the first line shaping his form was drawn on the empty page inside of me. i would be his mother. the hazy beautiful excitement surrounded me. the heaviness and anticipation of a new life. all those hours settling into the mystery of who exactly was in there. who would it be that would change my life forever? i let myself see his blue eyes looking up at mine. i let myself feel his weight and softness sleeping soundly in my arms. i thought of him so often while i was pregnant, that he became real to me. i could almost smell his sweet baby dampness in the room around me. i wanted him so badly. i've come to know that the things we want this badly are often the very things we have to let go of. i had never let go of anything before i met ricky.
i'm not sure why my heart lied. my imagined baby would never be real. he would be autistic. he would break my heart and heal it again a thousand times stronger. my dreams were replaced by what i had always imagined to be someone else's fears. that awful thing you only hear about, the thing that happens to someone else's child. it wasn't fair. i had stopped drinking. i was getting better. i didn't want to hurt anymore. ricky's diagnosis shook me so hard that i didn't even feel it. i had thick skin covered in scars. when they told me my child was broken it must have just absorbed into me like everything else. one more thing i didn't deserve to have turn out right. denial. anger. bargaining. depression...and finally acceptance. nobody knows the cause. nobody knows the cure. it's irreversible. there are no answers, only questions. somebody comes into your home, they take the mechanism that keeps your heart beating. they dont say who they are, or if they're coming back. they offer no explanation. they dont look at you. they dont tell you their name. they leave with your kicking and screaming child, they leave with what you wanted to be your life. not only do you have to survive the hollowness that somehow replaces the child that once sat before you, you also have to accept not ever knowing where that child actually went and why. the physical child remains but their spirit dissolves. there is loneliness and anger. your left with the outline, the shell. i didn't protect him. i couldn't. i failed... and i was being punished for it. i was once again standing in pieces of a beautiful image that would never come true for me, a puzzle that no matter which way i turned it, could not manage to fit the pieces together.
the screaming, the head banging, the refusal to wear clothing, the flapping, the hair pulling, the tantrums, the insomnia, the rocking, the biting, the hitting, the running away, the repetitive behaviours. ricky would wake up in the middle of the night crying, he would look down at his hands and squeeze them together. scream and squeeze his fists so tight. he wanted out. this was our life for the next 3 years. the absolute living hell of autism. people dont know what to say to you. and you dont know what to say to them. you end up alone. alone in the crowd where people stare. alone in the park where other moms and their kids walk away. alone in the school system where nobody knows what to do. alone in your family because nobody knows how to help. because of the distance my addictions and behaviours isolated me in not many people showed up. it was just us.
i fought for legal aid to revisit my custody agreement, to petition his father for additional financial aid for special schooling. i fought for more appropriate visitation rights considering he didn't do well with change of routine. in my ex's exact words i was the vicious bitch that had made ricky autistic. it was my fault. i hadn't done enough. but ricky's dad was too far enough away to hold my head under water for long anymore. i had swan against strong currents before. i researched and read and wrote and asked and took in every single bit of information i could find about autism and how i could best meet his needs. i tried special diets. i tried organic clay baths and cellular zeolite which cleanses the system. i did foot pad detox's. i made him drink detoxing tea. i limited preservative's, additives and anything i couldn't pronounce from his diet. i gave him dozens of vitamins and minerals. i crushed tablets and mixed with yogurt 3 times a day. i went into debt. i took him to in-fared sauna's. i read him books he didn't look at and words he didn't listen to. i read them again. i pointed to every picture a million times. i lost my voice from verbally redirecting him. i fought because i was mad. i fought because i loved him. i fought for his schooling. i fought for information. the area representative's, the multiple ever changing case worker's, the speech and language pathologists, the occupational therapists, the psychiatrist, the applied behaviour analysis's, the nutritionists, the defeat autism now doctor's, the special needs organizations, the education system. they knew fuck all about autism. everyone had good intentions, but all told me something different. the grey area starts to eat you alive and you start to realize this is your life now. i forced him to interact with other kids. i suffered the tantrums and meltdowns and fits in public. i explained to paramedics and police who were breathalizing me because i was hysterical that no i was not drunk or high...that my son was autistic and had escaped a locked car and 5 point buckle, running away onto the trans canada highway. do i know why? no officer, i do not know why. i do not know why this was my life. i do not know why i was chosen for this. i do not know if i'm strong enough to survive autism. the line that had shaped ricky when he was first born...was now blurry and erased in certain places. the edges weren't all there...his colours were leaking out. he wasn't contained by his form. he wasn't whole.
i put one foot in front of the other for almost a year. i barely made it 48hrs without crying until one night when ricky was 3. we were in the park at 1am (because he didn't sleep more than 3 hrs straight until he was 6) ricky was in his pjamma's on the swing, pushing his foot into the red rock, creating the momentum....the lull of motion. up and down...his body weightless and free. i watched my son's silhouette in the shadows of the moon. i saw his real outline and it was complete. it held him safely inside himself... and somehow while i was looking i also saw him. hopping off the swing he ran out into the soccer field, tilted his head to the side for a different perspective. i saw ricky and i knew that even though he had autism. he wasn't autism. he was ricky. it's hard to explain how the acceptance started to grow. i knew right then that i either had to stop fighting and love my son for exactly who he was, or i would never make it. he would never make it. and so it was under the beautiful white glow of the moon that night that i gave up. i gave in. i chose reality. life on life's terms. i chose ricky.