There are some days that my heart breaks selfishly a bit. Days like today. As A2 gets older there really are no play dates. While kids are generally kind, there are limits to their patience. It’s hard to figure out how to play with another kid who wants to stand at the bottom of the water slide flapping rather than going down. His peers are now preteens and the adults that are close by interpreting for him, ensuring safety and cueing socially reciprocal behavior are going to inhibit their own wing stretching. So today, as I sat entering in my second hour in direct sun making sure my guy didn’t keep going past the “do not pass” safety barrier at the waterslide, I couldn’t help but notice the world around us. I had nothing else to do but try to clear my mind of things that poke at my side and wake me breathless in the middle of the night that were now tugging at the straps of my mom-suit with sunburned shoulders. I see the young women in their bikinis, laughing and hanging off of tattooed boyfriends and remembered a time where wondering if my thighs were firm enough or if my mascara was running were my biggest concerns. And at the time they really did feel like big concerns. There are days….just like every other chubby middle aged mom…I just miss my youth. I watch other moms read their books and drink stealthy mojitos next to the pool as their kids run to them at rest time asking for $5 for a hot pretzel. The lifeguards are there to protect theirs while I stand knee deep in freezing water wondering what would happen if I tried to do the same. There are days….like every other mom of little ones…. I wish I could enjoy a day off near a pool where I didn’t feel like my purpose was to make certain my kid didn’t die. I see the moms with toddlers and infants on changing tables and laugh as I remember being in the same predicament with a wet, slippery cherub in a soaking wet swimmy full of poop and trying to carefully slide it down over a squirmy tushy not realizing the sides rip off for easy disposal. Today I am trying to find a dry floor free of clumpy toilet paper wads to change an 11-year-old in a soiled swimmy and keep my fingers crossed that this won’t be the last year I can squeeze him into a size large Huggies with Nemo on the back. There are days….like every mom of infants…I just wish we were out of the diaper stage.
Once I shook the delirium of the midday sun and made my own mojito at home I felt less like I was crawling toward a mirage in the desert only to be disappointed by more sand. I feel conflicted by my own selfishness. I know the bottom line is if he is still oblivious to his differences and is still filled with joy doing what he likes to do whether it suits me or not then we are still golden. And yet….I can feel like I have received a sucker punch to the gut when I watch pubescent girls walk quickly in cliques past him whispering and giggling. I don’t know if my child worries about the same things I do or if he has crushes on girls or if he sometimes grieves his differences. I hope not. That way I can keep my selfishness where it belongs…to myself.
But that’s the thing. Don’t ALL moms go through this? We have a sacred ground that feels like it is being broken if we say it out loud or admit to having a bad mom day. Special Needs bad mom days and Typical bad mom days have a different script but definitely the same plot. No. I will never worry about my kid having a psycho girlfriend. I will never worry about my child’s heartbreak of being brushed off and losing social status. I will never worry that I did not raise him with morals or respect for adults. I will never worry about whether or not weed will be his gateway drug to heroin. And those things are equally as important even though there are days I would rather worry about those things. Somehow it became not ok to admit to worry or heartbreak or disappointment for fear of being seen that we somehow don’t appreciate our children. I hesitate to share on these days that I must sit quietly for a little too long and think about things a little too much. I am weary of feeling somehow missing our old lives or having a twinge of disappointment over “what could have been” cannot possibly coexist with loving our children with all our souls or appreciating their uniqueness in all their flappy, pool water drinking ways. See…because you know what I miss too some days? My flat stomach with a belly ring that didn’t look like it was a way to deflate my abdomen. I miss not checking moles and worrying about sun cancer. I miss not having to hire a crane to hoist my chest up in a bathing suit. I miss drinking beer all afternoon in the sun and flirting. I miss working 40 hours a week and actually being bored in the evening when I couldn’t find someone to go to the coffeehouse and play scrabble or see some local guy playing acoustic somewhere. And I dare anyone reading this to NOT feel like they miss those things too sometimes and that they too would consider trading their situation in to go back for just one day…..and then realize there would be no way in hell. Because we will never be the same…and for that the world will never be the same and that is the backward legacy that our kids give to us….as we gave to our parents.
I often wonder what kind of mom I would be in an alternate universe….and feel very selfish on the sad days. But ultimately…..autism or not…..I really don’t think I’d feel different from any other mom.
U is for Ubiquinol
(originally posted 4/2015)
If you have heard this word before it is likely that you are either are a biologist or have a child with a mitochondrial disorder. In our case, to be sure….I am not a biologist. There is mounting evidence that autism and mitochondrial disorders at least co-exist in many cases. Mitochondria are organelles in almost every cell in the body and are considered the powerhouse of the cell. The mitochondria break down chemical compounds into energy and put it back into the cell for use. When there is a breakdown in the mitochondria factory, it cannot produce enough energy for the cell which can result in cell damage or death. This damage tends to affect larger organ systems such as the brain, heart, endocrine system, gastrointestinal system, kidneys and respiratory system. (As I mentioned….I am not a biologist..that’s about the best I can explain). The first time after 9th grade biology I heard about ATP or mitochondria was sitting in a neurologists office with A2 when she cocked her head and said “I need to send him to the Cleveland Clinic….I think he has mitochondrial disease…I am so sorry….”. I was confused–“Ok”, I said and left the office feeling optimistic that maybe we figured out why my baby completely stopped physically growing or gaining weight and developing. If we know what it is….we can treat it, why was she apologizing? But as it turns out, there is no cure and no real treatment for mitochondrial disorders. These disorders also tend to be progressive in nature so we must try to protect the mitochondria to the best of our ability using supplementation (thus the Ubiquinol CoQ-10) and body system balance. Under a microscope, A2’s mitochondria are oddly shaped..and there are a whole lot of them…and this hastened the question did some disease process or environmental assault cause this problem….or did he inherit it from me (mito are maternally inherited)? If something happened, what was it? Did I eat too many pesticides on my produce while nursing? Was his immune system down when he got a vaccination? Was the rated “F” water in Las Vegas where he was born full of toxins that damaged my baby? I am rational enough to know that there was nothing I could have done about my own mitochondria nor could I guess exactly what environmental assault would have caused such a huge problem…but it is here. And I now know why the neurologist apologized to me on that warm, blue skied summer day back in 2006…..
In the month of our 16 year anniversary, I can say that we have embarked on a journey neither of us could have expected. In some ways I wonder if our trek is easier than others since we never had musings of what our unborn children would be like or what kind of parents we would be….or if we would be parents at all. I think I most believe in a judicious balance between predestination and free will. Like walking into a movie complex….you can pick the movie you will see but once you choose it the plot and ending remain the same. But it is again up to you if you decide to leave the theatre to get popcorn or just decide that movie is not for you and you should have never listened to Siskel and Ebert’s reviews to begin with. All marriages require a gentle balance between cohesiveness and independence. But especially with families like ours. Stress is a constant, sleep deprivation a given and child rearing? Well…throw out everything you ever thought you knew about that. Not everyone can do that…and usually the stronger is left holding the bag on their own. I know too many families like that….and watch in awe as the parent left behind carries the weight of her world. Through thick and thin we give each other the space we need recognizing we are in for the long haul. Our children are who they are supposed to be. We make the same mistakes as every other parent…..and in every other union but with the knowledge we must be united as forever parents, even long after we are gone. And for that, perhaps we are luckier than most.