I became a Mother in 1987 with the birth of my first-born son. I was totally immersed in my role as Mom. I did research, took a class prior to his birth, was a die-hard “Do exactly what the Pediatrician advises…nothing less, nothing more” mom. Even to the point that I wasn’t willing to allow him to have formula sometimes. My attempts to extract breast milk was a disaster for me. My husband was willing to get up at night and feed him formula. I said “he must get breast milk ONLY!” I went on to have 3 more children in the following 6 ½ years. My third child, is my son, Tyler. He was in fact the seemingly healthiest baby I had given birth to thus far.
This may sound weird, but I only know how to explain what came next by presenting a word picture:
I seemed to be getting glimpses of a sphere. It was blurry. As I took a closer look, I began to see a bubble in front of me. It was foggy inside, at first. But over the first year of Tyler’s life, I began seeing inside of it. It contained things mysterious which pertained to my observations and I was intrigued and yet concerned. 20 Mysterious observations: Autism in the early years I asked Tyler’s pediatrician to help me figure out what I was seeing. What is going on? I got, “He’s a boy!”, “He’s the 3rd child”, “You’re worrying too much, he’s fine!” But I knew I was about to enter this foggy bubble and I didn’t want to go there. I was fighting to get inside of it to clear up my confusion, and yet I didn’t want to go. After my concerns began to become real, the pediatrician agreed to consider what could be the reasons for Tyler’s odd behavior.
So began the desperate search for answers. We took 15-month old Tyler to three different children’s hospitals over the next three months. The diagnosis didn’t sink in. Autism? Really? I had only read about it in Psychology class and had seen a film of a boy in the corner of a room rocking himself back and forth as he babbled. (the internet searching engines weren’t really a big thing yet in 1994.) I had to accept it. They all can’t be wrong. As I heard the words, special education, early intervention, behavior modification, intellectually disabled, communication impairment, no cure… I realized this was the beginning of a new world.
Overnight, it seemed clear to me that I no longer had a choice, I WAS in the bubble. I didn’t know how I was going to balance being Mom to my precious children, or even how to live in there and function. I knew I had to learn a new language and feel my way around this new world I had entered. Mostly, I knew I had to be there for Tyler. It was scary. I felt so lost. I felt guilty for being in there, like I had been a bad mom and it was my fault. I cried alone and silently. I didn’t want anyone to know how bad it hurt. I could barely see the other side of the sphere, but I knew it was years deep…many years. I was only just inside the surface.
I gave birth to my 4th child when Tyler was 22 months old. I was embracing my role as a Mom of four. The MOST important role I had ever taken on. My babies were gifts from God. They all needed me. Yet, I couldn’t think of how to handle all my responsibilities.
That’s my word picture. It was the beginning of the rest of my life in a new and different world.