Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Two Fingers and A Blanket

Two Fingers and a Blanket
There they are—clear as day: two miniature human beings scuba diving inside my body. Twelve weeks old. They are the reason I had been enjoying “enhanced” symptoms of pregnancy: double-the-nausea, double-the-increase in body parts above and below the navel. As I looked at the ultra-sound picture, it almost appeared the divers waved at me. Arms and legs are moving, blood is pulsing, hearts beating. Cool. Turning my head to look at my husband, I found his nervous smile trying to convey confidence. It belied a little bit of fear. We had been here before my daughter was born. “It looks like twins” the doctor said. Twins. Three years earlier, laying on my back for the same reason, the ultrasound did not verify life. It confirmed there had been two lives, but they were over almost before they began. That day wasn’t about fear. It was about sorrow. Our daughter, McKenna’s, subsequent birth one year later was normal and she was now approaching three years of age. I was healthy and we were ready to expand our family. It just seemed vaguely familiar—the discovery that there were two. We both hoped these little guys would arrive as planned.

They did.

From the very beginning, they were different. That’s no surprise—even mothers of identical twins will say the same thing. But, the differences between the two boys went beyond physical features and personality. It was as if they both had two radically different ways of engaging the world. Baby “A”, named Campbell, was alive, awake, alert, and enthusiastic from the start. Baby “B”, named Wylie, almost always seemed like he had something on his mind. Like he was thinking about the number pi or considering quantum physics. He ate, slept, and responded like a normal baby at the milestone appointments. There was just always something a little unique about him.

My mom was the first to comment that Wylie seemed always to hum. When he was sleeping he made noises. When he was awake, he seemed to make noises, more so than Campbell. At about three months, Wylie found his middle two fingers and they were almost constantly in his mouth. Especially for comfort. Neither one of the boys took a pacifier. But, the fingers…When he was older, we used to joke that Wylie was “smoking” them: he would remove them only to speak or make comment on something. Truly, he was addicted! And, just like smokers sometimes take their nicotine with coffee, Wylie took his fingers with a blanket.

Among the many gifts we received after the twins arrived, were several blankets. Some were purchased, some handmade. My favorites of these were from our friend, Abby Rankin. She sewed two blankets from that super soft flannel that you just want to touch and caress. One blanket’s flannel had coffee cups and saucers all over it and the other had cows and other animals. Both were trimmed in satin. Over time, Campbell grew indifferent toward blankets, but Wylie loved the blankets Abby made. He especially loved the satin trim. He would thread the trim around his fourth finger and underneath the two smoking fingers and rub the satin with his thumb and fourth finger. It was a delicate and daily operation. After he began speaking, he identified the beloved items as “blanket blue” and “blanket purple”. Either one would do. But, one was always a necessity.

If the family loaded up for a trip and got a few miles away only to discover blanket blue was missing…to home we would return. If blanket blue was left inadvertently at a friend’s house…to the friend’s house we would go. Worst of all--when we had not even left the house, but blanket blue had gone missing--an all-out search was forced upon us until the thing had been found and returned to the finger-chain-smoking boy who could not, would not sleep nor be comforted without it.

Child psychologists teach and most parents are aware that children have favorite blankets and toys. This is not unusual. However, Wylie’s preoccupation with fingers and blankets was the first sign of needs that went beyond comfort and security. Wylie’s preoccupations were coping mechanisms necessary for him to survive the fourteen hours a day he was awake. Fingers and blankets would turn into laces properly tied and food groups carefully parsed; to ears covered during toilet flushes; to schedules carefully planned and consistently executed; to haircuts given with extraordinary care and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made with precise specifications; to preschool teachers lovingly making exceptions and speech pathologists and school psychologists gingerly delivering the news to us: Wylie is undeniably and diagnostically …different.


Shelly said...

Man I miss that kid sometimes. His knack for stating the obvious was always impressive; to the point of being embarrassing for us grown-ups. I often thought, "Why do I have to use twice as many words to make the same point?"

My favorite Wylie superpower, however, is his Jedi mind tricks. He would repeat, "Goldfish crackers are good for Wylie." and "You want to buy me chicken nuggets." with such earnest belief that there was truly nothing one could do but agree. His desired outcome may have changed since I've been gone but I have no doubt his powers of persuasion are as strong as ever!

Jill said...

Shelly: you are spot on about Wylie! He is one truly unique kid. Campbell and McKenna are complimentary bookends to him.