeks. In completing the forms we were concerned about possible diagnoses and not sure what to expect.

I remember the woman who came to the house to evaluate our son as she seemed very experienced and very good with children. We explained to her that Matthew was to have tube surgery and she knew about the surgery and said that it is fairly common and that there was no need to worry. She spent 45 minutes with Matthew testing him for responses and his reaction to different stimuli and she seemed like she did this regularly. After she concluded her testing she sat with us for 15 minutes and explained we would receive a written evaluation and her recomendation within a few weeks.

I remember we for some reason delayed our visit with meeting the specialist and in retrospect I wished we did schedule the visit sooner. When we finally did meet with the doctor and he evaluated our son he did several tests and came to the conclusion that Matthew needed a fairly common surgery called a Myringotomy which is the insertion of a tube to help with the proper draining of fluids in the ear. As a parent your normal reaction when hearing your baby needs surgery is to start asking questions. The doctor allayed our fears and explained that it will help him and that he has performed it many times with young children. The one thing he did mention was that anesthesia would have to be administered for the surgery. This did worry us but we realized that going forward with the surgery was in the best interest of our son.

Well Matthew got through the surgery with flying colors and we were delighted to see him awaken seemingly feeling no pain. He had to rest for the hour under the doctor's care so we waited nearby where a tv was playing. It was near Christmas of 2000 and I felt tremendous relief that he was ok. He had just turned 2 years old and I realized how much I worried for my son and now understood what my parents went through with me as I was so accident prone as a child. After the hour the doctor said he was fine and we could take him home and we were prescibed ear drops to adminster to him.

After Matthew's follow up visit with the doctor we were assured Matthew was doing remarkable with the tube surgery and we should continue using the ear drops and were told that the tubes will eventually fall out naturally and by then the ears should be functioning fine and he should have a lot less infections.

We were relieved that Matthew was making progress with the tubes and we were also looking forward to the response from the New York State Department of Health but felt somewhat in limbo as to what would be written and what would be the outcome of the visit.

As we put Matthew to sleep for the night we kissed him and played the beautiful lullabys and watched him drift off to sleep which helped me sleep better myself. My wife would wake up when he cried as that was the plan.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Matthew's 1st Christmas!

This Christmas was a very special one for Maria and I as it was our son's first and it was our first as parent's. We were so excited to take our son out for his first visit to the mall as the holiday was drawing closer only a week away. We walked around for a little while to do a little shopping and to see Santa. We were happy enough to see him from the distance as the lines were bustling with so many kids. We stopped for a little rest as the demands of shopping for so many nieces and nephews and dealing with the crowds can take its toll especially when you're out with your baby for the first time.

It was time to head back home and put up our tree so we could have our little family celebration and share our joy and appreciation for being blessed with the best Christmas present ever! Maria did find a really cute baby santa outfit and a baby jump suit with santa's helper inscripted on it. We were looking forward to taking family pictures with Matthew's new outfits by our tree to share with family and friends.

After steadying the tree which was one of those artificial put it together yourself types that looked nice Maria volunteered to decorate it after putting Matthew in his crib to rest after nursing him.

I was happy she decided to decorate it as she always does a much better job and I wanted to catch up on some much needed rest.

When I awoke I peeked in on my wife as she had completed the tree decorating and was placing the christmas cards up around the wall and had the lights intermittently blinking with the sound of the traditional Christmas jingles playing. She did ask me to place the angel on top of the tree as she could not reach that high. I also needed the help of standing on a chair to reach that high and to find the plug so it would properly light up. As I moved the chair back I stepped back with my wife to admire the beautifully decorated tree and could not wait to take pictures with our little baby.

We positioned Matthew near the tree cradled in Maria arms with his little santa suit and we took many pictures. A couple of times he would yawn or cry but there were some that came out perfect in our eyes. I managed to get in a few myself holding little Matthew and a couple of pictures were taken with the timer to get that most important family shot. We were so delighted to get some nice pictures to add to our baby's album and to give to our sisters' families and to Pop.

I was glad I went to Midnight mass to ring in Christmas. My wife and son were sleeping at home and I enjoyed sharing in the commemoration of Christ's birth more so this year as it had special meaning to me.

