By Lisa Ackerman
There are a lot of dreams for two grown people who come together, in love, with dreams to be lucky enough to create a family. In the early stages, you giggle “what will their eye color be?” while you silently pray they turn out identical to the ones you stare at. You also wonder about other frivolous things.
You plan. When’s the time we should get pregnant? What do we need to do to prepare? Car seats, cribs and other important tidbits have changed since the last time we procreated for purpose. So we read, consulted with friends, and planned.
Luckily the stars aligned and prayers were answered because we had just heard the good news about you. We were expecting and there was a baby in my belly.
Every test was “unremarkable” from ultrasounds, to lab tests, and exams. You were “by the book”, but a miracle to me. More like “remarkable” because you were so loved and not even HERE yet!
Then you were born. Everything expected to be “by the book”: A perfect birth and first photo.
We followed all the rules. You hit all the milestones. You were still a miracle to me, a really cute miracle making our family perfectly silly and wonderfully hectic.
Then something changed. It was not subtle. It was dramatic. At 15 months – I remember the date and time. The following months’ chaos consumed our days. Pain followed. Being terrified and confused I didn’t know what to call “it.” Things in our life were dramatically different.
After months of no sleep for both of us, new and strange medical maladies, and a line of specialists, one of them uttered: “Autism”. Then, the official diagnosis came. I remember everything about that day, but can’t even remember what I had for breakfast this morning.
That didn’t change how I saw you. I worshipped the ground you graced. What changed was your schedule, and that was okay – anything to help you was the goal. Keeping busy, therapy, doctor appointments, and talking helped me deal with and find answers for you. But still, the process was unsettling. What happened?
Nothing prepares you for autism. Nothing prepared me for the fight that built up from the bottom of my toes fighting through to the top of my head, but mostly through my heart to fight for YOU.
It’s now 12 years later and I cry for the families receiving the same news: Autism. 1 in 91 families in the US get the same news. And now I hear that number is about to change. Not for the better.
April is Autism Awareness Month. I’m way too aware as TACA supports almost 30,000 families like mine. I know those families feel the same. They are all too aware too.
You’ve fought a great fight. You’ve slayed many dragons. You are still a miracle to me. You are so smart, kind, funny and you complete our family. You still face challenges, but always with a smile and great attitude. I know I am your mom but I feel like you have taught me more.
Today, autism doesn’t own much of you. You own yourself and I am deeply proud of you. You are a miracle. But most of all, I love you and will be right there helping you take more steps while you climb those mountains. Your future is yet to unfold, and instead of being scared, I am inspired.