Gavin, the coolest kid ever

Thursday, November 10, 2011

By Shanelle Matthews, Communications Manager

My sister was the most indecent pregnant woman ever 
Sasha was crude and intolerable and I detested being around her. Despite avoiding her at all costs she just kept showing up, chocolate milk in hand griping about something pregnancy related – or anything that brushed her the wrong way. She talked badly about my cooking, my dating choices - pretty much all of my decisions and this was our routine. She’d show up at my apartment, I’d hesitate to open the door before apprehensively letting her in, she’d start spewing crass comments and we went on like that for more than 6 months. I was counting down the days until she would go into labor so she’d be rid of all of the hormones and I could have my sister back.

On January 4th, 2008 she went to see her doctor for a checkup. The baby was due at the end of December but he was maintaining his post inside her belly shying away from showing his beautiful little face. The checkup revealed his amniotic fluid was low and she’d have to have an emergency c-section. (I am still skeptical on whether or not this is true). I was frantic. I rushed to the hospital excited and nervous. I geared up head to toe in hospital garb and waited patiently as they gave her an epidural and prepped her for labor. Gavin’s father (and my dear friend) Kirk and I were both allowed to stay in the room when Gavin was born.

And then he was here and my life changed
Being an aunt has been one of the most gratifying aspects of my short life. Gavin has changed my perspective on things I didn’t even know I had a perspective on. He’s changed my life in such an invaluable and irreplaceable way. He’s affectionate, charismatic, silly and creatively enigmatic. He’s taught me to not be so edgy and anxious and live fiercely, worry less and to either laugh at it, change it or leave it alone. Watching my sister become a mother has also taught me that parenthood and all of its complexities can be a great joy. As someone without children I can easily overlook the day-to-day fulfillments (and stressors} that come with taking care of a child. I’ve had an opportunity to get to know Sasha all over again and I value these moments – so much. I relish my nephews (I have another, Brayden) and all of the time I get to spend with them.

Gavin is soon approaching his 4th birthday. He’s growing into such an awesome little boy. I live in Oakland and he lives in Baton Rouge so we don’t see each other as often as I would like but we Skype sometimes and give kisses and spend TT and Gavin time, which is always the highlight of my week.

Hello Autism

Gavin was diagnosed with autism in October of 2010. Initially, I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know what autism was, what it meant for him and I was afraid for both he and my sister. I cried and my heart hurt because he’s just so little and unaware of all of the injustices awaiting him as a child of color, add to that having developmental delays and he is already grasping at the margins. I was sad but Sasha wasn’t. She was optimistic and determined to learn as much as she could about autism to help Gavin thrive and have the most fulfilling life possible. Kirk, Gavin’s father said to me “Shanelle, those doctors don’t have the final say.” There was no time to waste; they’ve moved me to dedicate my time to learning about autism and the best ways to communicate with Gavin. And I am taking this responsibility as TT very seriously. He’s my little man and I am going to forever be one of his biggest fans.

Unfortunately, Louisiana offers few services for children with autism. Sasha, struggles to find affordable and adequate resources for Gavin. He is currently enrolled in a program that helps children with speech delays but is not specifically geared toward children with autism. Sasha’s journey reflects a journey that so many parents/guardians are experiencing in America, finding adequate resources for children with special needs. We need comprehensive health care for children who experience developmental delays.

Being an aunt to a nephew with autism has changed my life- for the better. My relationships to reproductive justice, birthing justice and disability justice are becoming increasingly more personal. Gavin and I are two peas in a pod. I call him my sugar foot, lovey dovey, sunniest ray of sunshine and through him I am learning to be a better advocate, activist, friend, sister and TT. I cherish everyday that I get to be a part of his life.

Due to a full work schedule and being a FT mommy she hasn’t had time to update it recently but check out my sister’s site, Some Where Over The Spectrum dedicated to journaling her journey with Gavin.

Below is a video I created for Gavin for his 3rd birthday. 

I love being an aunt!!

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