Sometimes I get lost in the moments and forget that Hailey has autism. It is something that I never thought would happen. When she was diagnosed, as strong as I seemed to be about it I was sad and scared for the future. I had to grieve the child I thought I was going to have and adapt life to the situation we were in. I grieved for the friends she wouldn’t have, the vacations we wouldn’t go on, the songs we wouldn’t sing together and the games we wouldn’t play. I felt like this heavy stone of autism would forever sit on my shoulders and on my heart. A cloud of hard situations and missed opportunities would hang over my head for a lifetime. I thought I would always be aware of the differences.
We are 5 years after the diagnosis and I am so happy to say I was wrong. SO WRONG! Today I realize I did not have to grieve all of those things, I just had to adapt the expectations. Hailey has been to Disneyland, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and many of the other places I ventured as a child. We do these things a little differently, we get a special pass to not wait in line (BONUS) and we have to be a little more careful with where we pick to eat, and take more breaks but other than that, we have a blast every time!
Recently her and I took a camping trip together, just the two of us. She was in awe of staying in an air-stream (an adjustment I would have assumed years ago would be hard). We laughed and played and went to the beach and made s’mores. We did everything I would have done with her if she were typically developing. We connected and bonded and made lifetime memories. Nothing about the autism got in the way of it being a joyous experience. When it was just the two of us, I often forget she even had autism, it seemed all she had was fun!
A few weeks prior to the camping trip we attended a classmates Birthday party. Yes, the little girl also has autism and they did not interact much at the party but she was invited and was sooooo excited. I cried when we got the invitation. Another life experience my mind had robbed her of at an earlier stage in the diagnosis. It was amazing to watch her sing Happy Birthday to the little girl with the other kids, to watch her eat cake and laugh when her peers did.
Speaking of singing. Hailey and I sing Happy Birthday probably more times in a day than most people do in a year. She loves to sing, and dance. Our Whitney Houston dance party in the living room is always a hit. We even sing songs she has made up. Her creativity is truly one of a kind.
This past weekend we were at the pool and she was playing in the water with her dolls and splashing and kicking, just like I would of at her age. Nothing seemed weird, different, overwhelming. I wasn’t at the pool with my autistic daughter, I was just at the pool with my daughter. What a relief!
It is so refreshing to have this new view, five years out. To see that things work out and that adaptations are just a part of life but that doesn’t make the life any less memorable or enjoyable. The moments when I forget about the autism are coming more and more frequently. That is not to say that some situations aren’t still hard. . . . (sooo hard) but they are becoming less and less. My worries fade a little more each day as my heart and our bond grows.
For all those mamas new in the diagnosis stage, I know what I am saying it hard to believe. You can’t see it now but your life will not be consumed by Autism forever. Everyone important in your life will learn to adapt with you and one day you will be in a moment with your child and it will just be that. . . . your child, having fun, just the way they are supposed to be.