December is About More Than Just Christmas for me by Elissa Boreham

Written by Guest Writer

December 26, 2021

It’s Christmas Eve 2021 and I am rewriting this piece for the umpteenth time, with hot tea beside me and lots of unwrapped presents still to be made beautiful. It will be a very long night. Some say writing about yourself is easy and for the most part I would agree with that statement. The more challenging part is when others are part of your story and being true to them is something I value very highly. Hence the multiple rewrites but, I digress. So here we go.

Becoming a parent was something I always knew I wanted to do, and I count myself very lucky that I have been blessed with two amazing children. My son just turned 20 this December, a concept that seems very surreal to me, and my daughter 12, also in December.  So, suffice to say it is a very busy month indeed.

Having two children born only four days apart was a surprise, but I have to say they were the best Christmas presents anyone could ever want.

My pregnancy with my son went well but his birth was anything but straightforward. A long but thankfully mostly pain-free labour produced a beautiful 9lb 3 oz bouncing baby boy.  Due to some complications, I ended up having a cesarean section and because of the urgency to get him out, the doctor cut the back of his head so his entrance into the world began with a flurry of activity and many stitches.

After a couple of days’ stay in the hospital, we were about to leave when one of the nurses noticed his breathing was very rapid.  The medical term is tachypnea and does occur in babies born by c-section as they can end up with some fluid still in their lungs due to not passing through the birth canal. As a result, instead of leaving with our son, he was put into the neonatal ICU for observation.  Thankfully he stabilized and we welcomed him home on Christmas Eve.

Despite his rather rough entrance into the world and a trip to the emergency room with a febrile seizure and temporary paralysis to his left side at 18 months, that still to this day is probably the scariest experience of my life, he has done well.

He struggled a little in school both academically and socially, but with some additional assistance and some wonderful teachers, he eventually found his stride. Standing now at 6’3”, he is a gentle giant who has wonderful friends, and a great career path learning to develop his skills in the trades.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted a second child or not until I began to approach 40. Sometimes the timelines of life push you to decide and I am so glad I did.

Due to my age, it took some time to conceive, but eventually, we did. However, our joy was short-lived as we endured a devastating loss, and we were both completely heartbroken. At the same time, my grandmother passed away so I traveled to the UK to attend her funeral and provide support to my mother, whilst I too was in pain. It was a very rough year.

A few months passed and we turned our minds to other things and purchased a fixer-upper property out of town that we could enjoy making our own. It was a good distraction and gave us something positive to focus on that didn’t involve trying to expand our family.

Out of the blue in 2009, I discovered I was pregnant, and in December of that year, my daughter Rachael was born.  

She was a small baby in comparison to her brother, but always very happy, smiling, and active, and much like her brother, a terrible sleeper. Her father and I were always exhausted but she was such a joy to be around, it was worth every sleepless night.

When I went back to work, she transitioned well into childcare which was a huge blessing. We were living in Toronto at the time and our small house was beginning to feel very crowded, so moving was now at the top of our wish list.

It took some time, but in 2012 we moved to a much larger house and a smaller community an hour west of the city. It was a huge change for our family. I would still need to commute three days a week to work and was then allowed to work remotely for the other two.

We enrolled Rachael in a local childcare centre to ensure she got to spend time with other kids. After being there for a few months, one of the staff took me aside at pick-up time and commented that Rachael wasn’t speaking well or interacting with the other children and felt that perhaps she should be assessed by a pediatrician.

After a flurry of phone calls, we realized that we could be waiting years to see someone locally, so I connected with my family physician back in Toronto and we were able to get a referral to a developmental pediatrician a few months later. The upside of a larger city is better access to resources.

In May 2013, Rachael received her autism diagnosis and we finally exhaled. Now we knew what was happening, it would enable us to begin to educate ourselves on how best to support her to live a happy and fulfilling life.

At 12, she has had many ups and downs. Some days it feels like we go three steps forward and two steps back. We have discovered that every summer, without the regular routines of school and support she will regress, and it takes several months to get those skills back. It’s something we have learned to expect and work hard to find ways to keep her engaged as best we can. It’s not always easy. Finding a good support network within your community can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Covid-19 has been incredibly hard for everyone, but for our most vulnerable, who already face so many challenges, the lack of access to many in-person services has been especially difficult.

That said it seems so incredible to me that somehow in these strangest of times, my daughter has begun to flourish. Her language skills have improved, and she will now seek out opportunities to engage with me. She will even occasionally ask for a hug and has begun to develop an amazing sense of humour.

We have no way of truly knowing what the future holds for her, but in the end life for all of us can be unpredictable in any case. All I know for sure is that I love her more than words can truly express. She has been my greatest teacher, and I feel truly blessed to have her in my life!


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