I knew from the time I was a little girl that I would have children of my own someday. I got married at 22, and at 25 I found myself pregnant with my first child. I could not have been happier. My pregnancy was pretty typical. I never worried and stressed like some expectant mothers do. It hardly crossed my mind that there might be something 'wrong' with my baby. I read all the pregnancy books and followed them to the letter. No drinking, no smoking, eating a healthy diet, taking those awful vitamins. I didn't even drink caffeine.
When I discovered I was carrying a boy I was even happier. I always wanted a son, and my husband had two daughters from his previous marriage and he was overjoyed. He was to be the first grandchild for my parents and I doubt there has ever been a child born who was more wanted.
He was born a beautiful perfect baby in early June of 2001. The labor was long and painful, but it was over and I had my baby. He seemed a typical newborn and I fussed over him like first time mothers often do. I was in love, and took hundreds of pictures of him. He was the first grandchild, the first nephew, and was showered with love.
I did notice sometime after his first birthday that he seemed a little slow at learning his name, and that he would play quietly alone as long as I would let him. He didn't seem overly interested in the goings on of the household. I thought he was so serious and smart, how he would sit in the floor with a board book clutched in his chubby little hands, turning the pages like he already could read the words. I was a little hurt that he never seemed to mind when I left him, but I chalked that up to him being so comfortable at my parents. He did engage, he smiled brightly and often. He would giggle uncontrollably when I tickled him or pushed him in the baby swing hanging from the tree in our yard. He loved Blue's Clue's and would stand in front of the TV and watch it as long as I would let him. He was my first child, and it had been years since I spent any amount of time around a small child. I didn't know that there was anything odd or different about his behavior. My doctor never said anything about his development. He learned to crawl, and then to walk right on schedule.
As he approached his second birthday, I had a little tinge of concern over the fact that he wasn't talking. At his second birthday party surrounded by a dozen other kids he played alone, seemed not to notice they were there. I felt a panic grip me, I knew this was not right. I began my long journey of worry.
I searched the web, looking for answers. I saw the word autism, but I quickly dismissed that. I knew it was something, but not THAT. My child smiled. My child laughed, and loved to be cuddled and tickled. I learned about early intervention and scheduled an evaluation. He fit the criteria and was behind enough in several areas that he qualified to start speech, OT and a developmental pre school. I was asked if I wanted a behavior therapist to come and see him, and I said sure. The woman they sent was a knowledgeable, experienced, educated sort who didn't pull any punches. She spent an hour with my son and told me that she was pretty certain my child had autism.
So began our life of therapy and therapists. I read every book, article,and web page on autism I could find. I was hopeful. I read all these stories of mother's who had 'cured' their children, who were now 'typical' and living like any other child. I did it all. Speech, OT, ABA, behavioral therapy. I took him to a hospital in a nearby city well known for their work with autism and got the diagnosis I already knew. It was crushing but also I relief just to have the official diagnosis.
Here I am, four years later. I have a beautiful, happy little 7 year old boy. He has classic autism. He doesn't speak, he isn't toilet trained. He has hundreds of toys he doesn't play with, preferring to swing in the swing hanging from the doorway or climb up and down the staircase. He loves to stand in the windows and look outside. He loves water, a pool, a bathtub or a water hose, he doesn't care. He hasn't mastered a fork and spoon, preferring to eat with his hands. He loves oranges, and can hear a potato chip bag rattling three rooms over. He hates shoes and would be nude all day if I let him. He knows I'm mommy, and if I prompt him with a M sound sometimes he'll look at me and smile, and grace me with a "Mommy". He still loves tickles and will hop in my lap for a squeeze and a tickle several times a day.
He still goes to therapy, a private speech therapist and other therapies at school, where he is in his second round of Kindergarten in a typical classroom. I feel like his teachers, aid, and therapists at school truly love him and I feel safe sending him there everyday. He has improved, slowly, in some areas. I have accepted he may never talk. I have made peace with that, but still hope everyday that he will. I have accepted that he is different and learned to live with the ignorance of those around me that don't know autism, that haven't had it in their lives. Yet.
He is mine, and I love him. He brings so much joy to my life and has changed who I am. I find being his mother has made me a kinder, less judgmental person. If I could take the autism away, I would. But I have accepted that I cannot. I take it one day at a time.