Codes, by Amy Munson

Don’t say, “Anxiety.” You have no reason to worry, even though it plagues you night and day. Everyone understood your feelings when the baby had colic, but he sleeps all night now. He’s crawling, for crying out loud! And yet, you still check his breathing so many times at night, afraid God will take him from you because you don’t deserve him. You love this little man more than life itself, and yet, as you lay in the bathtub, hearing him crying from the other room his father’s arms, the overwhelming urge to simply plunge in and stop it all. What kind of mother has those thoughts? Quick, buy another toy he doesn’t need and hold him so he knows you didn’t mean it. Tell no one. They’ll take your child. Don’t say it out loud.

Don’t say, “Evaluation.” Your firstborn walked early and wanted you constantly. This is your reprieve! Sure, your one-year-old isn’t walking, stopped talking, lines up his toys constantly and never wants to cuddle, but he doesn’t need help. They’ll call him broken, and he’s not. He’s wonderful. She’s wrong. They all are. He doesn’t need an evaluation.

Don’t say, “Prozac.” The knowledge of your child’s struggles, a hysterectomy at 27 and trying to foster a healthy marriage with two kids under three was too much, and you caved. You couldn’t pray it out, you couldn’t want it out. This numbness won’t leave, so you’ll do what you must to cope. But no one can know. You and the husband call it “vitamin P,” as if your toddlers will tell the world. This is only temporary. You hope.

Don’t say, “Autistic.” Say PDD-NOS. It sounds nicer, and only his therapists and doctors know what it means. When people hear “autistic,” they think “Rainman.” They have no idea how it manifests in your son. They don’t know how brilliant he is, or see how his big brother knows how to reach him in ways no one else can. You know how loving and innately funny he is. They’ll think he’s an unfeeling robot. He’s only two. You can explain this later.

Don’t say, “Psychologist.” Everyone knows you take your three-year-old to therapies all over town, but no one knows where you go every week. Even in your GPS, you put S.T.G., which stands for Sharon The Great, as if other cars will see the address at a stoplight and judge you. No one else needs to know who she is, or how she keeps you going. She is vital to your mental and emotional health, but no one outside your inner circle can know that. Just swallow your “Vitamin P” and drive to “you know who.”

The secrets are so heavy. What would happen if you decoded your life?


Amy is a trained doula, wife and mom of two teenage boys. Music, yarn, and the therapeutic act of writing help her do the latter two positions a little easier. She can often be found praying for patience in her closet. Coincidently, that’s also where the good chocolate is hidden.

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