A friend and I were talking about acceptance, and she said it seemed like I easily accepted R’s autism. I don’t know about easy, but I do think it was easier for me than for my friend. I suspect this is mostly because I never really fantasized about being a mother, at least not as an adult. E. and I were married for nine years and had pretty much ruled out children when I got pregnant.
It seemed like I spent most of my pregnancy and even R’s first year just trying to figure parenthood out. After she turned one, it was becoming clear that she wasn’t like her peers. Now that I’ve spent more time with newborns, I realize also that she was not a typical newborn.
Of course I felt devastated when we did get the autism diagnosis. I remember feeling like we were in one of those black and white cartoons with a rain cloud permanently over heads, while the rest of the world was living in a neon colored Normal Rockwell painting. I remember how hard it was, telling people about it, hearing their condolences (boy that bugs me). I wish I had started blogging then, so I could look back and determine the point when I could say she has autism without feeling a cold knife in my heart.
Like most of us on this journey, I remember reading the essay Welcome to Holland. I knew it should make me feel better, but all I could think of was the closest I’m going to get to a European vacation is a trip to Ikea. The essay that really helped me was Don’t Mourn for Us by Jim Sinclair. I’ve read other parents who found this essay harsh, but for me it was just what I needed to read. He’s correct that grief does nothing to help my child. She’s not sad or upset about who she is, I would not want to be the one who teaches her otherwise.
I do accept my daughter’s autism. I don’t love it or hate it, I just understand that it is part of who she is. It seems like I have known something was wrong for more of her life than I thought all was right, so I have a harder time even thinking about what could have been. It is as if it has always been this way. And just because I accept autism, doesn’t mean I’m worry or emotion free.