One year ago, our daughter Ella turned two, was still not speaking, and often seemed lost in her own world. With weary hearts, we had her tested for developmental delays, and were given the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. At the time, I was a whirlwind of emotions – this truly felt like both a blessing and a curse. Partly, relief in knowing there was a reason she was behind, so that we could move forward to help her catch up. But mostly, I felt fear of the unknown, uncertainty of the future for my sweet girl, and some sadness at knowing life would likely be much different than I expected.
Life has completely changed. My husband and I grew closer in ways we’d never expected to, bonded by hope, love, uncertainty, and a desire to give our daughter the best life we could. Suddenly we were seeing a teacher, a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, and a holistic doctor. We changed her diet and saw more eye contact, more interest in sharing and in communicating. We added supplements and detoxified our home and her asthma disappeared, her interest in toys started to come through, she noticed we had pets (!!!), and she rarely ever gets sick anymore. She is constantly improving, and so are we.
Our incredible little girl, our shining light, our biggest source of joy and love has taught us so much. Patience, hope, trust that everything will be okay. Pure pride and joy from the littlest things – a new word spoken, a choice made, a request asked. We beam with pride when she does things others would probably disapprove of – throwing a fit because she can’t have what she wants (she has desires!), not giving a friend a hug (she has opinions!), throwing her toys all over the house (she thinks she’s hilarious!) – it’s a whole shift of perspective in our world.
My spirit changed dramatically, somewhere deep inside. I have become more accepting – more loving, really, of every type of person. Judgement is discouraged around here. I used to roll my eyes at the crunchy moms who shopped at Whole Foods and bought all organic everything. Little did I know, that phrase “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” is not just a cliché quote. It’s incredibly true, and I take it to heart every day. You’d never be able to tell Ella was autistic by looking at her, and sometimes that confuses people when she doesn’t respond to their hellos. But please don’t judge children who may come across as rude or bratty – they might be fighting a hard battle and really just need tons of love and support.
To the mamas of sweet babies who are given a diagnosis of Autism or other delays: don’t be afraid. This will challenge you in ways you’d never expect, but you will grow tenfold in love, patience, hope, and acceptance, and your baby will know that love always. Everything will be okay!