I remember the day that I found out I was pregnant. I was alone in my bathroom, having only taken a test on the slightest inkling, I was almost certain it would be negative. It wasn’t. It’s pretty difficult to describe the feeling as you see the lines on the test changing, and in turn you realise that your life will now also, never be the same.
I was beyond excited. And as I’m sure most expectant mothers do, I instinctively began to daydream. I imagined what my child would look like, how his or her voice would sound as they first stumbled over “Mama or Mummy’, the things we’d do together and the life we would create.
I had no idea of what was to come.
Charlie was born in November 2010, a strapping, healthy baby boy of 9lb 9oz. He was perfect and I poured all my love in to him from that very moment. I was more proud than I’d ever been at the part I had played in creating this wonderful little human.
And so our parenting journey began. Long, sleepless nights, constant breastfeeding, never really being sure that I was ever doing the right thing and always slightly concerned that I carried with me a slight aroma of baby sick. But I was happy. We all were, and we continued to be so until Charlie reached his fifteenth month. Then it was as if someone had flicked a switch. This noisy, curious, smiley little boy became silent, irritable and it seemed, unreachable. As a mother, I think you just have this innate sense, when you know something is wrong, despite others trying to reassure me. A very lengthy two and a half years later, after many battles (but that is another post entirely) Charlie was diagnosed with Autism, aged four.
Now maybe that in itself strikes you as being enough of a parenting challenge, and I agree; it most certainly is challenging. I think it seemed even more so in the beginning, partly because I had no real idea what to do, what I even could do, and what I actually considered the best outcome to be. I felt alone and afraid. I’m also quite certain that I went through a process of grieving, grieving for the life I had expected my child to live.
Autism brought with it many warnings from the medical professionals. A list of things my child would probably never accomplish. If I’m honest, at first it absolutely devastated me; then I became annoyed. These doctors didn’t know who Charlie was, who he had been, and I was determined to believe in him even if nobody else did.
Fast forward to us now. Charlie is seven years old. He is homeschooled using a child led therapy called The Son-Rise Program®. A therapy based entirely on acceptance, love and social development. It has been life changing in more ways than I can even describe. Charlie is happy, he is beautiful, he has started to talk and to interact with people around him. He has overcome many physical challenges such as, not wanting to wear clothes or shoes. Every day he learns something new or he gets a little bit braver, and it is literally like watching a miracle happening over and over.
But it’s tough. There is very little respite. Charlie is at home with me pretty much all day, every day. I myself have suffered with anxiety, depression and an eating disorder which I have had to try and manage,alongside looking after Charlie, working with him every day and tyring to run a business. But somehow we manage, because we have to. And really, with Charlie being my only child, this experience is all I have ever known.
I often wonder how things would have been without his autism diagnosis. But then I when I think about it, I realise that I’m changing all of the things I’m certain of. Autism has made Charlie who he is. And I love his inquisitive, slightly cheeky personality. I love his constant streams of giggles, his slightly mis-pronounced words, the way he moves my fringe from my forehead to give me gentle kisses. If this parenting challenge has taught me anything, it’s that I love him completely and utterly for who he is. I don’t want to change him but I do want to help make life as easy as possible for him and to give him the tools he will need to lead an independent life happily. And I suppose at the end of the day that is all any parent wants for their child; for them to lead a happy life. Autism has made the end goal no different, it’s just our journey that is probably ever so slightly more interesting.
Author – Beth Anne Fletcher
Do you have a parenting struggle or challenge you’d like to write about? If you’re interested in contributing to the My Mountain series please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.