Back in June I had the extreme pleasure to meet a couple of women (Becky & Jana) at the Type-A Conference and I immediately felt at ease with them and wanted to know more about their site, Band Back Together, which basically started because of a bottomless compassion and wanting to connect people with resources, and support with people who need it. That? Is something that drew me in and made me want to know more, do more. We knew we wanted to work together…but how? One way is to encourage you to visit the site, submit a post, offer support, let them know of resources.
Get to know them.
It’s unfortunate that my firstborn was the one with autism. Note, I didn’t say it was unfortunate that he HAS autism, because frankly, it’s so much a part of who he is that I can’t imagine life any other way. But knowing that his coldness, the look in his newborn eyes that said, GO AWAY, MOM, and his utter inability to demonstrate love in a way I understood was not my fault would have saved me from, oh, I don’t know, five years of feeling like I was the worst parent on the planet?
The amount I knew about babies when I popped him out was breathtakingly small. I had figured that babies cried, you cuddled them, and they felt better. Not, they cried, you cuddle them, and they cry harder.
When he was diagnosed on the autistic spectrum at age two, it was a relief. Finally, validation that I wasn’t a total shit of a parent. That it wasn’t my fault.
But it doesn’t end there. It never does.
Because for all the therapies we visited, the specialists we consulted, the words he learned to form and the textures he’d tolerate, it didn’t change the isolation I’d continue to experience as a parent of a special needs child. Further separating me from the pack was my age: I’d given birth three weeks after I turned twenty-one. Not scandalously young, but not old enough.
There are therapies to teach children to walk, to talk, to be able to tolerate the irrational texture problems…but there were no therapies to teach me how to understand that the love my son showed me was different. There were no groups to explain that the rejection I felt from him was normal, even if it left me gutted, broken some nights. I had a guidebook to work with to teach my kid to speak, but I had none for how to handle it when he melted down in public; to handle people staring and whispering. I had no words to explain to my friends why my kid freaked out when I’d serve him the wrong type of Chicken McNuggets.
No, these were things that haunted me whenever I thought about it too hard. So I didn’t. I pushed it down and carried on.
When his brother was born, five years later, I was shocked to find out that this baby, well, he liked me! Certainly it wouldn’t last (see also: ages five through twenty-one), but for now, I could curl him up on my lap and he’d stop crying! I cannot possibly impart – after years of rejection – how amazing this was.
Now that they’re both older – and so am I – I wouldn’t trade either of them (or my daughter) for anything. Not even a pony on roller-skates. Most days.
But sometimes, as I lay in bed, checking off my to-do list for the day and decidedly NOT SLEEPING, I wish I could go back in time, wrap my arms around that sad new mother and show her a glimpse of how beautiful her life would become. How full of love her family would be. How loved she was.
By each of her children.
Who is Becky?
Becky Sherrick Harks (Your Aunt Becky) is the dim-witted writer behind Mommy Wants Vodka and the founder of Mushroom Printing. Oh, and she also founded Band Back Together. But you probably guessed that much.
She’s a March of Dimes Mom who has raised an autistic son, Benjamin, her second son, three-year old Alex, and was blindsided by a neural tube defect affecting her last child, Amelia.
Her interests include encased meats, cherry lip gloss and single-stranded reverse-transcribing RNA viruses. She also like shiny things and imagining a life married to men from television.
Band Back Together is a group weblog that provides educational resources as well as a safe, moderated, supportive environment to share stories of survival. Through the power of real stories written by real people, we can work together to destigmatize mental illness, abuse, rape, baby loss and other traumas so that we may learn, grow, and heal.
All are welcome.
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