Before Autism touched my life, I considered myself the kind of mother who pretty much had it together. Before Autism, I worked a full-time executive position, where my obsessive and control freak tendencies served me well. My three children were used to the daily routine of full-time school or daycare. Weaning, potty-training, bedtime issues, discipline, those were things OTHER mothers struggled with, for me it never seemed like a huge deal. I managed to sail through the first 9 years of motherhood without wrinkling my designer clothes, mussing my perfectly relaxed hair, or chipping a french manicured nail. I could never understand what other parents complained about. I was so smug and arrogant. I could not imagine what must go on in the houses of the lady behind me in the check out line with the screaming, rebelling children. I would think to my myself "home girl needs to get it together".
I thought I was done having kids, so my fourth pregnancy was a huge surprise in the midst of a tumultuous time in my career. I was at a crossroads and very uncertain on where I would go professionally. So although my new son was unexpected, I did feel some comfort in the fact that in this at least, I know what I'm doing. What's that saying "If you want to see God laugh, tell him your plans"? I assure you it must have been comedy hour in heaven.
Everything with Spike was different from the start. It was also my first attempt at being a full-time stay at home mom. I was so sure it was going to be a breeze. I imagined myself a cocoa-colored Donna Reed and Mrs. Huxtable rolled into one. I'd spend all day calmly breastfeeding my adorable infant, selflessly volunteer in my older kid's classrooms, never miss school assemblies and cook gourmet dinners every night. I would greet my husband at the door with a kiss after work and in my spare time start writing that bestseller. My house would be spotless. My life would be spotless. Right?? WRONG!
Breastfeeding was a disaster, Spike seemed to be allergic to everything I managed to swallow and at 6 weeks we were in ICU getting his intestines biopsied as they tried to deal with his severe milk and soy allergies. It only got more chaotic from there. He was an exhausting infant, instead of having more time for my other children and husband I had less. It didn't get any easier as he became a toddler. I fought with my husband and myself daily on whether or not he was really as different from other kids as he seemed to be. I struggled with what was "normal".
By the time Spike was two, between dealing with all the trials and tribulations that come with a child on the spectrum, two highly sensitive yet extremely gifted children, an older toddler doomed to suffer from perpetual middle-child syndrome, a half-neglected husband and a stagnant career, I was a hot mess. I didn't recognize myself in the mirror. Who was this woman with the sloppy ponytail, ragged cuticles and chocolate milk on her sweats? I didn't recognize her. I had no confidence in myself as a mother, as a wife or as a writer.
Still in the midst of chaos and half on autopilot, I managed to trudge on through dozens of doctor's visits and hundreds of therapy sessions. I stopped predicting the outcome and just delved into the process. And then, just when I stopped waiting for them, small miracles began to happen. I figured out just the right ingredients to make it through a grocery trip without a meltdown. Spike made eye contact with a stranger without running in fear. My mom was able to pick him up and hold him. These seemingly small feats felt like climbing Mt. Everest to me. I had started to accept Spike for who he is and not who I wanted him to be. Slowly through this process, the patience and acceptance I learned from Spike started to carry over into my relationships with my other children, my husband, and most of all myself. As Spike learned structure, I learned to be less rigid. As he learned boundaries, I learned to be more open. We've both learned a lot.
After Autism, my pursuit of perfect is a lot more realistic these days. I know my life will never be spotless. I am much more concerned with how things feel rather than how they look. In discovering who Spike is, I've found myself. I've found a fierce determination, an unwavering patience and a capacity for a deep all-encompassing love that I never knew was possible. I know in my heart God blessed me with Spike to mold me into the mother, the woman and the writer, I was always meant to be.