Dear Mama: A Journey of Love and Growth
I know you’re scared. I was too. I know this is not what you imagined for your baby. It is okay to be sad and to grieve for the loss of the life you imagined. Let the tears fall, do not try to stop them.
You need to feel the loss, the heartbreak, the pain.
I know you want to know why. Why is this happening to your beautiful child, your family? This will haunt you in the beginning.
Please try not to compare your child to other children. I know you will anyway, and it will take your breath away at times. Just know your child is on their own timeline, their own path.
There will be so much information thrown your way. It will be completely overwhelming. Your instinct will be to try to conquer this.
There is no fighting it. You need to take a deep breath and take it one step at a time. There are lots of resources to help you and your child.
This hurts because you love your child so much.
This will not change that. Nothing will ever change that. In fact, it will be the driving force behind everything you do.
I think in some ways you will love your child even more. You become their voice, their biggest advocate. You will become fiercely protective and fight to get them everything they need.
Once the shock from hearing the diagnosis subsides, you will get angry. It will bubble up fast and hard. The unfairness of it all will make you want to scream.
You will want to scream at the doctors, misguided family and friends who mean well but say the wrong things, the strangers who look and stare and make going out feel awful. Most of all, you will be angry at yourself for not seeing the signs sooner.
You will wonder if it’s something you did. You will blame yourself. The anger will take over if you let it. You need to look at your beautiful child, draw strength from them, and let the anger go. This is not your fault. It is nothing you did or didn’t do. It’s just what is. Do not internalize this. This will do nothing to help you or your child.
The beginning is hard. There are a lot of adjustments. It will slowly start sinking in. You will get your child in therapy, find specialists, and get all the tests needed. You will find a school that is appropriate and understands your child.
You will be going non-stop. You won’t stop.
Google will become your best friend and your worst enemy. You will research all the ways to help your child. You will want to try to fix it. That’s what mamas are. We are fixers. We kiss boo-boos and give hugs. We chase the monsters away.
This is not the same. This cannot be fixed. You will still try. You will read about all the success stories. How one thing magically turned everything around. That’s one in a million.
You have the same child that you had pre-diagnosis. They are exactly the same.
Your love for them won’t waver. You will love your child unconditionally. Nothing will ever change that.
Life is gonna look a little different than you imagined. That is going to hurt for a little while, and that’s OK. These feelings are perfectly normal in a world where nothing seems normal anymore. Your child will march to the beat of their own drum, follow the less traveled path.
At times, this path will seem completely overwhelming. It is a different path than what you’re used to. Different isn’t less, it just takes a little getting used to. Some days the differences will feel glaringly obvious, but in time, it won’t.
Do not hide. Your child deserves all the things that every other child experiences. Granted, there will be times when it could be too much for them. You just have to keep trying.
I promise you, my friend, there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are easier days ahead. You’ll figure out this new life. Your child will teach you things that you have never imagined.
You’ll learn lessons in humility, honesty, and pure love. You’ll look at the world with a whole new light, developing compassion and empathy. You will learn to tune out the rest of the world, realizing that things that seemed so important before will now seem trivial.
Your dreams will change, but this is not a sad life.
Inside your bubble with your child and your family, there will be love, laughter, and so much joy.
You will become consumed with the diagnosis. I am here to tell you, do not lose yourself. Autism does not define your child, and it does not define you. Remember that you matter too.
You’ll make connections with people that in an ordinary life, a different life, you may have nothing in common with. These people, like other moms, will help you in ways you can’t even imagine.They will understand you in a way no one else will. They will cheer with you, and they will cry with you.
Sometimes you’ll find these people in unlikely places. I found mine on the Internet, and they’ve changed my life.
You need people who will sit with you and listen to your hopes and fears judgment-free. Who understand when the littlest milestones are met and what a game changer that can be in your child’s life.
Most importantly, do not let anyone place limits on your child. Our children are lifelong learners. They sometimes learn at a slower pace than others, but that doesn’t mean they won’t learn.
When I say our children march to the beat of their own drum, I mean it. They do everything at their own pace. Doctors and specialists can make predictions about your child, but nobody knows for sure.
You believe in your child, you know your child best.
There will be so many mountains to climb, but you’ll do it. There will be days when you feel like you can’t. Then you turn to your child, look at them, and that will give you the strength to keep going.
There is no one in this world who works harder than our children. They are true heroes. Every single day, they work hard to fit into a world that was not built for them.
Giving up is not an option, and we have them to remind us of that every single day.
You will begin to move into acceptance. You will feel a huge weight lifted off you when this happens. You begin to see your child in a different light. You relish in their accomplishments and celebrate them.
You realize that this is your life and your child’s life. You become stronger. You fight for different things now. You fight for communication instead of words, you fight for progress, you fight for joy.
You need to recognize your feelings and own them. Don’t keep them bottled up. It will only lead to guilt and shame. It is your truth. Do not let someone tell you any different.
I am not going to lie, it is not always an easy life. You will grow thick skin, and you will become a mama bear like no other.
Acceptance is not a forever stage; you go back and forth. You will go back into sadness at different times. You will take time to cry and then dust yourself off and come back.
You will experience more joy than you ever imagined.
You will have an overwhelming sense of pride and be in awe of so many barriers your child will break. My daughter brings joy and laughter into my life every single day. She is the happiest person I know. I can’t imagine my life without her. Your perspective will change, and your child will open your heart and fill it with so much love.
An autism mama who has walked this path before you.