If you haven’t read Part 4 yet, you can read here!
A New World
I have been working with this piece for at least a month now. Trying to find the right words, the right advice and something that any reader can take away from our story. As I noodled with these ideas I started to realize everyone’s journey is different. Everyone’s belief system on his or her life journey is different as well. Everybody’s perspective is unique. When I created the Delicate Belly blog, I wanted to be able to open people’s minds to the idea that food can heal. Share with them how this approach had worked so well for us. I wanted to give guidance and hope to mother’s like myself and tell them we have been gifted these incredibly beautiful and sensitive children. Sadly, the world may not see it that way, but our children are perfect. They are perfect for them, they are perfect for us, and they are perfect for the world. In the Autism world, what I perceived as a challenge completely transformed me. It has made me whole again. Yes, you read that right: Autism has made me whole again. It has transformed and healed me.
I could give people step-by-step strategies on what we did (and continue to do) to overcome our diagnosis. I could list every practitioner we have seen, every treatment and modality we have tried, and every diet we embarked on. I could tell you how many times we started over or how I knew it was time to try something different. I have it memorized! When we received our diagnosis I truly believed recovery was possible. My biggest wish was to find somebody that had recovered their child and get them to tell me how they did it. I was in this endless search for answers. I was desperate to fix my child. For the longest time I chose to believe it was my fault. I second-guessed myself so many times on the decisions I had made; fearing that my child was going to be doomed and it would be my fault. Until one day it dawned on me: This experience I was having had very little to do with Autism or even my son. This journey wasn’t about my son. He was happy the way he was. I was the one that wanted more for him. This journey was about me.
The first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. Well, I could see my son had a problem, so I poured all my time, money and energy into him. Because this is what a loving mother does, or so I thought. I would find myself miserable, crying myself to sleep. Racking my brain to solve this puzzle, totally oblivious of my role as it related to myself, as if I didn’t matter. I consistently pushed my feelings and needs aside until I was numb. I was reacting to life and fighting situations as they came like a soldier in a battlefield. I was constantly sick with sinus infections and a cough that would last for weeks. My body was crying out to me, desperately asking me to pay attention. But the devastation of Autism was the only thing I could see.
I travelled to Massachusetts to spend 5 days away from my children at the Autism Treatment Center of America. I was really sick at the time but I went anyway. I was at the end of my rope and didn’t know what else to do to help my son with his angry outbursts. He was 3 at the time and non-verbal. We would come home from his crazy busy schedule of therapies and interventions completely charged. He was possibly busier than I was, working extremely hard on things we all assumed he needed at the time. The van would pull into the garage and that eerie feeling would start creeping up on me. I knew my son was about to explode. We would walk in the house, he would hit his little brother that was at the door waiting for him. He would poop in his diaper, rip it out of his pants and hurl it across the room. It was a poop fest. We would try to hold him down and clean him up, quickly put a new diaper on so he would not continue to pee or poop on the carpet. He was little, but it was like he turned into the Incredible Hulk. He would hit everything and everyone in sight, as well as cry incessantly and bite. It took two adults to hold him down. All I could think was that when this child grew up we would not be able to hold him down anymore. This aggression had to stop. At the Autism Treatment Center of America I realized there was a very simple reason for his behavior. My son had almost no control over any aspect of his life and he had no other way to communicate that to me. Pooping and peeing was pretty much the only thing he had control over at that point. He was teaching me; life had to slow down and I had to look in the mirror. He was acting like I maniac, but so was I in my attempt to get him to do what I wanted. I was just as charged as he was, and that combination was explosive!
My child is my teacher. That was one of the lessons I learned in those 5 days. I was still skeptical and had to put that lesson to the test. The van pulled into the garage and I chose to be the calm in the middle of the storm. I took some deep breathes realizing that if pee and poop were going to go everywhere I would have to clean it up regardless, weather I was angry or not. At that moment I chose to let it go. Letting go was all it took and I never saw that type of aggression again. Since then I have chosen to trust my child, as he has taught me to look in the mirror in every situation. He taught me to look inside, exploring how I felt and what I believed about it. By exploring my belief systems I began to heal my own wounds. But the greatest lesson I learned was to just be present, in the moment. I wanted to celebrate my child, not miss any opportunities to connect with him and form a beautiful and trusting relationship. In the beginning, his “green-lights”(that is what we call the opportunities he gave us to connect by looking at us, touching us or showing interest in what we were doing) were very quick and fleeting. I had to be extremely present to pick up on those signals and give him a response. I wanted him to know that I was paying attention and that his efforts were worth it. With that understanding I discovered how important it was for me to be in the moment. Later I learned that being in the moment is the easiest way to connect to God and the divinity within me. That has been the most wonderful gift my son has given me because he was always present, in his own way, while I was merely attached to the past or the future. I was missing out on the joy of life.
Earlier I mentioned how children with Autism are perfect for the world, even if most of us don’t agree with that view. This is how I got to that conclusion: In the beginning of our journey, one of the first things I read was about the relationship between Autistic symptoms and toxicity overload in the body. There is actually an extensive body of research that supports that theory. I believe that if we continue to treat our planet the way that we have, we may destroy ourselves in the process. Children with Autism are highly sensitive to toxins that are contained in foods, such as additives and pesticides, chemicals found in household or gardening products, or even chemicals added to our water supply (just to mention a few examples). My child has taught me through his sensitivities to pay close attention and read every product label. We have completely removed household chemicals from our home, including the most common personal hygiene products and pharmaceutical drugs. We have also inspired our extended family to do the same. We now choose to use products that are gentle to the body and the environment. We also prefer to support farmers that grow their crops and raise their animals organically, we do our best to avoid genetically modified foods, and opt for natural remedies and personal hygiene products. We also support health care practitioners who have a holistic view on health and healing. By adopting this new lifestyle I not only saw tremendous progress for my son, but also found healing for me. These days I am rarely sick, have more energy and a love for life once again. By learning to care for my sensitive children I have learned to also care for our planet and myself.
Everything I thought I was doing for my child with Autism I was actually doing for me. That realization empowered me and I no longer felt like a victim. I learned that I have the power to turn an unpleasant experience into a blissful one by simply changing my beliefs about it. I can choose to be the calm in the middle of the storm. At this time I would like to invite you to explore your feelings and beliefs about Autism. I welcome you to embrace the idea that loving is your experience while being loved is somebody else’s experience. Autism has taught me to nurture myself. It has helped me understand that I am doing the best that I can. My little guy is also doing the best that he can, and so is everybody else. Autism has taught me to trust my instincts. It showed me I was stronger than I ever thought I could be. During this journey I have also learned how to live in a more harmonious way with our planet. For all those reasons I have embraced Autism in my life experience. I used to hate Autism and what I believed it had done to my child. After some self-exploration I was able to find the gift in what once I believed was solely a devastating diagnosis. Autism completely shattered my world once and at the same time, it completely transformed my life. My world has been renewed; my heart is now full and my life has turned into a very joyful and exciting adventure.
PS: I would like to acknowledge all the people that came to our rescue during the past 4 years. Our family, friends and community really came together to support us in any way they could. Some donated money, some donated (or continue to donate) countless hours in Leo’s playroom to inspire him to join our world. Others have donated their time to babysit our youngest or an extra pair of hands in a fundraiser for our Son-Rise program. These amazing individuals have changed our family’s life. We are so blessed to have been touched by each one of them. Thank you from the deepest part of my soul and may you be blessed a million times over!