Wednesday, December 07, 2005

My marriage, part eight

Disclaimer: If you read the previous parts you know.

After that big fight we had in late spring 1995, RedHead turned almost submissive, which incidentally was something I didn't like. She still didn't get all the chores done but it was a major improvement compared to the previous weeks. She started to serve me coffee if I was sitting down, doing something at the computer or fixing the car in the parking lot. I had to tell her to stop. She wasn't supposed to be my slave, she was supposed to be my equal in everything. Sure, it was nice to have someone serving coffee out in the parking lot from time to time, but this was ridiculous. I know there are men that want to have their spouses that way but I'm definitely not one of them.

At the very end of May that year, RedHead caught a severe cold but still wanted to have sex and I wasn't exactly hard to convince that this was exactly the medicine she needed to fight the cold. Well, as we both climaxed one evening, we stared at each other and I asked:
-Do you think..?"
-Nah, I'm on the pill, remember?"

The rumours at work showed to be true. At that point the plant had been running 24/7 for almost a year. My shift was still the shift that produced more units and the best quality but it didn't help. Something had to be done and a couple of days before summer vacations we got the rumours confirmed. Two whole shifts were to be laid off.

We have special regulations about lay-offs. It's called "last one in, first one out". Since I had been working there for four years, I was clearly in the green and didn't have to worry. Actually I was not only the oldest one on my shift by 34 years of age, but I was also one of the fifteen people with the longest employment. The average age of people working in production was as low as 22 years. I was "the old guy"!

The good and the bad thing, about this regulation I mentioned, is that it means that a company has to consider the length of the employment for a person, with the only exception of two key positions for each shift. This, in turn, means that a company can be stuck with people that have been working there a long time but still are complete idiots. Most of the people on my shift were hardworking and quality-aware young people with lots of good ideas and about 2/3 of them had been working there just as long as me. My shift was going to be almost intact. Or so I thought.

Remember that sex we had? The first evening of summer vacations I made a joke about her tasting pregnant. Well, RedHead still had her periods but had felt something was wrong, which she now told me. We agreed she'd take a pregnancy test, just in case. You guessed it, it was positive.

We went down to the local midwife and she told us that we weren't the first couple complaining about that special brand of pill. They even had a special word for it; Mercilon-pregnancy. It had been shown that a common cold was enough to reduce the effect of the pill severely and if the woman was very fertile, as was RedHead, she might as well eat candy as contraceptive. Since none of us believed in abortion as a contraceptive we decided to go ahead with the pregnancy. And thus, 29th of February 1996, CartoonBoy was born. Yes, a leap year child, 3580 g (7.89 lbs) and, once again, 51 cm (1.67 ft) long.

Coming back to work after vacations became a real drag. The company had decided that, since there were such differences between the results made by the three remaining shifts, they were going to split them. It was, in a way, an acknowledgment of my hard work but it also meant I was going to lose some of my best colleagues and would have to start all over again. At that time I didn't know that this was another piece to the puzzle to what happened later.

This pregnancy was tougher on RedHead. She felt sick almost all of the time and cried a lot. She was in a bad mood most of the time and lost most of her sex drive, which didn't exactly made her feel better. Over and over she asked me if I was going to leave her if we didn't have sex more often. Over and over I reassured her I wasn't going to leave her because of that. So what if we only had sex every couple of weeks? She was pregnant, she felt sick and bloated and what kind of man would I be, demanding sex under those circumstances?

CartoonBoy's birth was different in that way, that he was born with the umbilical cord around his neck. The pressure during his travel through the birth canal had made his eyes badly bloodshot and we later joked about him looking like Count Dracula after having a real big party. The blood eventually withdrew from his eyes but during the first year I started to sense that this little boy differed from his older siblings.

For one thing, he always had this frightened expression on his face, no matter what, during his first year. He was very afraid of heights and would cling onto us like a little monkey every time he was lifted and get all stiff. I had been able to swing both LazyWorm and RazorTongue up in the air and they would just giggle but CB became stiff as a piece of wood.

The most disturbing thing though, was that he would hurt him self every time he got frustrated. This became very apparent as he started to crawl. As soon as he got frustrated he banged his head to the floor, real hard. We started to discuss, or rather I did, to take him to a doctor to talk about it. RedHead was reluctant. There was nothing wrong with her baby.

One day, as CB was crawling on the floor, something made him frustrated. The sound he made as his nose hit the floor was just horrifying. It sounded as if he'd broken it. We both rushed to him, thinking that the worst had happened. As RedHead was comforting him I checked his nose and made ready to leave for the hospital. Thankfully there was no blood and he soon calmed down. At first I wanted to call a doctor but ten minutes later CB behaved as if nothing happened. After this incident though, he never banged his head to the floor again.

As CB turned two I knew in my heart that he was different. He was a lovely little boy altogether but at the age of two he still didn't talk much. Some kids are very late but CB said about three words and nothing else. If the TV-set was on, he would be sitting there, staring at whatever happened on the screen. At the age of two, most kids are exploring their environment and don't have the patience sitting completely still for hours.

