Like many Autistics, Emma has a multitude of sensory issues. I’ve written before about Emma’s amazing ability to tolerate certain types of pain, particularly when it comes to her teeth. The idea that she was suppose to present us with her still bloodied tooth in exchange for money from some unknown and dubious entity called the tooth fairy was a concept Emma found unpersuasive. Go ‘here‘ for more on Emma’s teeth and our attempts to explain the tooth fairy.
Blisters on her feet are another example of Emma’s high pain level. As a toddler I remember taking off her shoes, having spent the day running around and playing in various parks, only to see both of her feet had opened blisters rubbed raw so much so that her shoes were stained with her blood. This was before we had a diagnosis and I can still remember sitting on the carpet in our hallway, her bloodied foot in my hand and thinking, how is this even possible? Why wouldn’t she have cried? That the pain must have been intense and unbearable seemed a given. How she spent the entire day not noticing or worse, noticing, but not saying anything, was something I could not fathom.
Yet it seemed that the opposite was also true. If Emma’s ears hurt from the changing air pressure, she cannot tolerate the pain and will cry out in agony. The one thing I know without any doubt, is that my understanding of pain is very different from hers. What I find mildly irritating can be the source of tremendous pain for Emma and things that would cause me to grumble and grouse to anyone within shouting distance are, for Emma, met with no comment.
This morning at 5:30AM Emma appeared in our bedroom. She leaned over as I opened my eyes and placed something slightly wet and cold in my hand. Then she stood upright and beamed at me, waiting expectantly. ”What is it, Em? What did you give me?” I asked managing to pull myself into a sitting position.
Emma said nothing, she just stood there smiling. I turned on the light and saw in my hand a shiny metal capped tooth. ”Oh Em! It’s your molar!”
This was the molar that Emma had to be hospitalized, anesthetized and kept for six hours before she finally regained consciousness to have capped as she could not tolerate having the cavity filled in the conventional way. This was the tooth that upon waking, Emma cried and tried to pry the metal cap off with her fingers while screaming, “Take it off! Take it off!” This was the tooth that whenever she smiled, the light would reflect off of it, a glistening reminder of the pain she had had to endure.
“Pulled it out!” Emma confirmed, grinning proudly.
I know I shouldn’t have, but I decided to let her stay with us in our bed, even though it was far too early, even though we’ve been working hard at having her go back into her bedroom until it’s 6:30AM, even though by letting her stay with us, I knew I was undoing weeks of work. But I couldn’t send her away. She was so proud of herself and I knew that tooth, that tooth I felt a particular aversion for as it represented untold pain for Emma, had been barely loose just a day ago. How she managed to wrench it from her mouth is something I am unable to truly understand.
I meant to take a photograph of it, but forgot in the rush to get ready this morning. It sits, next to the other molar she yanked out of her mouth just last week, on my bedside table. These are the only two teeth Emma’s ever given me. New York City is littered with Emma’s baby teeth, carelessly tossed wherever she happened to be when she extracted them from her gums. These two molars are little gifts, just in time for Mother’s Day, that I intend to find a special container for.
To read my latest piece, Emma’s New Shoes, in the Huffington Post, click ‘here‘
And if you haven’t already done so, do vote for Emma’s Hope Book by clicking this ‘link‘ and clicking on the “like” button opposite Emma’s Hope Book.