Raising Autism: A Parent’s Guide
By Nicole A. Walker
Chapter 1: DISCOVERING AUTISM
In the beginning, I use to cry myself to sleep. It seemed like no
matter what I did for her, it just wasn’t good enough. I felt like I had
failed my daughter. All I could think about was; what I was doing
wrong. Thinking, was I not a good mom? How couldn’t I make a six-
month old baby happy. Was I too young to be a mom? I mean all she
does is eat, sleep and poop. How hard could that be, I wondered.
Yet I still felt very lost. As if I had no emotional connection to the
human being I carried for nine months. I felt like I was fighting
something. But I didn’t know what it was. Becoming a mom had
seriously taken over my life. I couldn’t even distinguish day from night anymore. It all became one big blur of stress and exhaustion. Where at times I didn’t even know who my daughter was nor could I figure out what she wanted.
At the time, I was 19 and I just assumed that this was how
motherhood was. I had never raised a baby before. But I knew raising
a baby wasn’t going to be easy. As I had been a babysitter in my
preteens. Having helped my mom raise my siblings in my teens. I knew that raising children would have its ups and downs.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know the difference between a “normal” child and a developmentally delayed child. So I missed all the signs and struggled through motherhood.I just figured my daughter needed a little more attention than other babies. That she would grow out of “it” when she got older. It was my only logical explanation to my daughter’s up and down behavior. As I didn’t have an older relative to give me sound advice. I was a first time mom who lacked experience and knowledge. I couldn’t do more for my daughter because I didn’t know any better. Yet the one thing I knew was that I loved my daughter unconditionally. That it hurt my soul to see her so unhappy and that I would do whatever it took to change her world.
I was committed to raising a respectful young lady regardless of what she did or didn’t have. No matter who she was, wasn’t or would be. I was willingly to do whatever it took to connect with my daughter.To be able to feel what it’s like to be loved by her. To have the kind of mother-daughter relationship every woman dreams of.But my daughter wasn’t who I thought she would be. Matter of fact, she wasn’t socially engaging or quite loving. The mere touch of my skin against hers, made her anxious beyond reason. Every sudden noise she heard, made her scream in agony. As if her ears were bleeding. It seemed as if every little thing bothered her and she was never at rest.
I honestly didn’t know what to do. Exhausted from trying to survive each day. I didn’t know how to deal. I just kept it moving. Even the back to back ear infections and sleepless nights didn’t faze me. The constant anxiety that consumed her little body wasn’t alarming and the endless crying became a norm. Refusing to be held was no longer taken personally. Her irrational behaviors didn’t seem abnormal, more like infantile or baby like. Yet it became normal to me. All these “red flags” didn’t register in my brain as something being wrong. I figured these are the things all babies go through when they are young. Therefore, I didn’t care if I had to rock her to sleep every night until my arms grew tired. Play Kenny G around the clock until “my head was going to explode”. Or watch the same movies until I subconsciously learned every word. I just knew all my efforts were well worth it, because I knew she was content. I didn’t have to see her rocking anxiously in her crib to soother herself to sleep. Or struggle with every little change that came her way. All I could do was keep trying to make her happy. As I yearned to experience those sunny days that never seem to come. It was then I really had begun to understand what motherhood was all about. That my mother’s intuition had kicked in. I was beginning to feel something wasn’t right with my daughter. But I still didn’t know what. “It” was invisible, yet so visible.