I am the proud mom to four children.
My oldest two children are on the autism spectrum, and my youngest two are considered “neurotypical.”
When I first became pregnant, I never dreamed I would raise a child on the autism spectrum.
The thought never crossed my mind. I remember daydreaming of cheering for my son playing sports and with every academic milestone I envisioned he woudl achieve. Hearing that my son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age 22 months of age dealt a crushing blow. I remembered I cried for days, barely having enough strength to tend to our 10 month old daughter, who was born exactly one year after her brother. I knew how critical it was for parents to begin intervention as soon as possible to make the biggest impression on his brain, so I connected him to any early intervention services that were available to me where I lived (TN at that time). I became his advocate, and his father and I did the best we could to cope. My son was a very picky eater and his speech was slow to develop. He never made eye contact and became obsessed with spinning objects. Still we pressed on.
Then my daughter was diagnosed with mild autism shortly before her 3rd birthday and I was stunned into numbness. I still advocated for her to receive services but I didn’t want to loudly admit she also had autism.
Their toddler years were filled with constant unpredictability. We have to have a routine: same time getting up, same meal times, same activities. Isaiah was a very picky eater, and we had to have sensory (food/eating) therapy to encourage him to eat more. Calista was constantly uncomfortable. Then came ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) Therapy, a more common therapy to help kids on the autism spectrum. Developmental skills are slower than average kids, which means that early intervention with qualified services help tremendously. Music therapy was costly, so we only did it for a while. I tried to offset some of the costs by buying learning DVDs geared towards children with developmental delays. (I believe it helped some, what was surprising was how my younger two children picked up on learning at a much earlier age!).
Sleeping is an issue for my oldest son. He won’t sleep without his 1mg Clonidine. Though it is known to reduce blood pressure, I learned from another parent that nothing helps a child who refuses to sleep more than Clonidine does. He has been on the medication for 9 years now. To this day, we can tell if Isaiah didn’t take his Clonidine. Every school year starts with an IEP (Individual Education Plan) that allows us to specify what goals we want to work on for the academic year. We are virtually gluten and dairy-free in our home, a sacrifice that the entire family had to make for Isaiah’s sake. Isaiah’s vocabulary continues to slowly emerge, however, it’s still at elementary grade level. The future remains uncertain regarding his independence.
Co-parenting is a diplomatic dance between two parents who became better friends after our marriage ended.
My marriage to my children’s father only lasted 8 years (it was doomed for a variety of reasons). We made it a point to meet halfway when it came to the kids. I knew in my heart that any animosity towards him that I may have felt could not be transferred into my co-parenting, because it would be unfair for the kids.
On my end, my biggest goal was to make sure I learned how to fairly compromise with my ex-husband. I have to trust my ex will make the best decisions he can as their father, regardless of whether or not he parents precisely like me. I made the decision early on that no matter what mudslinging took place, we would always come together for the sake of the kids. His personal life is NONE of my business unless there is imminent danger to the kids (that means I don’t have an opinion on who he dates). My husband and I decided to lead transparent lives so that communication becomes smoother. I’ve also voiced to my ex-husband that I am on his side and I want him to be successful in all that he does in his life. I truly don’t wish him any downfalls. These days, the kids see their father several times a week. The three of us (my ex-husband, my husband and myself), attend all school meetings and parenting conferences together. It has been a blessing to put our differences aside and truly bet there for the kids.
Motherhood inspires me to be a hero in my children’s eyes.
Motherhood has taught be to be accountable for my actions. Just knowing that I was responsible for my children’s lives caused me to let go of complete selfishness and place the needs of my family as a top tier priority.
Even still, I make time to keep myself healthy because I’ve learned: the best way to get your kids on the right track is to be an example. Sure, I have a litter of kids; that’s not an excuse to not be active as a family. They have fun, they get healthy, and the best part of it all? It is helping Isaiah come out of his autism shell more and more.
Being a mom has taught me how to be brave. Motherhood has made me grow: if I didn’t grow in maturity, I was forced to grow into responsibility. I’ve learned that I will never be perfect and sometimes I’ll mess up, but things will be okay if I keep moving forward.