As Long As He’s Healthy

While at a recent doctor appointment I was chatting with a young, pregnant woman. I congratulated her and asked her if she knew the sex of the baby.

She said she didn’t know and didn’t have a preference, “as long as the baby is healthy.”

I smiled and nodded but inside I thought about how this phrase has a new meaning to me since my daughter’s autism diagnosis seven years ago.

When someone uses that phrase, I feel sadness in my heart. I think to myself, will she accept and love the baby if he isn’t healthy?

After all, when I go to a restaurant, I order a burger as long as it’s cooked well. If it comes to the table pink, I’ll send it back.

Will she give her baby up if he’s not healthy?

Ok so I’ll admit, I used this phrase many times throughout all four of my pregnancies knowing that I would never give up my child for any reason. I prayed for a healthy child each time, not having a preference for the sex of my babies.

In my eyes, a child is a gift, no matter what!  But when my youngest daughter Anna was diagnosed with autism at age 3 1/2, that “healthy” thing was off the table.

We were soon to discover all of the health issues that went along with her diagnosis: vitamin deficiencies, mitochondrial dysfunction, gut bacteria which included candida and clostridia numbers that were among the highest our doctor had ever seen, low muscle tone, genetic mutations, sleep difficulties resulting from faulty serotonin levels, anxiety, OCD, sensory processing disorder and more.

We started on this long journey of helping her live a better quality of life and of course, our end goal was recovery. We visited dan doctors, functional medicine doctors, naturopaths, chiropractors.

We’ve done homeopathy, essential oils, supplements (as many as 20 a day at one time), traditional medicine, Chinese massage, brain balance, neurofeedback, hyperbaric oxygen.

We’ve done ABA, play therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, music therapy, massage therapy, recreation therapy, and physical therapy.

We have her on a diet that’s free of gluten, casein, preservatives, dyes, and is low in sugar and carbs.

Now after all of this, and much of it we are still doing, is she “healthy?”  Most would agree that she is not. But her progress has been a blessing and we have learned to cherish the little milestones and moments of growth.

We take nothing for granted and appreciate every achievement we are fortunate enough to witness.

We can now enjoy a family meal at a restaurant.

In the past her sensory issues and anxiety would send both of us rushing to the car where we waited for the rest of the family to finish.

Anna can do puzzles. She loves her Moana and Frozen puzzles. She can do up to 200 pieces.

Years ago a simple wooden puzzle would have brought her to tears.

This past Halloween she was able to say, “Trick or Treat” at every house!

She kisses and hugs every member of our family before bed. In the past she was not able to show much affection.

Recently her therapist was thrilled to tell me that she spontaneously held the hand of another little boy at playtime.

I can remember her first round of play therapy when she was unable to even acknowledge the other kids in the room.

My Anna can swim independently and loves water slides! She is happiest when she is in the water!

Several years ago, she would just sit next to me at water parks refusing to go in the water, covering her ears to block out the noise while her siblings rode the water slides.

She now sleeps through the night and wakes up happy, wanting me to snuggle and sing songs with her for a while before we start our day.

When she was four, she would wake up screaming for several hours in the middle of the night. Nothing I tried would calm her.

I remember sitting on her bedroom floor crying and praying for her to sleep.

Despite her progress, she is not what others would consider “healthy.” Yet

I am grateful for every day with her! She brings a precious innocence to everyone in our family. She keeps us laughing and loving our time together! She has made me a more patient, giving, determined person. I wake up every day ready to keep fighting her fight!

If I could go back to my pregnant days knowing what I know now, I would still pray for a healthy baby.

But when asked about my preference for the sex of my babies, I would simply reply, “My child will be loved and cherished no matter what!”

Written by, Catherine Berg 

Catherine Berg lives in Shelby Township, Michigan.  She works part time as a substitute teacher, ABA therapist, and waitress.  She is also the mom of three awesome teenagers and one amazing 10-year-old autistic daughter!

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