When Jacob was diagnosed with autism I had no idea how much his autism would change my life. Its changes the way I parent, how our family makes plans and who we hang out with, and even how I feel. I have the thing that most parents dread... A child who is special needs. My hopes for my child are different because of his special needs. My hopes for all my children are different. As I heard in a recent movie (paraphrased) "All the hopes and dreams of normal parents are out the window when you have a child with autism. You no longer care if they go to college or marry a rich person, you just want them to be able to cross the street safely." This couldn't be more true, but also pertains to my other children. I want them to love the Lord and to be happy. I am so thankful for their abilities, but all the normal worldly expectations just don't seem quite as important. It has been a struggle for me, though. While I am trying to accept Jacob just as he is, I am also having to deal with behaviors that are strange and hard and all that comes with having a child with autism. Most recently, its been the challenge of balancing Jacobs extremely demanding needs with my other 3 year old's needs, my daughters needs and homeschooling, church functions, my marriage, and most importantly my relationship with Jesus. I have to balance all of these things while trying to figure out the most effective therapies and food diets, educating myself on how to control Jacob's behaviors and possibly get him to communicate, debating getting a job in order to get insurance for him and trying to decide if that is choosing him over my other kids. My dreams of carefree parenting are gone. Just the other day I was talking to my sweet sister about taking the kids to the pool. She said that it is so much easier with her 4 kids now that they can all be on their own at the pool. I sat there in that moment and wondered if we will ever have a carefree vacation or pool outing. Probably not. That's ok, though. In those moments that Jacob smiles at me and in those moments that he pulls my finger and takes me to what he wants, I know with everything in me that its all worth it. This life isn't supposed to be all about me. Its supposed to be all about bringing glory to God. I hope that I can do that in many ways, but one way that I want to glorify him is in parenting my children. I pray that in weeks like this I can keep proper perspective. Today, I was reading in a book that I bought on parenting children with autism that Dr. Marion O' Brien, professor of human development and family studies at the University of North Carolina, has studied autism mothers and in her research found that depression is extremely prominent. She attributed the depression to "ambiguous loss", whereby a mother is feeling massive shapeless grief about their child's disorder. While many psychologists suggest the depression is a phase of the grieving process, she believes it isn't so simple because the child has not passed away. It is grieving the child that you thought you had or would have (Senator, Susan. The Autism Mom's Survival Guide). While reading this I could clearly see how this is true. I did and do still go through a grieving process. The difference is that it doesn't become a depression, just a little sadness. There is still joy in my heart because I trust the sovereignty of the Lord in all things. I thank the Lord for this joy despite circumstances. However, I write this because this week, particularly today, I have been feeling a little bit sad. I am still trying to just accept Jacob and love him for him, but meanwhile going through all this therapy and trying to make his behaviors better. Its a little confusing for me. I think I need some friend time or something. One great thing I did read in the book was that the author asked a women how she stayed so incredibly happy throughout her son's extremely severe autism. She answered, "Its not cancer." At the same time her son was diagnosed with autism her friends son was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She said that while they had much in common with their sons extreme behavior and emotions and the toll on them as mothers, her son was healthy. Autism is not tragic and it is not the end. These kids are not broken. I have to keep remembering that. It isn't my job to fix him. Its my job to accept him and try to make life easier for him. So I encourage you to do the same. One day at a time. Ask for help when you need it. Your baby is a precious gift from God that He hand selected to be special and given to you. You do not have to live in depression. Give it to the Lord and trust His plan for you and your family and your child. You are not alone.
I ask for prayers this next week as Jacob will be having surgery on his tongue August 1st. Please pray that I can somehow keep him healthy until then and that the surgery is a success. Thank you for your prayers.