This month we have extended our series on Autism. This post is for anyone who has ever suffered mom guilt (Tweet this). If you feel as if you missed it, it was staring you right in the face and you didn’t see it. I know. I’ve been there. Today I (Kathleen) want to make a huge confession about my eldest daughter (Audrey), she is most probably on the Autism spectrum and I totally missed it. It wasn’t until several years ago when she and I were researching Asperger’s Syndrome that I started seeing Audrey in the list of the symptoms. Tons of memories flooded in with an “aha” moment for each one.
For those of you have read my book Positive Adoption A Memoir, you may have seen some of the signs in my description of Audrey’s early years. I see them now. I didn’t then.
Some clues in my own words (book excerpts)
“I hiked up the carpeted stairs of the townhouse with baby Audrey slung over my shoulder. She slept until I stopped moving up and down like a human escalator. Then the crying began. Relentless, ear-piercing, you-are-not-going-to-sleep-all-night-mama-crying.
“She doesn’t like me!” I worried to Jerry. “My own baby doesn’t like me!”
Jerry’s job kept him away eighty hours a week. Some nights he stayed in a hotel close to work to grab a few hours of sleep before he began another shift. We owned one vehicle so I was alone with Audrey ninety percent of the time. My dreams of motherhood had come crashing down over my head in a deep depressing darkness.
The few times Audrey smiled, I snapped a photo.
“I think you brought the wrong baby home from the hospital,” my brother-in-law teased.”
The not smiling, not engaging, not satisfied until moving should have been signs. I didn’t see it. I had no clue. Audrey was my first child and I didn’t have some one else to measure her by.
“Audrey was a square peg in a round-pegged world. She cried when other babies smiled. She slept little. I received loads of free parenting advice from friends and family who had compliant text-book babies. None of it worked for Audrey, so I chucked it.
At five and a half months, she could crawl up stairs. At one year old, Audrey could do a puzzle, take the laces out of her shoes and re-lace them, flip out of her crib and land on her feet. At four years old she could read, at six she won a story-writing contest but had one of her frequent bouts of pneumonia and couldn’t attend her own celebration.
I was frequently scolded by adult family members who wanted me to put Audrey in her place. The truth is, Audrey was smarter than them (fact-wise) and she didn’t have the filter to tell her to keep her mouth shut about it. “
Kids on the spectrum are like square pegs in a round pegged world. Something is different about them. Not bad, just different. As I said the other day, they are honest. They don’t read social cues well. Audrey didn’t know it wasn’t socially acceptable to correct her aunts and uncles when they had facts wrong. Audrey has an amazing ability to read or hear something once and remember it. Most of us don’t have that ability and we may remember bits and pieces of something and she has always been a stickler for exactness. I didn’t know this was a sign. I was so busy treating her physical symptoms that I didn’t hone in on the tells. To me, this was just Audrey.
Thankfully, Audrey is high functioning. She managed her childhood pretty well. She didn’t like hugs or anyone touching her face. She had obsessions, it is who she is. She seemed to live on a different plane or in a different universe. I chalked it up to her being an eccentric genius. She and a friend spent hours creating a Tolkien inspired world complete with a creation story and language.
The good news is that is was no surprise to God. He didn’t miss anything and where I messed up, He liberally poured out His grace and covered me and my child. For those of you who are experiencing a season of guilt over what you did or didn’t do, I challenge you to take some time to look back and see the hand of God. Trace your story line to those moments when you feel as if you failed and God showed up to pick up the pieces. Maybe he provided a friend who supported you. Maybe he sent someone to pray with you or take you out for a cup of coffee. It may be that you have spent years feeling guilty and you haven’t taken the time to look for the grace God covered you and your child with. Take a moment now and ask Him to show you the infusion of grace He poured out in your past. It’s only in forgiving ourselves, putting the guilt to the side that we can move forward into healing (Tweet this).
If you suspect that your child is on the spectrum or that he doesn’t fit in, he hones in on one thing, he obsesses, highly intelligent but doesn’t read social cues, has a large vocabulary at an early age or none at all, doesn’t like to play with toys or only plays with one kind of toy, doesn’t need other kids to play with, has sleep issues and won’t let an issue go, maybe check into some more research or talk to someone. This is not an official list or medically approved list. It’s my list. Sometimes the lists on medical sites are hard to interpret, hopefully mine helps.
I did miss it, but God caught it. I see His grace prints in my life and hers. When I question why, I see Audrey comforting and parenting with understanding. I watch her encourage other Moms and I know, God has it under control. He didn’t miss a thing.