Recently, I met a mom of a baby whom she feels shows signs of Autism. She was looking to me for support and advice, with fear and hope in her eyes. I didn’t expect to ever be in this position. At least not so soon.
When I think of support groups, I always think of what I can gain from more experienced moms. I haven’t thought about having anything to offer. There is still so much I don’t know.
Frankly, I don’t feel ready to support others. I still feel vulnerable. Though my skin has thickened a bit regarding my two-year-old’s health, I’m not quite shouting from the rooftops, “My son has special needs!” It’s still tender there.
While I was able to tell her my experiences I’ve had so far with my two-year-old, I was all too well relating to her quasi denial about a possible diagnosis for her baby. I too am still hoping for the best for my baby, and I was right in that boat with her. Her tears were my tears. Half of me wanted to say, “I have a child with Autism. It’ll be OK,” but the other half of me was saying, “Your child doesn’t have Autism, and neither does mine.”
It always feels good to help another human being. I’ve always done volunteer work. I guess I thrive on the feeling. The idea of being support for a special needs mom sounds nice, especially because it’s someone like me, a mom, and involves a precious child, but this kind of serving is different. It hurts. It causes me to relive my pain. And acknowledge my own denial. And feel her pain with her. And see the pain she still has ahead of her, that she doesn’t even know about yet.
There is no perfect thing to say to a mom you want to help. She doesn’t want to hear that her child “is fine” because she knows I don’t know her child well enough to make that determination, and she doesn’t want to hear that her child “will do great” because no one knows the capacities of the child until age reveals it. She doesn’t want to hear that “everything’s going to be fine” because everyone defines that differently, and honestly, my child not reaching his absolute highest potential is just never going to be “fine” with me, and it won’t for any other mom out there either. All I can really offer is: she is doing everything she can, she is doing it well, and her child has everything to gain for it. And the validating nod, which I’ve learned so well.