Looking Back: Counting the Blessings of Autism
Below is a great post from a guest blogger who I have come to know via Facebook. We share autism in common. We understand and we can relate. This post comes from the heart and I am very thankful that she is sharing it on here. It is an awesome read. Go ahead, you will see. Double blessings. Eye opener.
BIO -A newspaper reporter turned stay-at-home mom to 4-year-old twin boys on the autism spectrum, Heather Meade keeps her sanity writing at chockfullasd.blogspot.com, where you can learn more about her and the twin terrors, Gamble and Gage. Follow on Facebook or Twitter @ChockFullASD.
As 2014 comes to a close, everyone’s reflecting on their year; the ups, the downs, the plateaus – in autism parenting it seems like every step forward is followed by half a stumble backwards. Just when you think you’ve got the routine down, school takes a break or you unintentionally give your dye-free-for-a-year twins mac n cheese with yellow dye and all hell breaks loose – seriously, I’m surprised those boys didn’t sprout horns and a tail, carrying little pitchforks around, then again, that would require them to be willing to touch a fork…
The twins have come so far this year, however. No, they’re still not talking, they’re still crazy for spinning, and they’re certainly still autistic, but that’s okay. For all the negatives of autism, and there are a multitude, I must say that I’m thankful for my boys’ autism diagnosis.
I should probably elaborate, because I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes, thinking I’m going to spew the typical “Oh, we’re so blessed…” or “I wouldn’t change a thing.” That’s not it at all, if I could take away all of the negatives of their autism, the sensitivities, the inability to effectively communicate their wants and needs, the meltdowns – you can bet your sweet bottom I would, in a heartbeat. What mother wouldn’t want to make life easier, more comfortable for her children?
The thing is, without the boys’ autism, without the stress, without that push to do whatever I need to ensure that they have the best possible life they can, to guard against my children having the tumultuous childhood that I had, who knows how long I would have coasted through this parenting stuff?
Because my boys were born autistic, because I’m the person that I am – I don’t do things half-arsed, I never have – I mean, I got pregnant by accident, and with twins – because of the every day stress, life kicked my butt, handed it back to me, and told me to walk it off. I had to kick myself into high gear, I had to take a hard look at the things I was doing, the choices I was making, including being with the boys’ father.
At the beginning of December 2014, I was ready to become another statistic, a single autism mother. I packed the boys up after a particularly nasty spat between their father and I, I packed one basket of their clothes, and grabbed the titles to the house and the cars. I was ready to leave it all, but I was also covering my bases, because most everything is in my name.
After I calmed down, I could tell something was off – something wasn’t right, I hadn’t felt this sense of urgency, this panicked feeling in my chest, in quite a long time. I had recently started a new anti-depressant, one that was meant to help some of my other medical issues, as well. I went to see my doctor, and she could tell I was manic, I needed a mood stabilizer. It was like I woke from an eight year coma and took a look at my life and asked myself “What the heck, Heather?”
It took me eight long, hard years to finally be able to be in a place to look back at the things that had happened and to realize that I couldn’t keep living the lies I’d built to protect myself and those around me. I had to let it go (the boys had their Frozen phase). I had to tell someone my secrets. By this time, the boys’ father and I were able to be in the same room together for more than a half a second without arguing, so I told him. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but without the stresses of our autistic twins, who knows if I’d ever have had the courage to tell him, or anyone else? He assured me that nothing between us had changed in his mind, he said he’d give me some time and some space to heal, we’re finally starting to develop a relationship after five years.
So yes, I’m blessed to have had the stresses of the boys’ autism to get me to take a good, hard look at what was going on in our lives, and to make the decision, not an easy one, that we could not continue to live in the same manner we’d been living. Barely surviving, and certainly not thriving as parents or as a couple.
Not only that, I’m blessed to have my sweet, goofy boys – my yin-yang twins – they complete each other, but they also complete me and their father. Would I give up a piece of their autism if it meant I’d lose touch with them? Not a chance. I’m blessed that my boys are lovers, like their mother. They seek attention and affection from me and their father, though they might not connect with many other people. Gage gave his grandma a hug and kiss after Christmas dinner, and it was the highlight of her day. Gamble tickled his brother without scratching him, and Gage used soft touches to rub his brother’s neck.
Perhaps it isn’t anything to do with their autism, their sweet, loving nature, but I wouldn’t take a chance on losing that part of them for anything in the world…not even a meltdown free lifetime. They are quick to smile, to give kisses and hugs, they love being held and tickled. They laugh, and their laughter is contagious, it’s still sweet baby giggles with the occasional belly laugh, when they’re out of breath from getting tickled.
So while I have no guarantee that I’ll ever hear “Mommy, I love you,” I will always treasure their laughter. I listen to them babble back and forth, a recent development – it really does sound like they’re having a conversation in their own little twin language, and oh how I would love to have the translations, to know what’s going on between them, to share in that. But not at the expense of missing out on who they are, autism and all.
They’re beginning to communicate in their way – Gage will grab me by the hand, lead me to where he wants me, and “yell” until I figure out what he wants. Both he and Gamble are also starting to let me know when they want a snack. Do I wish it were something other than standing at the threshold of the kitchen, holding their ears and screaming? Absolutely, but baby steps are good enough for now – one day they’ll have a better way, we just have to keep working towards those goals.
Autism life is daunting, I’m dreading potty training and the energy that’s going to take, and I know I need to start really getting into it with them soon, because I’m going to have to go back to work, but the idea of potty training two non-verbal 4-year old boys has me tired just thinking about it.
I’d say I’ll be in bed before the ball drops, but the twin terrors took a brief nap earlier, so they’ll probably be up til the wee hours, when their daddy gets home from work, which means I’ll be up til then, too.
Happy New Year, everyone – here’s to the thought of never having to scrub poo off the walls (or your child), to keeping what sanity we’ve managed to cling to, and to figuring out how to scrape by with some dignity in tact.