It was about around CB's second birthday I realized that I hadn't been working overtime more than once or twice since the lay-offs, in spite of lot of exciting things happening at work. HammerFist had become the new plant manager and I hardly saw him. I had become involved in several projects involving a new robotic line that was going to make things easier for the people in production. Both me and several others pointed out that some of the solutions weren't going to work out the way they were intended too, that some of the pieces were absurdly oversized and others severely undersized. No one in charge listened and this would cost the company dearly. Which just demonstrates that you don't have to be a PhD to know things.

I started to fall ill with severe headaches, back pains, numerous colds and stomach pains. I must have visited the doctor hundreds of times but no one could find anything wrong with me. I was, as far as anyone could tell, as healthy as an ox, physically. I ate pain killers like candy for weeks on end but nothing seemed to help.

One day the head nurse at day care took me aside and indicated that CB was extremely late in his ability to speak. By that time he had developed a way of expressing himself by saying those few words he knew and using his facial expressions and body language to make us understand what he said and wanted. We lovingly referred to him as our little "flexible rubber boy". She asked me to take him to a speech therapist she could recommend.

We took CB to the speech therapist. I didn't like her. She seemed a bit over the top academic to me. The most disturbing thing was that she tried to get him to play with a toy farm. CB, raised in a flat, not on a farm, suddenly was expected to name every animal there was. I pointed out to her that nowadays, there were very few toddlers living on farms so maybe she'd get better answers if she tried something from the late twentieth century? A computer perhaps? She didn't like me either. Most important of all, CB didn't like her. In fact he ignored her totally.

Still, we went there on a couple of meetings but RedHead disliked her even more so I had to take CB by myself. On one occasion there was this young female student there and things changed dramatically. CB, who made his ignoring of the therapist to an art form, suddenly started to talk about everything! I was the only one in the room who fully understood him but it was a real breakthrough. The following meetings went much easier. After another round of tests the therapist asked me if we had noticed some "things" about him? She seemed to be very uncomfortable with what she had to say but it ended with her giving me a remittance to a psychiatrist, specialized in infants.

RedHead went ballistic. There was NOTHING wrong with her little baby! I told her that this was the problem, CB was very much a baby at the age of almost two and a half years. Wouldn't it be better to check him and, if there was something wrong, get him professional help? It took me almost a week to convince her that he would benefit the most from help received as early as possible. If there was nothing wrong with him, no harm done. If there was something that had to be addressed, CB would need help now, not as a teenager.

CB and the psychiatrist bonded immediately. (I also found her very attractive.) She was one of those rare people with higher education that could talk to a layman like me without sitting on their high horses. Six months later she told me that CB most probably had a mild form of autism, also called Asperger's syndrome but she didn't want to diagnose him with it without a second opinion. She referred us to the Child and Youth Psychiatry Centre's special autism team. By his fourth birthday he was diagnosed with "mild autism and learning disabilities".

At first, RedHead was devastated by the thought that CB wasn't "normal". I slowly convinced her that it was the wrong way to look at it. CB was a very special child and there was nothing wrong with that.

During all of the concerns and tests we had with CB, I had grown more and more feeling sick. One morning I realized that I actually was driving my car to work, thinking of the best way to kill myself. I was sitting and choosing between a concrete pillar and the front of a truck. This struck me as a bit odd. First of all, why would I kill myself? I had three lovely kids, a loving wife and a work I loved. People appreciated me and where depending on me. Why the hell was I thinking of committing suicide?

Secondly, why would I choose such a messy way? Even if guns aren't readily available in Sweden, there are still tons of ways to take your life. Pills, ropes, high places, knives, razorblades and the car's exhaust. Why the hell would I choose ramming my car into something?

And then it struck me. I didn't want it to look like suicide, I wanted it to look like an accident. I didn't want the kids, or RedHead, to ever even think the thought that anything of this was their fault. I would just die in a freak accident and no one would ever know that it was by my own free will.

These suicidal thoughts became more and more frequent. They started to haunt me to the extent I had a hard time concentrating on anything else. It became so bad that I woke up in the mornings, looking for those little things that would keep me alive another 24 hours, LazyWorm's dentist appointments, RazorTongue's PTA-meetings, CB's appointments with his autism team, just anything that I could concentrate on.

This last part was much easier to write in English than it is in Swedish. I hope there are only one or two parts left to write down.


Virginia Gal said...

I can't imagine how difficult part 8 was to write. Thank you for sharing.

kingdomforavoice said...

I have two children with autism(one aspergers the other severe) so i know those feelings of what the hell's going on. Finally having a name for the problem was a big relief for us. Can't wait till part 9.

Shark-fu said...

OMG! Don't stop!

Amazing post and I can't wait until #9!

Catherine Vocalist said...

Thank you so much for sharing with us such personal stories of your life. I feel like I know you just from reading your posts...

Francesca said...

I'm glad you have made it through all of this...


Piggy and Tazzy said...

I agree with shark-fu - don't stop!

This is absolutely fascinating reading and (as I've said before) VERY well written.

I wonder how many of us have had that thought of 'post or lorry' to end it all while driving to work? I suspect lots of us have.

Tasting pregnant? Urrrrrrrrrgh! *vomits*