A long time ago, off a Garden State Parkway Exit now 210 miles away…
I was a (relatively) young married mom to a brilliant, spirited, three year old.
Autism was the furthest thing from my mind back then. I was focused on play dates, train rides at the local county zoo, and lavishing hugs and kisses on the best and most important part of my life.
Then, after two years as a stay-at-home-mom, I went back to work full time, and my three year old went into daycare. The professionals there immediately recognized what TheEx (then TheCurrent) and I had not: Leading Man #1 wasn’t just spirited or fiercely independent like his parents.
Enter social workers, the public school system’s special needs team, multiple evaluations, an appointment with the head of pediatric neurology at a highly regarded New Jersey hospital, and, finally, a diagnosis:
Every day since the day that diagnosis was handed down, I have examined every last detail of my pregnancy and custodial motherhood, looking for the what. What had I done to give my son Autism?
- Was it the peanut butter M&Ms I ate daily during my second trimester?
- Was it the chicken pox vaccine I agreed to on my son’s third pediatric visit?
- Was it exposure to his father and I’s imploding marriage?
I’ve been reassured hundreds of times by various professionals that it wasn’t anything I did or did not do, but that has never stopped me from looking. This precious creature was entrusted to my care. Surely I must have done something to cause this.
Perhaps because I carry this guilt that even TheEx has told me is unfounded and unnecessary, I have dedicated myself to being my son’s loudest voice and fiercest advocate.
Since that initial diagnosis now 13 years ago, Autism has played a key role in everything I’ve do.
- I gave up residential custody because my son needed the exact house, and school system he lived in, and I couldn’t afford that house, in that school system.
- I’ve logged over 220,000 miles on two Toyota Camry’s in 8 years because my son needs me, not just on FaceTime, but live, and in person.
- I never fully disconnect from the world because, at any given moment, my son might need my voice, either telling him what he needs to hear to reach his potential, or asking someone else for something he needs to reach it.
Because of Autism, I have a highly creative, intelligent, funny, awe-inspiring kid. I might have a creative, intelligent, funny, awe-inspiring kid without autism, but I wouldn’t have the exact kid I have. Except to take away some of the hurt my son experiences being on the spectrum when he tries to connect with other kids, I wouldn’t trade my exact Leading Man #1 for a neurotypical one, ever.