Christmas day was to be celebrated at my sister's house where our family, my other sister's family and our Dad would get together and have a large family sit down dinner with all the trimmings and all the eggnog you could drink. It is truly a wonderful time and the best part is watching all the nieces and nephews open up their presents and seeing the smiles on their faces. Maria sat with Matthew on her lap most of the time until my sisters and the kids wanted to see him. My sisters would share in holding him and gently patting him. They were so delighted to see him and they absolutely loved his little santa suit.

It was a very special day and we were so delighted to get to celebrate a special day with our special little one. It was a joyous day!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Home with our baby boy.

We are a family now and our baby is now safe at home and we had made arrangements to have a baby photographer come to the house to take pictures of our son to capture his life in pictures as a little baby. Maria started a baby album and placed the hospital pictures taken by the hospital photographer and the sonogram pictures inside along with her and Matthew's hospital band. In the initial days of having a baby it does take a little getting used to yet it is a very happy time and a time sometimes filled with nervousness and learning as we are trying as best we can to be in tune with our baby's needs. It seems easy enough as we have learned pretty quickly that when he is hungry he will cry. When he is in need of a change of diaper he will cry. When he is uncomfortable he will cry. So we have to figure out what exactly he is crying about which we can figure out pretty quickly. I remember when we were planning on having a family I had gone to the bookstore at the mall on several occasions to buy books for an expecting mother and new parents and the Dr. Benjamin Spock book on baby and child care. I wanted to be able to help my wife as much as I could always knowing that sometimes she needed a brake as she naturally was with him more as she was nursing him as it was suggested by her doctor and the pediatrician. As a new father when I was not holding my son I took great joy in watching him in his crib sleeping so peacefully. It was very comforting knowing he was peaceful and resting. We would play a baby lullaby "All the pretty little ponies" to help him sleep at night sung by Kenny Loggins which brings back such wonderful memories. I remember thinking to myself as I saw him sleeping if he was aware of us and his new home and his surroundings. After all he was comforted inside his mother's womb for nine months with all of his needs satisfied and all of a sudden he is thrust into our world which is a much different place but filled with love and all the nurturing and support we can give him. I remember his first photo session with the baby photographer who was nice to come to the house to take some really beautiful pictures of our little baby. I was enjoying watching him with the help of Maria posing him and dressing him in such cute baby outfits. The pictures are priceless as they capture him in delightful ways with his little sailor outfit and his little baseball outfit and his picture with his little teddy bear and the picture of his thinking pose. I learned how much patience a baby photographer must have to capture such wonderful pictures in between the crying tantrums. It is truly a wonderful time having a wonderful family and so very special to be given such a precious gift of a tiny baby who brings such joy and happiness to my very existence. I am so proud of our little baby boy and will always be there for both my wife and son. They mean the world to me and I need to provide and protect. As I watch over my son with our favorite lullaby playing and seeing him drift off to sleep I can't help but feel such joy in my heart.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Time to bring my wife and our newborn son home!

