So, I was pregnant, happy of course. I was 36 , and pretty excited as any expectant Mom would be. I had an uneventful pregnancy, some possible gestational diabetes, but I wasn’t really too concerned. Rafael Lior Stern joined us on December 8, 2001, born 7 1/2 weeks early at White Plains Hospital. I asked the doctor, “What is it “, “look up “, he answered, and there was my boy – purple as an eggplant – they whisked him away from me – I didn’t get a chance to hold him. A few hours later I saw my little guy, hooked up to all sorts of tubes and machines…… I left the NICU in tears. Rafi had a grade three brain bleed , but was doing ok. My husband Don and I visited Rafi every day, twice a day, to be with him. He was quite a beauty, ( if I say so myself) blonde hair and blue eyes. We became very familiar with the nurses and doctors there. When it was time to leave a month later, our discharge took over 3 hours. When the nurse was asked why it took so long, she replied ,” It’s the Stern baby. ” I suppose we made quite an impression ! We drove home with Rafael in the back seat, watching every bump in the road. No one was happier than we were !
The social worker informed us Rafi had low tone and would benefit from physical therapy – so my husband and I decided , OK, but nothing after that…. I mean who needs therapy ! Rafi started receiving PT as soon as he was discharged. Well….. that was only the beginning of things….. not only therapy.
I stayed home with our boy, while Daddy worked. I took him for walks ,and did all the Mommy stuff. At 18 months Rafi was diagnosed with PDD- NOS , okay no biggie . So I went around telling everyone , my son had pervasive developmental disorder – whatever that was, I didn’t even bother doing much research on it. Eventually, we entered the world of “THERAPY” – we did it ALL – PT , OT , Speech, special school, orthotics, music classes, years of SEITS, every special needs class out there ! But, Rafi was a great kid, basically happy , loved by all! I don’t think I was ever overly concerned about Rafi – even though he didn’t hit those milestones like the other toddlers. He was doing his own thing! And I loved him just the way he was. He endured many hearing tests, eye surgery, later dental surgery, and was in the hospital a few times for epilepsy. And later, we found out , indirectly, as is usually the case , that Rafael had autism. I was upset, not shattered, I knew I would take the ball and run with it.
Fast forward , 11 years later. Rafael is 13 1/2 years old, beautiful, smart, and diagnosed with autism . He is able to read, play sports, swim, attend school. He finished his 5th summer of sleep away camp.He attends CARD (Center for Autism and Related Disorders) in Larchmont. He uses the computer, and likes to help me make scrambled eggs. His language gets better everyday, I just learned he knows how to spell — who knew ?
I know my son has autism. He is such a blessing to us. He makes me laugh at things, but mostly at myself. He finds joy in the simplest things….
I love when he walks outside and says ” It’s a beautiful day” and I reply, “Yes, Rafi , it is “. Rafael rocks our world….. what could equal the joy of loving Rafael ?…… Well, Rafael’s sister, Leora could…. but that’s another story…….