Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mothers Day Madness

I am a soccer mom, a volleyball mom, a bowling mom, a basketball mom. I am a softball mom, a cheer mom, a catechism mom, a working mom, and a stay-at-home mom (I can be both, right?).  I am a teenager's mom, a daughter's mom, and an Autism mom.  Each of these roles have helped shape me into the mother I am today.  Each has their own challenges, their own joys, their own heartbreaks and their own successes.  I never knew, before I had children, that there were different types of mothers.  I never knew that I could be several different types all at once.  I thought that you had your children, and then taught them all about life.  I never dreamed that it was the other way around.

I was in my early 20's when I started having children.  I married young, graduated college, and started out my "adult life" when most of my high school friends were still bar hopping.  My first daughter came along, and taught me that I had NO idea what I was doing.  Every pre-conceived notion of parenting went right out the window.  The only constant in my life was the fear of her growing up too quickly.  Then came Katie.  Parenthood was much easier the second time around.  I knew that I wouldn't break her, I knew that she wouldn't break me.  I knew that she would survive without me hovering over her 24/7.  Before Katie was born, I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to love her as much as I did my first daughter.  When you have your first child, you are so overwhelmed with this love, this all-emcompassing passion for your child.  How can that ever be duplicated?  They take up your whole heart, how can you possibly have room for another?  But when Katie came, I immediately grew a new heart that belonged all to her. 

As I raised my two young daughters, I learned as I was going along.  Make a schedule, follow the schedule, love them to pieces, kiss their boo-boos.  Pretty simple.  Lay them down for a nap, pack extra snacks, always buy two of their favorite toy in case one gets lost or broken.  We decided to have another child, add to our loving family.  Make room for one more, because this next one I know I can love without taking away from the other children's pieces of my heart.  Then, when I was a few months into expecting my third child, we started noticing that Katie wasn't acting like other children.  She wasn't talking, she wasn't making much eye contact.  She wouldn't respond if you tried to get her attention. She seemed to be off in a world of her own at times, not playing with her cousins who were her age.  I tried not to compare her to other children, because each child is different, especially in infancy.  But something didn't feel right, just didn't add up.  And that is when my motherhood took a hit.

Doctors, specialists, speech therapists, audiologists, neurologists, social workers, occupational therapists, physical therapists.  Motherhood for me would never be the same.  Now I was thrown into a sea of diagnosis and terminology and consultations and recommendations and interventions and perscriptions and a million other things that I might of heard of, but didn't necessarily understand.  I had to step up and create a new me, a new mother that was strong for her small helpless child.  A mother that knew which questions to ask, and knew exactly what was wrong, knew when the doctors were full of crap, and when trusting them was our only option.  I had to learn to cry behind the closed door, pray for many miracles, and call on others to help, even when I thought I could do it all on my own.  I had to learn to be aggressive, insistant, and inquizative.   I had to remember to write everything down, because who can remember all of this?  I had to learn that sometimes "Mom" ends up looking like the bad guy, when you have to physically hold down your child for a test or medication.  I also had to learn to let go of any sort of reality that I thought I had created with my family of 5, and embrace the reality before me.

As Mother's Day approaches, I look back on how far we have come.  I say "we" because I have grown right along with Katie.  She has blossomed into a beautiful, intelligent pre-teen, who has far surpassed any kind of expectations that I created for her after I heard the word "Autism".  She is happy and friendly, involved with her church, school and community, talks to friends on the phone and goes on overnight adventures.  She knows more about computers than I do, and has no social anxiety whatsoever.  In short, she has literally blown me away. 

I have come a long way myself.  I have learned volumes about Autism.  I have learned how to talk with a doctor without breaking down into tears.  I have learned to ask for specifically what I want for Katie, without feeling guilty.  I have learned that sometimes people in the world can be very insensitive, but that does not change who I am or who Katie is.  Their ignorance takes nothing away from her success.  I have learned that people say really stupid things, and I might take offense to them, but I also have to realize sometimes their comments have nothing to do with Katie or Autism, even if I connect all the pieces together in my head.  I have learned to be patient with people, which is the hardest lesson by far.  I have learned to ask for help when I need it, and accept help even when I don't think it is necessary.  I have learned that people really love Katie, and want the best for her.  I have learned to let the Mama Bear in me loose when she needs to go defend my cubs, and when she needs to calm down and take a deep breath. 

I have also learned how to make Autism work in a busy family, so we are living our lives as big as we can, without Autism running the show.  Making sure my oldest daughter knows how proud I am of the way she represents the family.  How much joy it brings me to see her care for Katie, even in the little ways she interacts with her.  Making sure my youngest daughter doesn't get lost in the shuffle.  That she has her own life that is important and special.  I have learned to make my husband a priority, so that we do not get lost along the way.  And, on this Mother's Day, I will embrace my 3 beautiful daughters, embrace our Adventures in Autism for all that they have taught me, and be a better mother for it.

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