I remember the 3 days my wife and son were at the hospital in the wake of his birth and my travels back and forth and my visits with them and the nurses. It was a very exciting time with visits from family and friends and although it was some time ago it feels like it just only happened as I think back to this very special time. As expecting new parents we had prepared the room where he would sleep and had a beautiful crib selected and a baby changing station and little baby toys to arouse his curiosity. We wanted everything to be perfect and we wanted to always be prepared for the demands and joys of parenthood. I looked into our baby's room one more time before I left to pick my wife and son up and was feeling quite emotional. It was Friday morning, December 11th 1998 and it was a bright sunny day with a prewinter season chill in the air. I readied the baby car seat in the middle nestled between where my wife and mother in law would sit in the back. I made sure it was anchored securely and that our son would be comfortable and safe as well as my wife and mother in law. I had a cup of hot chocolate that I drank at the kitchen table with my dad before I left. I was excited and nervous all at the same time and my dad gave me words of encouragement as he always had and I always enjoyed seeking advice from him. He had a lot of wisdom and he always was a caring and loving father and I wanted to exhibit those same qualities in raising my son. I know my dad missed his wife as she had passed 8 years earlier and I would never have the opportunity of sharing my son's birth and development with her and I felt sad about that. Well it was now time to head for the hospital and I gave my dad a handshake and left with my music cd playing beautiful Christmas music. I was getting used to this routine of driving to the hospital and walking over to maternity. I was prepared and ready and feeling good. As a new father you find yourself in uncharted territory and approach each day as a new learning experience. As I headed to my wife's room one more time it was now a reality that we were readying to bring our precious baby home and I saw the nurse talking with my wife as she was holding Matthew all dressesd and ready to go. It was very comforting knowing how well cared for my wife and son were by the nurses and medical staff. We were very fortunate and were informed of the necessary follow up visits with both the pediatrician and my wife's Ob/Gyn. I was greeted by the nurse as she continued her conversation with my wife concerning the days and weeks immediately following childbirth and being instructed on how to breastfeed and other related mother-baby issues that men are not always well informed about. I listened in and tried to gleam some knowledge from it. I gathered my wife's belongings and the gifts, cards and flowers that were given to us in addition to the hospital's gift of diapers and baby formula. I had to make a 2nd trip to pick up the remaining gifts and was instructed to bring the car around to the back entrance of the hospital where my wife and son would be waiting. As I approached the entrance I waited a few minutes but felt I may have driven to the wrong side so I drove to the other side and as I approached I saw my wife cradling our son. I waited as a nurse escorted her and Matthew to the car and I swung the belt up from the baby seat as we gently placed him in the seat and properly secured him inside. The nurse peeked in and placed a blanket over Matthew as Maria readied herself inside sitting next to him and she glanced over to me and then to my wife and son and said congratulations and good luck. We thanked her and headed home. I drove very carefully as this was my first time driving with a baby and new mother and I wanted to make sure mother and baby were safe. I prepared for this in my mind as well and knew we would be driving many many more times together as a young family. As I approached the acceleration entrance of the parkway I made sure I drove in the right lane and was aware of all around me. I was relieved to make the trip home safely and placed the car in park and ran to open the door for my wife and remove Matthew from the baby seat very carefully. I was really holding him for only a few times before and never outside so I made sure I was holding him securely and walked my wife and baby up to the door and placed him in her arms to bring him inside as I went to bring in all the gifts. Dad greeted us and exclaimed great to have you all home safely. He was so delighted to see Matthew and said he is so cute. It was nice to be home and now together as a family!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

First time meeting with Matthew's pediatrician.

It was just 24 hours earlier when we were still awaiting our son's birth and I felt such happiness and relief tonight after spending the day with my wife and new born son. It was a very long day and we had the opportunity of sharing our joy with some of our family and friends and were anticipating visits from other family members and Matthew's pediatrician tomorrow. I wanted to get some rest tonight so I could get an early start and spend the day with Maria and Matthew and knew Maria needed a good night sleep as well as our little baby. As soon as I lay my head on the pillow I drifted off to sleep dreaming of what a truly special day today was and just feeling so blessed. I was looking forward to meeting with Matthew's pediatrician and hoping both my wife and son are doing well. Now that I was alone I liked to play my music as I drift off for the night. Before I knew it the sun was rising and a new day beginning with my schedule altered as normally I'm preparing for a work day but today all I could think of was both my wife and son and looking forward to spending the full day at the hospital with them. My sister Joannie called me this morning to wish us both congratulations and said she would be up later in the day and could not wait to see Matthew. I was happy to hear from her and told her that we looked forward to seeing her. It is now time for me to head over to the hospital as we were expecting to see the doctor around 10:00 am. I managed to stop for a quick breakfast at Mc Donalds on the way and just felt great about things and also enjoyed the fact that I wasn't running on a train schedule or work schedule today or for the balance of the week. I had several questions I wrote down on a sheet of paper on things we need to know about in the immediate days following our son's birth and what we should look for and when we need to start with immunizations and have the circumcision and the next appointment we will need to make. Now that we have a little baby I feel we need to make sure we are properly informed as new parents and doing everything we need to. It was 9:50 am as I was pulling into the hospital parking lot at Mercy hospital. I walked up to the reception desk and told the lady my name and who I was visiting and I headed for the hallway leading to the elevator to maternity and rang the bell. I walked in to my wife's room and saw her finishing her breakfast and we were waiting on the pediatrician who was set to meet with Matthew to monitor his vital signs and with us afterwards. I asked my wife how she felt and if she was able to hold Matthew and she said she was with him early in the morning and was feeling good as she slept the night as did he. It was 10:15 am and Dr. Angela Aiello introduced herself and told us what a beautiful little baby boy we have and she had just come from seeing him and indicated he is doing fine and will have a visit in her office in a week and to call her if he is running a fever or if we have any concerns. I asked her the questions I wrote down and she smiled and said this is your first and we smiled and said yes. She said congratulations and said she looked forward to seeing us and Matthew of course and indicated that the circumcision would be performed at the hospital and he would be administered vaccinations on a schedule. She left us her card and said we can call her office anytime and we thanked her and walked over to see our baby. I told Maria that my sister Joannie would be up to visit later in the day and that I would spend the whole day with them both. I was so glad to have time off from work and being a new father and spending these days with my family. This is what life is all about as I finally saw my son up and active. He is so cute and I was so proud to see his name posted on his bassinet. That's my boy! I exclaimed to other new parents, my wife, family and friends. I saw Joannie later that day and proudly introduced my son to her and hugged her and told her I am so glad to be a dad! My sister gave Maria a hug and congratulated her. She certainly knows what it's like to be a mother as she has 4 kids and my sister Kathy also has 3 kids and they both are happy for Maria and I and dad too of course. Life is good!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Our son is so perfect!

