I’ve been thinking about it nonstop. Even sneaking little peeks at Cooper. Watching closer than usual. Wondering how we got here and marveling in how far we’ve come. And thinking how far we have to go. And most importantly melting at just how wonderful this kid is and secretly wondering if maybe his way of thinking isn’t all that off.
For example I am trying to teach Cooper to sign ‘thank you’. The sign is touching your hand to your chin and would be pretty simple for you and I. But, not for Cooper. We work on it probably 20 times a day. And he just can’t get the hand motion down. So, instead, he hugs me. I tell him to say ‘thank you’ and he gives me a big ol’ Cooper style hug with the biggest cheesy smile. Last night as he hugged me it hit me, he get’s it. This silly boy with a huge heart gets it and he is telling me thank you the only way he knows how. Now I know he can’t hug people forever but honestly, how great is that.
I’ve also been doing a lot of self reflection lately. I’m so different now.
Honestly, our whole family is different. Moms, Dads, Brothers, Cousins and Grandparents. Autism has changed each on of us.
We have had the autism label for 3 short months. That’s it. It feels like 10 years when in reality is has been years. I knew. I always knew something was different. From day one.
You couldn’t pay me to go to the pre-diagnosis phase again. Not for a million dollars. Probably not even for a billion. I was so lost. Heartbroken. Desperate. I hated myself and at times I hated Cooper. And I most definitely hated my husband. And I really, really hated my life. And then I hated myself for hating it all. All because my kiddo was different. Just saying it out loud makes me sound like an asshole. But it’s true. I can admit that.
I should say it went fast. Or that it flew by. Isn’t that what you are supposed to say? I turned around…blinked my eyes…and now he is 4. But, it didn’t go fast. It really, really didn’t. I spent so much time wishing (still do) that Cooper gets better. That the autism goes away. That one day we will wake up and it will be better. And even funnier, my version of ‘better’ has changed. I used to want autism gone. I never wanted to hear the word again. And now, I could care less if it is gone. I just want us to be happy.
And I want a glimpse of the future. Just a sneak peek. What will he be like at 5?
I’ve spent so many minutes, hours, even days praying that he gets better. I think about the number of tears I’ve cried. The hours of sleep I’ve missed. Whether it be over worry and stress or because he can’t sleep. I can’t even imagine if I was to add it all up.
I think a lot about the bullshit that people fed me. That he will talk. That delayed speech is fine. That everyone talks. That a lot of kids flap. That he couldn’t hear. I could go on and on. So, yes, I guess I am still a little angry.
And I think about the bribes I tried to make with God. Hundreds. Trust me parents, It doesn’t work. I’ve yet to have one of my bribes accepted.
And I think a lot about the guilt I have built up. Guilt for hating autism and furious that I missed so much. And guilt for wishing it would go faster so we could get to the good stuff. I want to get him talking and playing.
There will be special moments where Coops does something adorable and I’ll think “I don’t care if he doesn’t talk. He’s perfect right now.” But they don’t last. A meltdown over something will bring me back to reality.
But, no matter what time keeps going. He’s growing. Getting older every day. But still so delayed. Still no words. And inevitably, other kids are growing up around us and Cooper stays the same. Or improves at a snails pace I guess.
I am so unbelievably happy that my baby is turning four. I can say that with certainty. And in the same breath my heart is broken that we are here. Four. And no words. And autistic. How did that happen? I still have the ‘not fair’ moments. The ‘I did everything right’ moments. And the ‘why me’s?’ I doubt those will ever go away. And autism still scares the shit out of me. I also doubt that will ever go away.
But I’ve learned something. I can be happy and sad at the same time. Maybe that’s what four long years has brought me. The ability to allow myself to be happy and sad at the same time.
And I have met some amazingly strong women throughout this. Fellow bloggers and now friends. And the teachers and therapists that love Cooper like their own.
I know there are tragedies out there. Really horrible things happen to good people. And autism isn’t a tragedy by any means. I have a beautiful son to love.
Cooper is healthy. And happy. And loving. But….always with the buts. But I’ve missed so much.
I’ve learned one other thing. Part of it is about me. Moms and dads, understand that it’s partly about autism and mostly about your feelings. And trust me, the hardest part will be your acceptance.
So, on coopers birthday I will smile and love my baby. And also cry and wish it was different. And that’s ok. Because I’m human.
I didn’t choose autism. It picked me. So anger and sadness is ok. But I can say with absolute certainty, I will ALWAYS choose Cooper. Without a doubt.