Autism, hope and courage.
Written by Cicely Carter
I thought self discovery was something that I would obtain and then I’d just have it. It doesn’t quite work out that way. What I’ve found is that self-discovery is like the rest of life, it is a journey. It is the sum of our experiences and the things we learn from it. It is facing adversity and learning that we are stronger than previously believed. Motherhood has been an accumulation of hardships and milestones, blessings and struggles and most importantly growth and maturity on my part. I used to think I had everything figured out until I became single mom and encountered obstacles along the way.
My road to single motherhood was much like other young women experience. I believed I was in love. I was in a committed relationship only to discover that he was nothing like the man I thought he was. My son Liam was the result of that tumultuous two and a half year portion of my life. I can’t lie about my pregnancy and say that I was elated of the news of being a mother. I felt an incredible mix of emotions: I was scared, ashamed, exhausted, hopeful, depressed and stressed out. All signs pointed to not keeping my baby, but something inside me did not feel right about that decision. He was apart of me and I was apart of him and even before I met Liam, I couldn’t destroy that bond. For me, for then and more than ever with each passing year I realize having him was the right decision.
Fast forward to Liam at age two. I was embroiled in a senseless custody battle with his biological father. It was one of the most stressful periods of my life. I grew as a woman and a person. I realized fully that you can never make someone do the things that they should do. The only person’s actions you can control is your own. I overcame that hurdle and triumphed. I was able to get the best possible outcome for my son. Victory. It cemented my status as a full time single mom.
I knew around age two that Liam had some quirks. I just likened that to being a part of his personality. I never would have guessed that we would end up with an Autism diagnosis. In the midst of multiple meltdowns, a speech delay diagnosis, several questionnaires and observations later, the Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis was confirmed. I grieved. I mourned. What I believed to be a failure on my part, what I thought would be a loss of the picture perfect childhood I had planned for him. I saw a future of difficulties, hardship and of my son always being an outsider. I saw all the things I did not want for him.
Through the grief I researched Autism, trying to find support locally and researching every avenue to get him the help he needed and will continue to need. It started with preschool. I met with his teachers, school psychologist and teacher’s aides to come up with his education plan for each semester and discuss yearly goals. Now that he’s in Kindergarten we have been able to stay ahead of the curve because we know his quirks, things that make him tick and most importantly how to keep him happy and thriving in a constantly changing environment.
Being a single mom to an Autistic child has pushed the limits of my patience, my strength and my ability to overcome. Liam has made me selfless. He has taught me to see things from a new perspective and to navigate my life in a different way. While I was lamenting and grieving over a diagnosis that would change both our lives and wallowing in pity about how his father was absent and thus free from dealing with this struggle, my life as I know it now was being made.
I thought I was a strong woman, but single motherhood followed by finding out my son had special needs has cemented that fact. Some days it’s like parenting on steroids and other days it’s “normal”, the same struggles every parent has. I’m stronger for Liam and I’m stronger for myself. I believed that the ultimate show of strength was in birthing a child, but now I know it’s in raising that child. Every once in a while now I still have bad days, especially when Liam has struggles or I just simply get emotional about life in general. Despite all this, I know Liam was meant for me.
In discovering myself, I have had some amazing moments, truly life changing events and some tremendous downfalls as well. Anyone who really knows me, knows that I’m always up for a challenge. Living life in the shadows has never been my thing. It’s my own version of poetic justice that I became a single mom and even more so that I’m also now an Autism mom. I don’t believe in taking the easy way. The character that’s been built since my childhood is a result of experiencing hardships. Henry Kissinger said “a diamond is a chunk of coal made good under pressure”. I liken that to my story and all of our stories. We start out as crude pieces of what we are really supposed to be. When life throws some curve balls our way we are cut down, shaped and molded. Little by little becoming the diamonds we were always meant to be. So shine baby, shine!