As Maria and I look at our son sleeping in his bassinet I turn to her and tell her "I love you and our little Matthew so much and I kiss her on the cheek and say "thank you!" I try to think back to when I was a baby but can only vaugely remember when I was 4 or 5 years old. It is sometimes hard to believe that we all start out as little babies. I study my son from head to toe and just feel this incredible feeling of joy and amazement at how perfect he is with all his tiny little features and my wife says this is the best day of our lives and I am in total agreement. We look on at our son and all the other babies and we smile and feel that special feeling that new parents feel and we gesture a kiss to our son and mouth the words "we love you" and we walk back to the room eagerly awaiting family and friends to introduce our little Matthew. The first family members to come to visit at the hospital are Maria's mother, Teresita, her sister Fe and her family. Fe's daughter is so excited to see Matthew as she's a baby herself of 2 years. Maria was so excited to see her mom and they embraced and were so happy. I gave her a hug and said congratulations on being a grandma! Maria escorted her mom, sister and niece over to see baby Matthew as I talked with Ken, Fe's husband and related the experience of being in the delivery room and witnessing the birth of my son and being totally amazed and so very proud of Maria. As I'm talking I feel this tap on my shoulder and turn around and it's my sister Kathy and my Dad! I was so delighted to see them and I tell them how beautiful Matthew is and how great it is being a dad! I kiss my sister and shake my dad's hand and say "you're a grandpa again!" We walk over to see him and we gather with Maria and her family and congratulate one another and then I introduce my sister and dad to my little boy. I can not get enough of him! It was a great day! The message comes over the speaker that visiting hours are now over so I prepare to say goodnight to all our family guests and peak at my son one more time before I prepare to leave. I can stay as long as I wish but I feel so tired as I need some sleep so I can prepare to come back tomorrow to meet with my wife and Matthew's pediatrician in the morning. I give my wife a kiss goodnight and tell her I love her and baby Matthew and I'll be back early. As I leave I wave good bye to Maria and thank the nurses and head for home for a good night sleep and think of my son as we celebrate our first day with him. What a day! Truly special!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Back to visit my wife and newborn son!

