Life was Hard
These words were majorly in my vocabulary several years ago. Before my son was diagnosed with autism, life was hard, but I didn’t know why. Everything was so much work. He wasn’t meeting milestones which concerned me. He cried and screamed, and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong and that was frustrating. I grew more and more anxious by the day: what is wrong with my baby? Why is this so hard? Nobody told me it was going to be this hard!
Now, let me back up. Yes, people told me that it would be hard:
“You better sleep now, because newborns don’t let you rest.”
“Make sure to feed your kids the right foods as babies or they’ll be picky eaters when they’re older.”
Well, nobody told me that I wouldn’t sleep for longer than a 45-minute stretch for 5 years. Nobody told me that my kid would literally eat only a handful of foods, and then he would be lactose intolerant and have a gluten sensitivity, so his very small diet would get even smaller. ..because these people were talking about typical babies…but mine wasn’t typical.
I tried to hide it for the longest time. I wanted to look like I was Super Mom. I wanted to fit in and be like every other mom that I knew.
I remember the first time that a situation was so overwhelming for me that I just had to walk away. A group of friends, who had kids about the same age as mine, were taking their kids to see the circus elephants eat lunch outside the mall. (The circus, remember when that was a thing?!) So I loaded up my kids, probably one and two at the time, and we went to watch the elephants eat lunch.
We had to wait for a while before the elephants even came out. I had a kid in a stroller and a kid in a baby carrier. Colin was getting antsy. I was getting anxious. When the elephants did finally arrive, we couldn’t really see so it was a little disappointing and definitely not “the greatest show.”
Afterwards, my group decided to take the kids into the mall for cookies. As I stood there in line, I had a fussy not-yet-diagnosed-little boy and his big brother. They both wanted to be held, one was crying. I felt like the whole world was looking at me, judging me. The whole time, I’m telling myself, “Hang in there. This is no big deal. It’s fine, just do it. Quit being such a baby yourself. People take their kids out all the time to do stuff like this.” The tension grew with more fidgeting, wiggling, fussing, and crying.
I looked at my friend and said, “I can’t do this, I gotta go.” And off I went to my car. On the way home, I cried. What was wrong with me?
See, I blamed myself. Everyone else could take their kids out and do fun things, why couldn’t I do that? Why was everything so much work? Why did I always sweat profusely, and why couldn’t I handle my kids solo like every other mom out there? They weren’t “bad kids,” so I must just be a terrible mom. Why would God give me these wonderful little creatures if I was so bad at being their mother? Was this why we had struggled to get pregnant, because I really wasn’t cut out for this Mom Thing?
Life was like that for years. I was the only one seeing Colin’s delays, so was I just crazy? We stopped trying to go anywhere, because it was just too hard. Our life was a constant shuffle of “one of us stays home with Colin” and “the other one takes Finley out places.” Things really didn’t get easier until Colin started ABA and was able to communicate with his AAC device.
Looking back now, I see it: his sensory processing disorder, the difficulties in social situations, and me, wanting everything to go perfectly and it just….never did. I also see that my friends’ kids weren’t fighting the same battles that mine was fighting, so it really was harder for us.
I write this to say:
if you’re here in life right now….it’s okay. It isn’t your fault. Sometimes, it’s just hard. It’s okay to admit that it’s hard. And if you’re feeling like no one else can see you right now, they just couldn’t understand - know this: I see you. I 100% get it, too.
You’re not a bad mom. You might feel like it, and you’re going to call me crazy, but you’re not.
You’re just figuring things out, and that takes time. You’re doing the best you can, and that’s all you can do.
I’m still a little guilty of this, but you have to stop comparing. Don’t compare your kid to someone else’s, and don’t compare yourself to other moms. Your journey is unique, and it’s going to look different from everyone else’s journey that you’re seeing right now.
After Colin got his diagnosis, things started to fall into place. Things made sense. We got him the right services. We got him the help he needed, and he’s made huge progress.
I think it’s important to say that I’ve changed too. I don’t see life as a competition. I’m not supposed to be like “that mom” or “that mom.” I’m Finley and Colin’s mom, and our lives look a little different…and that’s okay. We are just gonna keep doing us over here – and I hope that you keep doing you over there.