Monday, February 11, 2013

The New Normal

When you map out your life, your plans and your hopes and your dreams, you follow the path that will lead you where you want to go.  Or you try to follow the path anyway.  When life events interfere, for the good or for the bad, you obviously have to alter that path.  Life events of all sorts can completely derail your train.  Births, deaths, jobs, illness, whatever happens to come up, you deal with it and make the necessary adjustments to get back on track.  Sometimes all it takes is a little tweak here and there, create a little wiggle room.  Sometimes it is so enormous that your life will never be the same.

Life for me as a young adult was pretty simple.  College, marriage, job, children.  Visit the grandparents, church, special holidays, vacations.  We lived a simple life, a happy life.  When we had our first daughter, we made the changes we needed to make to create room for her, to incorporate her into our world.  Parents do these things every day.  Life gets a little more hectic, priorities shift, and then things settle down.  Eventually you settle into a normal routine, a normal schedule, a normal family life.  When we found out we were expecting another daughter, I figured we would just have to make a little more wiggle room, juggle a little bit more to make the adjustments.  And then came Katie.

Katie, Katie, Katie.  Katie was an easy baby, Katie was a happy baby.  Our lives didn't get this complicated until we started having Katie evaluated for various reasons, and 6 months into the journey, a school assistant first said the word "Autism" to us.  No one had ever mentioned it before.  Katie did not have the "typical" Autistic habits or difficulties or quirks or mannerisms, or whatever you want to call the "things" that make people think your child is Autistic.  But after having her tested and evaluted, she was given the label.  The autistic "things" came later.  But now here we were, handed the news that our 2 1/2 year old was Autistic.  What do you do with that?  How do you figure that into the path that you are following?  How do you make that fit into your lifestyle?  And, not to mention, at the time of Katie's diagnosis, I had another baby on the way.

Our normal life suddenly wasn't so normal anymore.  Our "fairytale, highschool sweethearts grow up and get married and have kids and live happily ever after" story suddenly looked like it was going to have a very different ending.  Not only a different ending, but a different middle too.  The story started out the same, but suddenly it's going in a very different direction.  The weird thing about it was that nothing with Katie had changed.  She was the same beautiful, happy, sweet tempered girl from the one day before her diagnosis, that she was after we got the news.  She wasn't different at all.  But LIFE had changed in that instant.  Our future, her future, was suddenly very very hard to see.  What did this mean?  What do we do?  How is this going to play out?  What is a normal life for us now?

Looking back on those early years, I am not really sure how we got through them.  A lot of those times are foggy; not the life events, but what I was thinking or how I was coping.  We had to create a "new normal".  We had to make room for doctors visits, and testing, and occupational therapists, and social workers, and speech pathologists, and fighting with insurance, and trying to explain to everyone what is going on with Katie, and new fears, and new uncertainties, and now suddenly everyone is calling me because they know someone who has Autism and they want me to talk to them.  That became our new normal.  My youngest daughter never knew life before Autism came, because she was born into the midst of it.  My oldest daughter probably doesn't remember what life was like before because she was only 5 when Katie was diagnosed.  The life that they live now is the only normal they know.  They know tantrums and imaginary friends and food obsessions and talking all night and speech difficulties and leaving places early and singing loudly in church and brutal honesty and unconditional love.  That is the only normal that they know.

The "new normal" has to have a different middle, and a different ending to the story.  It is not as easy to imagine how our lives will be end up now.  It is so much harder to dream of how our stories will read.  Katie is so different now than she was as a small girl, and a world different from how she was in elementary school.  After her diagnosis,  I tried to dream some new dreams for her, and she has already far surpassed them.  I guess it sounds silly saying "my dreams" for Katie, but I cannot see my life without her being a daily part of it, so our dreams get tightly wrapped up together.  Our Adventures in Autism will lead us down a new path, and we will find out what our "new normal" is, together.

1 comment:

  1. As always I enjoy this site. Thanks for sharing.
    Aunt Joni