Last week I asked the question, ‘How has having a child with autism changed you as a person?’ The response I got was excellent, and I have summarised some of those replies in the post ‘Changes’. But they were too good to summarise, so I decided to share them all over the course of the next week, starting today with this excellent response from Amber, who writes the blog ‘”Normal” is the New Boring’. I will shortly transfer them all to the blog page also called ‘Changes’. Thanks again to everyone who sent their intelligent, moving and inspirational comments. More will follow tomorrow.
Amber: ‘I think the even more appropriate question is…how hasn’t it changed me? Becoming a mother is this unimaginable gift. You do everything that you can from the moment you see that double line or plus sign to ensure the health and well being of your unborn child. You make these elaborate plans. You dream of a Harvard graduate that will find a cure for all cancers; of a president that will end all wars. You have these dreams and these plans and so you eat vegetables that you hate and swallow vitamins that make you nauseous. It is the beginning of the most crucial facet of being a parent…becoming selfless. Because this world is no longer yours alone.
You are going to be a parent.
As they grow older, you see your world slowly begin to change. There are these tiny moments that have you up late at night staring at a computer screen, checking milestone charts and symptom checklists. You may live in a state of “that’s not my child” or “he/she will outgrow it” for far longer than you should. You may hide at first. Hide from the people that you believe will judge you or blame you. Hide from the friends that you have whose children are so glaringly “normal”.
Since yours is so glaringly not.
But then, as quickly as the fear and isolation began, you remember what you were put on this planet to do to begin with. To be there for your child, guide them through the ups and downs, but most importantly to take pride in whom and where they are. That is what your responsibility always was and always will be as a mom and even though some of the circumstances have changed, what you wanted all along for your child has not. What you want for them is a beautiful life. The only thing that has changed is now you have you have to be ready to be much more involved in that process and at first; it is hard to know if you are ready for some of the difficult times ahead of you. What has changed is that you no longer have a choice. Even the meek must hold their chin high and carry on. Raising a child with special needs is not for the weak or faint of heart. You learn that there is no one that can stand up for your child but you. You become a voice where there isn’t one. Though being that voice will make you feel a sense of pride that doesn’t come from anything else you will ever do in your lifetime.
I think the biggest change that has come about in me is a sense of duty that is unparalleled. I do not sit around and wait for milestones to be hit or progress to be made. I study, research, and seek out new ways to teach. I went from being a parent that simply expected things from my child to a parent that was willing to put in the work and so I rejoiced each victory he had with him. I went from being a mom that ‘wanted’ to a mother that ‘did’’.
I learned that life isn’t always what we planned and that learning to roll with it and make the most of it is what really shows what we are made of. I used to believe that everything a child does is a reflection on the amount love that a parent feels or the time that is spent on a child. Now I know that the true indication of love is not caring-at all-what anyone else thinks you or your child should be. True love is felt in your heart, not seen in the eyes of your peers. I learned that my dreams were never his to begin with and letting my idea of who he “should be” go was a freedom that most parents may never know and for that, I am eternally grateful.
I have become stronger than I ever thought possible and braver than I knew I was capable of. I became someone that knows when to stand my ground as equally as I know when to bite my tongue. I truly became who I have always wanted to be.
And I owe that all to my beautifully perfect, imperfect son.’