I'm late again! Oops. I'll get better at this I swear :)
So one of my earliest sources of sadness is a bit odd, but maybe other moms out there have felt this too. After the first 3ish days of M's diagnosis, I noticed I had hardly looked at her. In fact, it seemed I was subconsciously avoiding her (not physically, or neglecting her needs... just going through the motions with her instead of really looking at her). I felt terrible about this once I realized it and immediately attempted to correct the problem.
And then I figured out why I'd been avoiding her: she looks just like me.
Her little ankles, skinny little legs (believe it or not, mine used to be too), her shoulders, her hands, her nose, her profile... I look at her and I see myself.
After her diagnosis may have been the first time I really saw her and understood her. First I had feelings of guilt, that if I'd known her diagnosis were autism, I would have handled so many things differently. I would have parented her more effectively for the last 3.5 years.
I realized she looked just like me, and for the last 3 years I was so frustrated that she didn't act like me or work like me. And I felt so guilty about that.
But the worst part about looking at her was seeing so much of myself in her, and knowing that somehow I wasn't able to give her a body that worked like everyone else's. It hurt to look at her! It hurts to know that I got a brain that functions correctly and she didn't. I wish so badly that we could trade places. I wish I could have done something differently. I wish there was a way to tell her just how much I would do if it meant I could help her. And I wish I could tell her I'm so, so sorry for not doing better.
Now some time has passed and don't worry, I am aware that none of this is my fault. And I have to remind myself of everything we have done to be proactive. We have sacrificed a lot. We faced foreclosure on our home so we could move her to the right school district (but now we will be able to short sell, hooray!), We have doubled our grocery bill to find gluten and dairy free alternatives, we are saying goodbye to our dogs so we can afford our new grocery bill and a bunch of classes we are going to take so we can be better parents, and some extra therapy for M. We have done countless things to help her and we will do countless more. And we are great parents--God picked us out especially for her.
And thankfully, now when I look at sweet M and I see myself, I have a sense of pride instead of sorrow or pity. She will have obstacles, but she will never, ever have to face those things alone. And I am receiving support from people who empower me as a parent and empower M as a child with autism. That feels amazing. We are not helpless, and M is the strongest little cookie I know. The more I learn about autism and the difficulties it causes for kids, the more I see M fighting those difficulties and winning. Is it possible for a 3 year old to be so strong already? I am so proud of that girl. She blows me away.
She looks like me, but she will never think like me. And that's okay. She is more beautiful than I could ever hope to be, smarter than I will ever know and more strong than I could have fathomed! She is absolutely perfect.