Motherhood, like many very good things, is intense. Wonderful, sweet, challenging, and scary all at once. I remember when we brought Zip home from the hospital, frantically figuring out how to take care of this tiny, squalling baby. After so many years of trying, he was such a miracle to us.
Nothing was easy at first and, despite my addiction to parenting books, I had no practical baby care experience. We settled into a hectic routine completely determined by Zip’s inability to sleep more than 45 minutes. By age 2, he could sleep 2 hours. He ate well and grew very fast. I was enthralled by my adorable baby.
I loved counting his age in weeks and months, dressing him in sweet little clothes, reading baby equipment reviews, watching him look at things, and carrying him in a baby sling.
I looked forward to exploring the world with him – from tiny insects to great big cities. We would have so many adventures and I couldn’t wait to see him be curious and figure things out. I vowed that he would be free to learn in his own way, that I would protect his sense of wonder and love of learning.
But then, my questions began. I loved buying him stimulating and unique baby toys but he was not so interested in them. One fateful day, I sat at this computer to try and understand this, not at all sure what to call it. “He’s supposed to be pointing at things already?” I didn’t know that and I had no idea that was a red flag for autism. I knew nothing about autism.
I found a pediatric development checklist for doctors online. With a sinking heart, I realized that Zip would fail this assessment. At our next checkup, our doctor began asking me those same questions, and I knew our lives would, once again and in a different way, never be the same.
We’ve had many more adventures since then, both good and bad, and not the ones I imagined those few years ago as a brand-new mom. Zip is a sweet and loving child, but prefers to do the same things over and over again. He is overwhelmed in most new situations.
Like most autism families, we’ve been around the proverbial block, trying to understand ASD and our son. Now that we have been using RDI with Zip, we feel like we’ve graduated to the next level of our autism education. However Zip’s brain development was disrupted, we have the tools to bring him out of his protective self-constructed box. He can learn that there is a bright new world to explore out there and that he can learn to process it at his own pace.
Lately, we’ve been lucky to be a featured case study with Dr. Gutstein, helping us to improve our RDI guiding efforts with Zip, seeing him in a new light. From the start of watching our interactions, Dr. Gutstein focused on drawing out Zip’s curiosity and initiative. We’re working on increasing his ability to study and observe our actions, to grow by learning from watching others.
I had forgotten my earlier convictions of raising a curious, wondering child. An autism diagnosis will steal so much, including your hopes and dreams for your child. I feel energized in the way you can be when you’re looking up and ahead, anticipating what is coming next.
So, Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, but especially to my fellow moms in the trenches. I sometimes feel a little isolated since we’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of autism, but I know I am not alone and we are making our way on our pathway. Appreciate the little and big joys along the way, and know that you will never be the same person that you were before. But you will be a better person, because you are that child’s mother.