Usually I deal with things by not dealing with things. I don’t do it on purpose and usually don’t realize I’m doing it, but I’ve done it for as long as I can remember. The problem is, well, the problem. The problem doesn’t go away. It doesn’t magically get better or disappear just because my head is in the sand. There are things that just hurt too much to look at, but does not looking hurt worse? Maybe. Probably.
I knew something was not quite how it should be when I had Buddy. No one else seemed to notice, so I stopped asking for other people’s opinion. When I’d say “Shouldn’t he be talking more? Or so that we can understand him?” my mother would remind me of her cousin who didn’t talk until she turned 3. Every problem that I saw, there was a family story, on one side or the other, of someone doing the same thing. My mother, husband, mother-in-law, all of them were trying to help. They honestly didn’t want me to worry, and thought it was a passing issue. Each issue was explainable. Except. Except they weren’t, not really. Yeah, it could just be that Buddy has a Southern accent. Sure, the not sleeping could be from too much noise. Yes, I probably worry too much because I wanted this baby so very badly. And I could always find reasons why he wasn’t exactly tracking on the What To Expect time line. I mean, of course he can’t pick up something pea sized. When would he be around something that small?
Buddy was diagnosed with PDD-NOS and ADHD when he was 6 but it was a kind of place holder diagnosis. No one told me what that meant or that he was on the Autism spectrum. Everyone around me said, “Oh, he can’t be Autistic! He’s so engaged, and affectionate!’ Even the schools assured me that he wasn’t. Until one person finally looked at the paperwork and evaluated him again. Turns out she had a grandson with Aspberger’s and recognized many of the symptoms in Buddy. So, yeah, PDD-NOS. After 5 years of people convincing me that it couldn’t be autism, it turns out that yes, it can.
I’ve heard people talk about mourning their expectations and grieving over the loss of normalcy, but it never clicked for me. I couldn’t relate, maybe because I was in diagnosis limbo. I’ve seen families I know with special needs kids that have it so much worse. How could I mourn when I have two healthy children? Sure Buddy has problems, but try comparing that to the family whose son has frequent seizures even after radical brain surgery. When I read Mir’s post about grief it opened something in me. As I read, something cracked. Tears started flowing and I suddenly realized that, yes, that IS what grief looks like. That’s what I’ve been feeling. I always thought I was just stressed, upset, overreacting, something, but not grieving. Mourning didn’t even occur to me. Now I feel like a weight has been lifted. Yes, this is grief. And it is okay to grieve what isn’t and what won’t be. That doesn’t mean that I’m not thankful for what is.
So now I’m rethinking my ostrich position. I don’t know what would be changed if I had pulled my head out of the sand years ago. But I do know this, being an ostrich didn’t help. Now I have my head out of the sand and I’m trying to keep it that way. It won’t be easy and the temptation is always there. What I don’t know can hurt me, and by extension everyone that I have a responsibility to can be hurt by it also.