Truth be told, though autism turned my life upside down, it also right-sided me.
Before autism came knocking at my door, I was a 28 year old woman with little connection to my fellow beings. I was out for myself. Young and spirited, I lived the fast life in Hollywood, and had a good job that gave me ample room to think only about myself and material things.
Though I had suffered great loses in my early years – my husband died, a stint in rehab, and moving forward from a fairly crappy childhood, those losses only fueled my need to think only about myself and not so much about others around me.
And then came Taylor. He was born on Christmas Eve., 1988. Born one month early, he was a ginormous baby. Six days (yea count ‘em) of induced labor, they pumped enough Pitosin into me to induce several labors. But for six days he would not come into the world. He simply was not ready. Can’t say I blame him – he was cozy in my womb, but Preeclampsia wreaked havoc on my body thus inducement was the only remedy. In retrospect, why they waited six days before performing a c section is beyond me. But at the time I just thought they were giving me the opportunity to have a natural childbirth – which I really wanted so I went along. But natural childbirth would not be my fate. Instead, they took him by c section on the 6th day.
Some people say it is immunizations that caused autism in their child. I kNOW it was the toxin of Pitosin for me and Taylor.
By the time Taylor was 4 months old I knew there were problems. Actually my doctor knew well before then, but I was in denial and looked for every reason to disbelieve.
“It’s because he’s a boy – they develop slower”
“I’m a first-time mom, what do I know about a baby’s development?”
“He’ll grow out of it.”
These are the things I told myself – and doctors were all too happy to support those notions – yet something was definitely different about this child.
Taylor and I would visit dozens of specialists over the years; the best in the L.A. area. But it would not be until after the DSMIV was rewritten that he would finally, at 6 years old, be diagnosed at UCLA with autism.
“There’s good news and bad news…” Dr. Sammons said. “The good news is that we now know what’s wrong with Taylor.” The bad news is that it’s called autism and he will have it for the rest of his life.”
My heart stopped and then my body relaxed. So that’s what we were dealing with. Hmmmmmmmmmm. I call those the dark ages of autism when Rain Man was our only popular reference. Not a whole lot of knowledge back then about the higher functioning version of the disorder.
And so it was that we met autism and autism met us.
I had experienced a spiritual awakening when Taylor was a year and a half when a neurologist told me he might never walk or talk. Somehow those words enabled me to meet my own maker and find acceptance that my life with Taylor would be different than the one I signed on for. I released and learned to love my son unconditionally (more about that in a future blog), but the news of autism was actually, in the end, music to my ears.
At least now I knew what we were dealing with. The devil you know is better than the one you don’t so-to-speak.
Autism has been in my life for nearly 21 years. Because I don’t get to make up the rules and autism created the rules for me, I had to learn to be a different version of myself. I was still the wacky artist I had always been; still a freebird in my own way, but I was able to become the woman I always wanted to be. A grown up, responsible woman with more interest in my fellow man, and certainly more interest in other children than I had ever known.
Autism taught me how to love others in a way I had never been taught as a child. Autism taught me patience I never possessed. Autism taught me to live more passionately and with more focus and purpose. Autism even gave me a new career, one I love as opposed to the one I used to have that I didn’t love so much.
Autism taught me that being humble is not humiliation – a lesson I needed to learn.
So today, this Thanksgiving day on the eve of my son’s 21st birthday, I am here to say I am thankful for autism.
I know at the end of days when I see my life flash before me as I leave this earth for other destinations unknown, that I have made a difference. I have made a difference in my work; a difference in my child; but perhaps more importantly to my worldly lessons, I have made a difference in my own heart and mind, a difference that only autism could have provided.
Yes, I am thankful for autism.
Gobble, gobble, and God bless.