The Navigator is having heartburn. It started recently and has been bothering him for a few weeks, so I took him to the doctor. She had him describe his symptoms – he talked about a burning feeling in his chest, sometimes he feels nausea, sometimes it makes him cough.

I had prepped him ahead of time to be prepared for the doctor to ask him questions directly. As we were driving I said “think of words to describe what you have been feeling” and he said “it makes me feel like I want to throw up.”

I told him that was a good start and that he needed to think of other specific details because just feeling like throwing up could be a sign of a lot of things, and that the doctor has to decide what she thinks is going on based on what he told her.

I had heartburn throughout my pregnancy with the Navigator. It never relented, even in labor where, because the heartburn was so uncomfortable, I would not lie down because it was too miserable. The nurse said she had never seen a woman labor sitting straight up.

I sympathize with the Navigator’s discomfort and have tried to help him feel better – limiting eating two to three hours before he goes to bed, smaller meals, propping him up at bedtime.

After the doctor asked about his symptoms, she asked him how long this had been going on. He estimated about two or three times a week for four or five weeks, which I thought was about right. Then the doctor asked if anything had changed four or five weeks ago, anything in his life that was stressful.

I had to work not to laugh. Stressful? Why, yes, yes there is. What changed is he started school.

I found myself once again unable to explain how hard it is for him to go to school, how stressful it is for both of us, how autism makes it more difficult than for other kids.

Saying “he hates going to school” just does not cover the intensity of it. Saying “he experiences anxiety which manifests during transitions, especially the transition from the home to school” sounds too sterile and textbook.

Describing in detail the days of getting him outside, his shoes setting next to his backpack, and sitting on the porch for 30 minutes while he rages until he gives in and accepts going to school feels like too much information.

And, of course, I dread the “all kids do that” when I am trying to explain. I could feel my body tensing up, my eyes drifting away from the doctor’s face so I did not have to look at her when she said it.

Our doctor did not say “all kids do that.” She nodded and prescribed a child’s dose of Prilosec every morning for a month. I hope it helps.

His Burning Heart