Three Gifts I Didn't Realize Autism Would Give Me

A week ago, I was getting ready for a follow up visit with the Developmental Pediatrician and to be honest before last April I wasn’t really all too sure what a Developmental Pediatrician did or was but I was certain my family of seven didn’t need one. That was until I was ready to get real and acknowledge that my youngest daughter was in fact on the autism spectrum.

Seraphina was born without much notice on a blazing hot September evening. She flew into the world letting us know life would never be the same. With four children at home and no clue as to who this being was that we were brining into the world, I was utterly shocked the next day as I slid her sweet newborn body into a pink outfit that let us know “I’m the little sister”.

Our sweet Seraphina, which takes its name from the strongest of angels would truly begin to show us the strength we needed to lead her in life and the strength she had to show us the life that was planned for her. As an infant, Seraphina was perfect. Truly. There were a few cries and when there was reason. She was developing typically until one day I realized she had some quirks that raised a few flags and made me begin to wonder.

Fast forward six months and many trying doctors’ appointments and Seraphina was diagnosed as having autism. We drove home and as tears rolled down my cheeks I never imagined the things I would begin to learn to be gifts after hearing the words “autism diagnosis”.

I have recognized three major gifts since learning of her diagnosis.

First, the world has slowed and allowed me to become more compassionate and understanding of others.  What once seemed so important now seems so frivolous.  I am a Type A mom who had to have the house in complete order, my kids had to do their best and when in public we had to have a good showing.  Now, when I see a parent struggling with a child in a meltdown, I understand. When my child comes up to cuddle me, I stop and take the time. For so many years, I spent my life trying to be seen as perfect when in reality I never was. Now, I realize my life is perfect. It’s just a different perfect than I imagined.

Second, milestones are so much more important. I remember being so impressed with my seven month old when she learned to walk. Of course she was advanced. That continued. To be honest my kids didn’t have many issues with milestones and I never understood other parents when they lamented over milestones not met, until I had Seraphina. Seraphina walked on time. She talked on time but as she slipped into her own little autistic world nearing 18 months, when we got eye contact I beamed and the first time I heard “I love you”, I cried. The little milestones that were no big deal mean so much more when you have a child with special needs.

Third, I have gained a new family. I remember my first trip to an autism support group. I hated it. On the drive home, I begged a friend to return my special needs parents membership card but this card was now mine. Not for a month or a year but a lifetime. I no longer feel sorry for myself but grateful to surround myself individuals walking a journey similar to my own. Yesterday I reached out to a mom with an autistic child. I invited her for tea. This was totally out of my comfort zone but having her here, I felt good. It felt safe to talk and I knew she understood.

There are so many things that we face in life that cause us to be sorry. This diagnosis is not one of them. I had to mourn the childhood I expected for my daughter but releasing that only allowed me to open myself up to the gifts that come along with the diagnosis too.


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