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May 10, 2022

How Raising an Autistic Child Changed Me.

autistic child

In my younger years, I’d dream of what kind of mother I would be.

I’d envision what it would be like to show my kids the world through my eyes. Running through fields of wildflowers, invoking their imagination with stories of fairies and magical stardust. I saw myself as a whimsical, loving, silly mom.

Idealistic to say the least.

It’s typical of how I’ve approached most of life.

I had an unrecognized yet predetermined belief that parenting is sharing our wisdom with little ones. I never understood the saying that children come into this world to teach us.

It took several years and two children later, the first who is on the autism spectrum, until I released control and moved toward the peace of accepting what was meant for me.

We jokingly called my son Benjamin Button; born at 6 lbs and 1 oz, he looked like a scrunched up, old man.

Wise and mature nature, what I immediately sensed was a higher consciousness. A direct link to the divine. His eyes would lock on mine, and it would be like he was looking into my soul and seeing everything there was to me.

This little button knows something I don’t. He threw me completely for a loop when he entered the world.

It was hard! He was hard!

I thought I’d be great at this motherhood thing. I expected to breastfeed the entire first year. Unlike other newborns, my son didn’t sleep—most days his longest sleep cycle would be 45 minutes, he needed to be held more than most, and he was lazy on his latch.

I stuffed myself with all sorts of milk producing foods and teas, but the more I squeezed myself on the breast pump and became hyper-focused on production, the more exhausted I became, impacting my body’s ability to produce milk.

I lasted about four months breastfeeding before shifting to formula. It would be the first of many hard lessons on letting go of “what I thought it would be like.”

With the passing weeks and months, Benjamin Button would reverse into his youth, plumping up into a round baby, squealing with laughter. A joy.

He remained difficult when it came to transitions and change, which meant my ideas of meeting a girlfriend for lunch entailed a wide-awake and overtired baby who would not sleep in the car seat or stroller. He would convey a disapproving grunt at every red light. The car should always be in motion, and I’d tense up watching the opposing intersection move from green (panic) to eventually yellow (relief).

Once, I spent a weekend at a friend’s house expecting to lay by her pool while our babies slumbered peacefully. As I walked up the stairs to the guest room to start his nap, my son would zoom his eyes around the foreign ceiling and windows and scream bloody murder for 40 minutes straight as I’d emerge sweating and in no mood to chitchat.

But the sweet innocence, full of life, opened my heart in a way that it’s never known. His laugh was pure joy, and his eyes sparkled.

I noticed that he clung to my side more than most kids, and he wouldn’t interact with his peers much. It was clear he was sensitive and needed time to warm up. He loved people nonetheless. Mainly adults. He was intrigued by them, and he could read a person really well. His peers were a higher risk category; he couldn’t gauge what their next move would be.

I didn’t pay much attention to the fact that his words were delayed; he babbled his cute sounds confidently. Baby words should still be forming actual words. My son’s sounds were like a little language of his own, full of expression but no real link to known vocabulary other than a basic few that included “mama, daddy.”

I’d later realize that this, in itself, is such a blessing as many parents of autistic children will never hear their children utter those words.

With the entrance of my daughter a few years later, I could no longer rationalize away the heightened needs of my son.

His frustration with not being able to verbalize what he wanted to communicate, the need for consistency, it all grew more rigid as he continued to grow (reversing back the other way now) into a toddler.

He demanded so much from me—every meal, every nap. He’d refuse anyone else. Not many in our life understood him or how to manage him, including his father.

I became exhausted and confused, feelings of failure overwhelming me. I was falling into a victim mentality of “why is my child so hard?” I resented having this difficulty on my shoulders. I was angry that friends and family were judging me for not having it together, not having motherhood seamlessly together—another make-believe notion I would soon let go of.

Our pediatrician would not validate my concerns until an entire year later when my son’s rigid and aggressive behaviors could no longer be ignored.

We received his Autism Spectrum diagnosis when he turned five years old.

Relief. An answer means we can act now and stop spinning in the unknown. Validation that I am not a crazy person. I wanted to say, “See! No one would believe me that something was wrong. You all made me feel like my actions and anxiety were causing him to react.”

Sadness. Grief for what I had envisioned of motherhood, of a son’s childhood and adulthood, of a typical family unit.

Fear. What did this mean for his future? What did this mean for our future as parents? How will his sister be impacted—I already have less of myself to give to her. Is he going to feel different, less-than? Will he be bullied? Lots of fear.

Coming to grips with the diagnosis while still navigating the daily challenges and exploring services and options nearly broke me. I did not understand then that fear stems from loss of control. I also didn’t understand that fear shows up as anger. I lashed out at those closest to me. I lashed out at myself for not being the kind of mother that I dreamt of, especially with a child who needed me more than ever. I could not control this outcome.

But instead, it cracked me open. It cracked my marriage open.

Like a pressure cooker it forced wounds and triggers to bubble up to the surface. I was left no option other than to confront my subconscious wiring and learned patterns, to reflect on my coping skills—terrible!—and to pave a new path of parenting, alongside my husband, that was rooted in reality.

Love. Acceptance to give as much love as I can. All beings are at their highest vibration in love frequency, but we learn quickly to mask deficiencies in giving and receiving love. My son does not mask as well as most; he calls me out when I’m not showing up at my best. He checks on me from a mile away if he senses I’m sad, and he reacts to my energy with such unease that it makes the overall scenario much more challenging as he can no longer focus on anything else. As soon as I center myself in love and allow it to spill out, he flows. That is his frequency. And he compels me to root in love daily.

My son came to teach us.

I finally understood what that saying intended. Our son taught us to go inward and move toward the light of consciousness. To surrender. To release. To witness the world through his beautiful lens. To learn to just be. And to move into who we are meant to be in this life.

Benjamin Button was and is awfully wise. How foolish we can be attaching to a plan in life. The journey intends something else for us entirely—what we need.

We resist until we have no choice but to submit.

That is exactly how my entry into motherhood took place. I’ve learned to let go of proving myself worthy of an ideal to others but, most importantly, to myself. And for that, there is only immense gratitude.

~

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