“Your son has Autism. I’m sorry,” she said.
Our pediatric psychologist’s words hung in the air, somewhere between me and my husband, as we struggled to really hear what she had said. I remember not being able to make out her face, although her kind eyes have stayed with me. She said the word “Autism” so freely, with a hint of callous. This sentence was a regular part of her job. “Your son has Autism. I’m sorry.” Apparently, shattering parents’ dreams was a constant in her office.
We drove home from Rady’s Children’s Hospital in silence. Dark clouds covered the San Diego sky. I felt the rain was fitting; the heavens were crying, weeping for our boy. My 25-year-old heart quietly broke into 1,000 seemingly irreparable pieces.
Aden slept peacefully, beautifully, in his car seat. He was unaware of my suffering, of my anger and he didn’t see my tears. One moment, I was sad, the next moment I was furious, confused, indifferent, happy that we had an answer but afraid of the future. Who was this girl? Who had I become in a matter of moments? I wasn’t used to the instantaneous flux of emotions that flooded me, and my poor husband certainly wasn’t used to them either. With whatever strength I had left, I decided to fight. I would fight for my son; Autism would not swallow our family whole. I knew it would be one of the biggest battles of my life.
Over the next few months, there were a flurry of appointments, meetings, services, therapies, educational meetings, goal setting, diet changing, preschool. My emotions were unpredictable. I wondered if there were other 25-year-olds, who were aching over their children the way I was. I wondered if those same 25-year-olds felt as angry as I did, as desperate as I did, and as determined as I did.
I also wondered, why, why in the world no one prepared me for this?
Why didn’t someone sit me down, and tell me that eventually, reality would hit me right upside my head, and that I would fall apart?
I thought that school was difficult. I knew that marriage was difficult, but this? This was ridiculous. I became fearful of play dates, of his interactions with other children. I was full of anxiety and ready to pounce on any poor person that looked at him the wrong way while we were in Target.
In my ignorant mind, at 25, I was supposed to be achieving goals, smiling every day and making the world a more beautiful place. Instead, I was dealing with tantrums, speech therapy, and more nutritional supplements than I’d ever seen. Looking back, I know that Aden’s diagnosis was a turning point for me. Through this ordeal, I learned to identify my feelings; I specifically and quickly learned the best way to deal with them. I suppose this is when I truly grew up. At some point we settled into this life. Slowly, cautiously, I allowed myself to feel hopeful, to feel happy again, to feel at peace with what we were going through.
Eventually, I had done every thing that I could possibly do for our little boy, and I had to give the rest to God.
Today, Aden is a 5 and a half-year-old little boy, with a beautiful spirit and a zest for life. He loves to read, swim, go to Disneyland and play the violin. He has age-appropriate conversations with us. He plays with his friends, and is in a normal class room at school.
He is, quite frankly, the most remarkable child I have ever met, and I’m grateful that this blond haired, little boy helped me realize who I am.