Many people with autism want to know what to expect, and what is expected from them. Many people without autism want that too. We may just need it to a slightly lesser degree. I want that so much my brain feels fuzzy and anxious in its absence.
Oftentimes, from even before conception we are buying, What to Expect When You're Expecting. Thinking that a single book can actually answer such a thing. (That's funny). We buy it anyway though, and it really does answer a lot. Maybe even at least1%. But when it comes to parenthood, there is so much more that is absolutely unexpected.
And if we aren't gathering information from books or the Internet, people are offering it freely.
"You just wait", the sentences start with. And usually whatever comes after that fill in the blank fills me with a renewed sense of dread and fear. You see, I am a control enthusiast, and people like me don't like these confusing and constantly changing variables that we are supposed to just wait to happen at us. A longing for control is adhesively stuck to my bones. I don’t know where it came from and I don't know why it's there, but it has ridden shot gun most of my life. But I'm also an optimist. If a cloud doesn't have a silver lining, I do my best to sew one in. Sometimes I'm an awful seamstress though.
"You just wait until that baby is born", they told my wide eyes and expanding belly. "You will never sleep. Your life will never be the same again." (and you can tell by the way it is said that this is a very very bad thing). "Your body will never be the same. You will never get alone time. Not even to pee."
And you know what? They were so so right. My first few weeks of parenthood were unbearable. I was so focused on the things that I wished for my son, that I just wasn't. I wasn't a natural. I was a leaky, fluffy emotional wreckage. Sobbing over nothing fitting and exhaustion and breast feeding and isolation. Despite reading ALL the pregnancy books, it all felt so violently unexpected.
"You just wait until they start teething".
"You just wait until they start crawling."
"You just wait until they start walking."
The just waits wouldn't stop. (And PS- it all goes by so fast, so be sure and enjoy every single minute of this torturous waiting and enduring.) So much pressure. So much unexpected. So much fear.
"You just wait until they won't stop talking. They call your name over and over, so many times you go numb to it. "MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM!!!!"
And so I waited.
And I waited and waited, and still waited some more. My precious baby boy was two, and I was waiting less patiently and more desperately to be called that once. "Mom." I wanted it to happen so I could get annoyed and take it for granted. Because him talking felt like my right.
It didn't come, so we started the Early Intervention process, kicking and screaming (the both of us). Our days were filled with preschool and Speech and Behavior therapy. And autism and developmental delays brought its own criteria of just waits.
"Having a kid with special needs is very hard on your marriage", the classroom Teacher informed me with pity in her eyes after school one day. "Just wait. You and your husband may want to start going to therapy now. And it really causes a lot of resentment in siblings", she said, gesturing towards Parker, the 4 month old younger baby boy strapped on my chest.
Great- my youngest isn't even four months and I am totally screwing him up by an uncontrollable. On top of that she's inferring my developmentally delayed child is a burden on his family, on his siblings, on the world. And I was supposed to just sit here and wait for it.
No wonder I was certain our life was destined for sucktitude.
"Just wait until they are in school- advocating gets so much harder".
"Just wait for your first IEP."
"Just wait until the stop sleeping through the night."
"Just wait until you start potty training."
"Just wait until they hit puberty. It's unbearable."
That's the one I hear all the time now. (All the time.)
But I'm kind of tired of all the waiting for awfulness to be honest. I have a 7 and 5 year old. Can we just sit and breathe for a few more years please? I can't handle much more than today, and when I try, I can hear myself start to break. Besides, we've made it through so many just waits and we are still alive.
When it comes to autism, or parenting, or life...there is absolutely always a new stage. A just wait to dread. An unexpected that can never ever be thought up or planned for. And if we are new to it, it can be stressful and different and full of additional unexpecteds. It can be hard.
But sometimes it's so important to stop the waiting and instead ask- Yes, but WHAT ABOUT THE GIFTS? Because no matter the stage, no matter the age- no matter who we are and where we find ourselves- there are always amazing and inspiring gifts waiting to be opened. Don't wait for the gifts at the end of the finish line. They are here waiting for you today.
And oftentimes they are so glorious they would be impossible to predict or explain. There are so (SO) many just waits that are overflowing with good. Things that are meaningful and edit my life is ways better and smarter than I ever could on my own.
We must share the good just waits, because they exist and when we look back we realize they have been woven throughout our entire history. It's truly that easy to rewrite our story.
Make a choice to live a life in which you stop waiting, and you instead start living.
"Just wait", I tell beautiful you with the expanding belly. "Gosh, there's nothing more insane and amazing and miraculous than growing an entire human being. It's so good that I can't even explain it without coffee, and legs tucked under me on the sofa, and 1,000 sighs and tear drops and laughs. I don't even remember who I was before I was a mom. Seeing my boys born is the closest I've been to God in my entire life. Just wait, it's so good, you are so lucky."
I think back to the beginning of my parenthood journey with new eyes. Yes, I was leaky and hormonal and felt so inept and so scared. But I also felt love so big it felt like insanity, and a starving willingness to become good at being a Mom because it was so good and so important. I felt so many good things I never could have expected into being. I felt my knees shake in awe every time he yawned his little baby yawn and stretched with his arms overhead. Awe that I was entrusted with the greatest gift there ever was to receive.
To breathe their breath feels like living. To watch them grow has expanded my heart and mind in ways unimaginable and unexplainable with words. Whatever stage you find yourself in your life... Just wait. It's going to be so hard, my friend. And scary and make you question if you are enough. (Which you are.) But also, without a single tiny doubt- It's going to be amazing.
And also, after lots of therapy and many long years, they both call me Mom now. And it was so worth the wait. It will happen for you too...just wait.