Where there is no struggle, there is no strength. Oprah Winfrey
From the time I knew I was pregnant, I was both joyous and afraid. I was so excited to have this precious little life inside me. Carrying my baby boy was the hardest and best thing I have ever done. Each day I would read the updates on his growth. Every day I would wait for the moment that he would kick, hiccup or communicate with me that he was there.
As the days got closer to full term, I became very ill. In antepartum three times, I learned the third was “the charm”. The doctor came in after blood work was run and told me, “We have to take the baby now, or you are both going to die.” And thus, afraid as I was, my child made it into the world with a bang and kept me along for the ride.
After my son was born, he started to lose weight. He was not “latching”. I was still seriously ill. My child was put on some “weight gainer” formula even though he was born at 7 pounds and 10 ounces, 20 days before his due date. Again, I was afraid. He not only gained it back in a week, he stayed in the 99th percentile for his age and growth from that time forward. And I recovered.
My son had trouble breathing. At 2.5 years old, he had pneumonia and was diagnosed with asthma. I was terrified. He was tested, medicated, treated. On asthma medication, for the first time in his little life, he started sleeping through the night. The fear subsided. He grew stronger again.
When he was 3.5 years old, his pediatrician finally said the word “autism” to me and made it hit home. The blow was devastating. I was afraid of so many things. I struggled to get him tutors, doctors, teachers and therapists. He worked so hard. More than any child should have to work. And he has gained knowledge and understanding. He’s grown stronger in so many ways.
Our neurologist wanted to check for seizures by use of an EEG. I was afraid. We did it. Seizures were found. I was afraid. Medication could cause a reaction. His liver could be harmed. He could react badly. He could be allergic. We made decisions and he awoke to new things and a stronger mind.
But he still has autism. And I still have fear. And both he and I must face fear every day, in different ways and conquer it, again and again.
It is not easy to carry a label. Having the label alone sets one apart. It makes you different. Differences are noticed. They stand out. And when differences are not understood, they are ridiculed. People are hurt.
To carry a difference is to carry a badge that can subject you to emotional wounds and pain that can cut as deep as any knife. As a mother, my job is to protect my son from all those potential wounds. And my fear is that I cannot always do that.
To conquer that fear, I have to shine the badge on the differences autism brings. I am a pusher. I push the understanding of autism on others. If it works? Then, when autism is seen in my son, it will not cause him to stand out. Instead of seeing him for a person with a disability, people will see who my son is. He can stand out for what he excels at, whether it be playing a video game, reading, spelling, painting a picture, catching a ball, playing an instrument or solving string theory in physics and winning the Nobel Prize.
Always in adversity is fear. And coming out of adversity is knowledge and strength. No matter what the hurdle is that must be faced, we will always be afraid. We will always work through that fear to the other side, because we must. And when we do, we are smarter, we are stronger and we have conquered what we did not know we had the courage to conquer. And we learn how amazing we really are.
I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection. Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death. Leonardo da Vinci