By Christine Denise
Autism Mom and Contributing Writer for As You Are
In March 2014, my son arrived 11 days before predicted.
I never heard him cry in the operating room where I delivered him via a cesarean section.
Even though I had a normal pregnancy, passed every ultrasound test, every genetic test and this baby was spontaneous and not a fertility miracle, I knew something was wrong.
Our autism diagnosis wouldn’t come for years but a genetic disorder that is so rare, it doesn’t even have a name, was detected within his first few months of his life.
My mother gave me a small plaque when all of this was going on. My husband put it on a shelf in our bedroom. I was in such a fog during those early days, I didn’t even notice it until one afternoon while I was sitting in my room with my newborn in my arms, sobbing while he slept peacefully.
It read, “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is the only choice you have.”
My tears stopped momentarily as I realized how true that statement is.
And it’s something my son has taught me.
No, his life and our lives didn’t turn out the way I had always envisioned it.
And every day is a challenge to accept that knowing there is not a damn thing we can do about it.
But my son has taught me how to truly be present. How to stay present. And how important that is.
How to rejoice and feel like I’m on top of the world when his babysitter texts me to say he identified two animals at the zoo on his Assisted Communication Device. (It’s an iPad with an app that lets him touch pictures of words and images of those words that he wants to say.)
How to feel true joy when he spontaneously says “Hi,” to me when I walk into a room.
How to be patient when he has thrown his food off the table for the tenth time.
How to channel my motherly instincts and figure out what is bothering him when no one else can.
Those are the moments we have to celebrate.
No, we’re not going to take pictures of him holding the millionth soccer trophy he won like we do with our neurotypical sons. No, we’re not going to celebrate his grades by taking him to his favorite toy store and letting him get a reward. No, we’re never going to celebrate the same milestones that we do and expect to do with our other children.
And those fears of staring too long, saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing start to creep in even when I’m around my own son or others like him.
And, some days, those tears return.
But he has taught me not to let those fears get in the way of living in the moment.
He’s taught me he has milestones.
He has moments.
And, in order to enjoy them, I can’t be afraid to be his mom because I might do something wrong.
I have to be present.
I can’t miss those moments.
It’s the choice he has taught me I have.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This is a sponsored blog post, but all opinions are my own.