The day seemed to be continuous as Monday led into Tuesday and I was filled with such anticipation, excitement, anxiety and sleep deprivation all coming together to a truly miraculous moment and when our baby boy was born it was a defining time in our life! After a much needed nap I was awake, feeling great and so eager to get back to the hospital to visit with my wife and son. When my wife and I were deciding on names when we learned we were having a boy I was hoping we would name our son Eddie IV but my wife said although she liked the name she would prefer another name and we could use Edward in his middle name. So we both decided on the name Matthew which was the name of my Dad's grandfather on his father's side and agreed that Edward be his middle name. I was talking to my Dad about how excited I was and could not believe how incredible it is witnessing the birth of your child. My dad told me back when I was born and my sisters he had to patiently wait in the waiting room and they never knew the sex until the baby was born. He remembers pacing back and forth in the hallway when mom was expecting and when the nurse came to greet him he heard her say "It's a boy, would you like to see him?" He said he was so proud when I was born, just like me when Matthew was born! I told my Dad I would call him when I get to the hospital to let him know the visiting hours and I left to be with my family. As I got in my car and drove back my Transiberian Orchestra CD was blaring as I left it in to play and it felt great listening to the music and feeling such joy as I was thinking of Maria and Matthew. The flood of emotion I felt was so incredible and I now thought more and more about my safety more than ever as I had a wife and little baby depending on me. It felt like deja vu as I parked my car and started the walk to the maternity ward. I told the receptionist I just became a dad and I was back to see my wife and son and gave her my wife's name and she smiled and said congratulations and told me the room number. I peered in to my wife's room as it was around 3:00 pm and saw my wife looking tired but very happy and I asked her how she was feeling and how Matthew was doing. She said she held him for a little while and enjoyed the bonding time and felt so amazed by how precious and tiny he is. I asked her where he was and she said to wait so she could put on her slippers and we would see him in his bassinet. When we walked over to where the babies were we looked at them and said how cute they are and we met other new and proud parents! Then I saw our son with his name Matthew Iannielli and I was so happy and relieved that he looked so perfect! He had his hands protected with baby mittens and he had a cute beanie hat on and he looked so peaceful and was resting comfortably. I was in my glory and just started to tear up as I felt truly blessed by his birth. I told Maria I would call my dad to let him know when to visit and to tell my sisters. I asked her if she spoke to her sister yet and her mom and she said she called them earlier and they were planning to be up later in the day as her sister was working. When I spoke with my Dad I told him how perfect our son looks and told him when he could visit and asked him to tell Kathy and Joannie also. I told him I can't wait for him to see his new grandson and he said he was so happy and delighted to hear that mother and son were doing well. I told him I love him and said thank you and that I would be here for most of the day and would wait for him.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Matthew's first day!

I was so elated after seeing the birth of our son and was so happy for my wife that she became a mother and I just wanted to cherish this moment and just hold it near to my heart. After speaking with my Dad I felt so happy and looked at life in a different way now that I became a dad too. I remember the nurse who gave my son his first cleansing and how nice she was to me and how she put my mind at ease knowing I was leaving him in good hands. She was very kind to tell me to go home to rest as I was up the entire night and was very tired. I knew my wife and son needed rest too. As I left the hospital I felt the chill in the air as the winter season was approaching and I was glad to be in the warm car heading home for some much needed rest. I had my cd in the car and I remember listening to Christmas music from Transiberian Orchestra which was so powerful and emotional. I remember getting into the music especially the tracks "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo" and "An angel came down" among many others and I was thinking of my wife and new born son as I'm listening to this really beautiful music. It was wonderful and I was just full of emotion remembering tears of joy streaming down my face. I knew my Christmas present was delivered early this year and it was truly a special day! My drive home did not take very long and it was nice listening to my music. As I arrived home I was greeted by my Dad who was so happy for us and told me to get some sleep. I decided to take a quick shower which was refreshing and then I placed a call to our son's pediatrician to inform her of Matthew's birth and arrange for her to visit him at the hospital. She was delighted and planned to be up on Wednesday. I watched a little television as I lay in bed to sleep for a while.
I remember thinking to my self what a special day today was and how I could not wait to get back to see my wife and son and see our family and friends at this most joyous time.
Finally I lay in bed feeling very tired and just so happy and I drifted off to sleep thinking of my wonderful family. I remember being so grateful and just dreaming of this truly special time in my life and looking forward to being with my family.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

We are greeted by our son for first time!

