The day I found out I was pregnant, I stood in my bathroom staring at the pregnancy test for what felt like hours. I was happy yet terrified. Excited but nervous. Wow, I was carrying life inside of me. A person is in my belly and I’m going to be a mom. It took me about two weeks to muster up the nerve to tell my husband. Crazy, I know. I was in shock and needed a little bit of time to process the idea that I was going to be a mother. My husband was elated when I shared the news, not so happy I waited to tell him.
As a mother-to-be, my mentality was “I don’t care whether I’m having a boy or a girl, just as long as he or she is healthy.” I took every precaution to eat right and avoid anything that could be potentially harmful to my unborn child. I visited my OBGYN every few weeks to ensure that my baby was healthy and thriving in my belly. I would breathe a sigh of relief when I would get the green-light that all was A-OK.
I was in labour for over 24 hours but when it came time to push, I just hoped and prayed it would be fast and easy. “It’s a boy!” shouted the nurse, and like that, my life was forever changed. I was a mother.
He was perfect. Ten little fingers, ten little toes. I was instantly in love with my new, precious gift. Along with the joy, happiness and love I felt, I had his life planned out in my head.
He will be a happy boy. He will have friends, and lots of them. He will go to hockey games with his dad. He will dress up for Halloween and go trick-or-treating with his friends. He will go to school and be great at math (I’m terrible at it). He will play sports. He will do everything boys do. I had it all mapped out in my head.
But life doesn’t always go as planned. Seven days after his second birthday, we were sitting in a developmental paediatrician’s office over concerns about our sons behaviours and delays. The words “your son is on the autism spectrum” came out of the doctors mouth and my hopes and dreams for my boy suddenly vanished.
As the days and weeks passed, I felt as though I was in mourning. Mourning the loss of the child I dreamt I would have. Letting go of all of those dreams was very difficult. I yearned for all of those experiences I may not ever have as a mother.
As time goes by, I’m able to let go. The more I let go of the expectations, I’m able to see Max for who he is as a person. It turns out my son is a funny, sweet and sensitive boy. I knew all of this of course, but I couldn’t see past his autism. I almost lost sight of the fact that he’s a person, not a project. Once I was able to finally move past trying to ‘fix’ him, I was able to open my eyes and see the bigger picture.
Life doesn’t always go as planned for most of us. If it does, buy yourself a lottery ticket. Letting go gives us the freedom to see that our reality may not be so bad after all. I have to remind myself of this from time-to-time. It’s important we don’t overlook all of the beauty and good that can come along with the unpredictable.
I won’t lie, I have difficult moments when I still focus on the loss of the child I had in my head. But I remind myself how awful it would feel if someone constantly expected me to be someone I’m not. My son is who he is and my love for him grows stronger each and every day.
Being a mother has changed me. Being a mother to a child with autism has forever changed me — for the better. I am more compassionate and understanding towards others. I’m no longer quick to judge, because although things may appear wonderful on the exterior, one never knows what someone is dealing with behind closed doors.
My son has taught me that I need to be strong. Not just for him, but for myself.