For me, motherhood started like an impromptu road trip across country. It wasn’t planned, and was scary and exciting all at once. I had no clue what I was in for. And although no one really does, most go into it with the vision of a perfect child. A road trip with perfect weather if you will. Okay, maybe not perfect. I mean no one is PERFECT. But you know the vision: some variation between average and awesome. And for me, that was my vision as I stared into the face of my brand new, blue eyed baby boy. Ten fingers and toes. He wasn’t a picky baby. He was smart and curious. And he was damn adorable. Blue skies so far!
The road trip seemed right on track, until the day I spotted the first dark cloud in the distance. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I brought my then 1 ½ year old son to the playground. I watched all the other small children playing on the playscape and with the digging toys. My son gravitated towards the far corner of the fence… with a stick. I know you’re thinking so what, right? I remember looking at all the other tots playing, and back at my son and his stick, and wondering why he didn’t want anything to do with actual toys or said children. I actually said out loud, “Oh man, my kid is gonna be a loner”. Although I said it, I only half believed it. I chalked it up to my curse of irrational thinking.
Yet the next few years more clouds popped up. He was constantly in trouble at daycare. A stubborn toddler who didn’t like to be cuddled. He refused to share and would get physical with the other kids and staff. He would constantly hurt himself when he was upset. Either hitting himself or head butting walls, tables, floors. “He’ll grow out of it,” everyone told me. The clouds would pass, I hoped. Yet once my boy started school the sky would only grow darker.
The principle called constantly telling me my son was hitting and screaming. Hiding under desks and in closets. Locking himself in the bathroom. Poking and agitating the other children. I lived in a constant state of high alert, waiting for lightning to strike. By first grade a school therapist recommended the Yale Child Study Center. There it was, the lightning.
The next few years I felt like I was driving through a hurricane. Before and after school programs (like daycare for school age kids too young to stay home alone) kicked my son out left and right, we went through 5 or 6. We stopped going to birthday parties. I got multiple diagnosis thrown at me from ODD and ADHD to simply mood disorders. I would think back to that little baby boy. My blue skies and sunshine. I would get sad, extremely sad. I felt like I was mourning a version of my son that was never to be.
By the time he was 8, after much research, I was convinced my son was on the spectrum. There were so many similarities. I had to fight to get him tested. It took a couple more years of uncharted territory and advocacy before they would finally test him through his public school. And just when you’d think the storm would cause irreparable damage, the clouds parted. My son was in fact high up on the autism spectrum, high functioning autism. I finally knew for sure. With this invisible disability came more challenges, yet I could feel the sunshine again. The dark uncertainty was gone. And although I lost the idea I had for my baby boy, I gained the awareness of what my son was all along. A rainbow.