Rhema has had lots of trouble with toileting lately. She’s had accidents on the bus, at school, in her bed, everywhere. Car seat covers, sheets, blankets, clothes, socks, shoes – I could not keep up with the laundry (well, nothing new there), and I felt my frustration growing. No matter how much I put her on the potty she was having accidents on the hour, it seemed.
Last night, after bathing her for the third time that day, she climbed into a toy box and wet herself again. She did not even seem to notice what she was doing.
And Momma lost it.
I grabbed her by the arm, dragged her upstairs to the bath tub, and then yelled at her, “What are you doing to me, Rhema!!??”
Growing up, no matter what kind of trouble my sisters and I found, my father never yelled at us. He never once raised his voice to us.
And here I was screaming at my little girl.
She stood there by the tub, arms at her sides, head dropped. Her sweet face was contorted, her little lips trembling. And I died. All at once my anger dissipated leaving only sadness and shame that I could hurt her like that. I dropped to my knees and gathered her in my arms, tears on both our cheeks.
It takes so much – a big voice, an exaggerated tone, an animated face, lots of movement – to get a response out of Rhema. I’d succeeded in getting a response, but it was so not the way I wanted it.
I just held her. Those minutes holding her I finally started really thinking about what was going on. And then the pieces to the puzzle started coming together – frequent urination, wetting herself even though she’s toilet-trained, rash… and there were other signs. A urinary tract infection. That was it. Suddenly it made so much sense.
A trip to the doctor this morning confirmed it.
It’s just a UTI. No big deal, really.
But this is my beef with autism: My girl has no possible way of communicating to me if something is wrong. She can’t tell me if something hurts, she can’t tell me how she feels… and she doesn’t seem to have the inclination to tell me even if she had the words.
The not knowing if or what is wrong is one of my biggest fears.
She’s been having symptoms of a UTI for weeks now, and I’m just figuring it out. (If you’ve ever had a UTI, you know how uncomfortable they can be.) I forgive myself for that – some of the signs could have easily been blamed on “behaviors”, the new drug she’s taking, changes at school, etc.
What is hard to forgive myself for is the way I yelled at her last night. The image of her standing there by the tub trying not to cry is seared on my memory, and it breaks my heart.
Today a friend reminded me of something new I got when I woke up this morning: mercy.
“It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning…” Lam 3:22-23
And that’s what I’m holding to.