Matthew was born on Tuesday, December 8th 1998 at 5:20 am after a long night for my wife and I. She weathered it perfectly and she was worn out after going the whole night. We were so delighted to see our precious son and hear him cry for the first time. I was awestruck when I saw him being delivered and hearing all the medical staff instructing my wife and then seeing him right before my very eyes being cradled and put into a blanket by one of the nurses. It was truly a miracle! In all my thoughts about this day I could never truly understand what it is like because I never lived it before. To see a little life born and knowing that little baby is yours and is completely dependent upon you is such a tremendous feeling of responsibility, love, excitement, nervousness, and hope! My wife and I were so incredibly blessed that day and we felt such joy and happiness and looked forward to sharing our good fortune with our family and friends. This day was forever frozen in time in my mind and will be my proudest moment! After Matthew was delivered and the nurse assigned to our son gave him to Maria to hold I knew now what family means. I drifted back to the days when I was a kid and I remembered vividly my mom and dad and how blessed we were, my 2 sisters and I to have such wonderful parents. I knew I learned a lot from them both and now I came back to this moment and realized how lucky I am to be a father and I knew my life would be forever changed in such a beautiful way. I was always looking forward to this day and now could appreciate all the wonderful things our parents did for us. It was time for Matthew to be washed by the nurse and for my wife to be given time to rest after her delivery. I was instructed to follow the nurse who was to give Matthew his first cleaning. She instructed me to watch from the plexiglass barrier as she showered his little tiny feet and washed his tiny legs, arms, hands and body. I was so amazed how beautiful and tiny he was and how the nurse cared for him so delicately and with such tenderness and love. The joy of a baby is so wonderful and so powerful. I was on cloud nine! After Matthew was bathed by the nurse she wrapped him and dressed him and placed his first diaper on. She gently placed him in a little baby bassinet and put a baby blanket on him. He had a tough day as well and needed a rest too! The nurse congratulated me and told me to go home for a few hours and rest as it was a long night and I could come back in the afternoon to see my wife and son. I thanked her and off I went. The first person I called to share the great news was my Dad who had always been there for me and was my role model and hero. I was so excited to share the news with him and asked him to call Kathy and Joannie, my 2 sisters. He was so happy to hear everything was ok and congratulated my wife and I and said he would be up to visit. I was tired but felt so euphoric and proud. I wanted this day to last forever! Our son Matthew was born today and it is our most happiest day!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Matthew's born!

I was at my wife's side and full of anticipation and a bundle of nerves as she's wheeled into maternity at Mercy Hospital but managed to stay composed as I had the easy part! I always wondered what it was like to see a baby's birth and pondered the miracle and mysteries of life. I often wondered how circumstances bring a man and woman together and how they are united as one to bring a life into the world. It truly is a gift from God. So here we are in a small room where we are greeted by my wife's doctor and the medical team and nursing staff. They were all so professional and put us at ease. I could sense my wife was having pain and was thirsty but she could only have ice chips. I was so proud of Maria and loved that she was giving birth to our son. We arrived at the hospital on Monday, December 7th, 1998 at around 6:30 pm and I could see that I might need to step outside at times as my wife was experiencing quite a bit of pain. We were not really sure of what to expect but we were eagerly anticipating our son and wishing for everything to be fine. All I remember was there were times in the room where it was just my wife and I and other times a nurse would come in to check her vital signs and monitor our soon to be born son. There was a tv monitor to watch during the wait. At times I remained quiet with my wife because I did not know exactly what to say and because I felt a bit in awe of the situation. I also sometimes wondered if I was the one giving birth how it would feel. She was so brave and strong for nine months and now all that waiting has come to this moment. I don't believe I could do it myself. I gained such respect for my wife and for all women who have given birth. It has to be the most amazing experience a woman can have once she gets through the pain! I sensed my wife was in discomfort as she asked for something to take away the pain. I called for the nurse and indicated that my wife was indicating she could not take the pain anymore. She told us to wait as she would ask about an epidural. My wife was in labor through the night as it was now 2:00 am and still we were waiting. I was a bit nervous as I could only stay by her side when she could bare the pain. Since her labor was long she did get an epidural as I watched the anesthiologist hook up the epidural infusion pump and the catheter tube. He told me that I had to step outside at this time while they administered the catheter tube. I never realized how difficult childbirth could be and I felt for my wife and I knew she was strong and knew she and our baby would be fine. I was still a wreck though she was the one going through the pain and hopefully joy real soon. I too was looking forward to feeling joy. After about an hour or so the doctor summoned for me to be by my wife's side. I was praying silently that everything would be ok and that my wife would hopefully be cradling our son soon. I was back in the small room by my wife's side and could tell she was tired and wanted to have the baby already but we still had to be patient and just wait while all the medical staff assisted in the birth. It was surreal at times as I thought back to the time when my wife first whipered into my ear saying the incredible words "I'm pregnant!" I was so excited and floating on a cloud as I said to her "I'm going to be a dad!" It was the best moment and I was so thrilled. I urged my wife to be strong and breath like we were taught in our class. I was thinking back to all the other wonderful expecting parents in that class wondering whether they had their babies yet. I could sense my wife was really growing inpatient as she snapped at me when I was encouraging her with her breathing but I just stayed by her side and kept encouraging her. I looked at my watch and was amazed how long her labor was as it was 4:45 am and still we were waiting. I believe by the reactions of the doctors and nurses that they were now inducing my wife so I was growing anxious and had to step outside. The nurse said she would summon me when it was appropriate. So I grabbed a snack and a soda and waited while CNN played but I didn't hear a word. All I could think of was my wife and praying. I was now again summoned to come back as I saw the team gathered around my wife and I had my robe and mask on and was able to peak as it seemed closer to the time. Within a couple of minutes a scurry of excitement as I heard my wife being encouraged to push and then I witnessed the most amazing thing in my life and then heard the little cries. Our son was born! It was a miracle! It was 5:20 am on Tuesday, December 8th 1998. My wife and I were now the parents of a beautiful little boy weighing 6 lbs 13 oz and I was so relieved. I was especially relieved for my wife, Maria. I was so proud of her.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

My son's birth, a momentous occasion!

I remember my son's birth like it was yesterday. I was working in the city on a late fall day in early December back in 1998 and I received a call from my wife. I was anticipating a call sooner or later and I felt all the emotions you feel when you are preparing for something truly special as she told me to come home. I asked are you ok? She replied she is fine but I should come home and be careful. As I left work to catch the train all I could do was wonder and contemplate the birth of our baby boy. My wife had been given the choice to be informed of the baby's sex during a sonogram in her second trimester and she decided she wanted to know. Since she knew and asked if I wanted to know I felt I should since she did. I was beaming with pride as she told me and we were all so happy to know things were going fine. Boy or girl my main concern was that our child is healthy and I would have been delighted whether a boy or a girl. Since I knew we were having a son the mystery was over. I was still very excited. So I'm enroute home and my mind is racing and I am praying for a smooth and quick train ride so I can pick up my wife and get to the hospital. No matter how many times you rehearse for this moment you still want to make sure everything goes smoothly. I had no problem finding a seat on the train as it was early afternoon and there were many available. I tried to sit and read but I was too excited and could only think about my wife and hoping the time of my commute would not be to long. As each stop approached I was growing more and more excited and also thinking of all the possible scenarios. As I heard Bellmore! I rushed out of my seat and headed for the door. I was near home and was rushing to get to my wife so we could embark on this very special moment. There are times in your life where things seem to be frozen in time and this clearly was one of those times. As I headed in the door and called to my wife I was nervous and so excited. She certainly was happy to see me and she was all packed and ready. She had a late lunch waiting for me and told me to eat before we left. She called her doctor as I was quickly eating and we were ready to go. She was quite strong and couragious as she was a real trooper throughout her pregnancy. She is a petite woman and she carried somewhat big and she was happy to be nearing the time she has always dreamed of as a young girl of giving birth. I believe most girls fantasize about the time they have a little baby. We were enroute to the hospital and I made sure she was comfortable and that I was driving at a safe speed. We talked as we drove and I was making a mental snapshot of this moment in my mind and just feeling like we were truly blessed. It was now time to get my wife to emergency and park my car. I ran to admissions to sign in while my wife was being prepped. I've been waiting for this moment since I was a young man and just hoping everything would go right. I remembered all the breathing techniques to share with my wife from our Lemarz class. All I could think of was that my wife is comfortable and that our son be healthy!