Yes, it's happened. I have the diagnostic report to prove what I announced almost two months ago (read: On The Road Again) Vlad is, just as I predicted, Autistic.
I've written and deleted and written and deleted different posts today. Did I want to talk about how Vlad is still the same awesome child? Did I want to talk about how, regardless of that fact, I am still heartbroken? How about talking about why having three kids with autism is either ridiculously hard or ridiculously awesome? About how I didn't want a typical kid anyway, because how boring would that be? I could even talk about how a part of me feels like I am mourning for the neurotypical child that we will never have.
None of that felt right.
Instead I am going to tell you three stories.
I was five months pregnant with Rascal, walking down the aisles of Publix, debating the merits of store brand cereal versus name brand. My phone rings, a local number. I answer and the nurse from my daughter's pediatrician's office greets me. Then she begins to give me the dates and times for an appointment with a local neurologist. Confused, I ask her what on earth she's talking about. Her reply? "This is for your daughter, Diva Girl. You know, the one with Childhood Disintegrative Disorder? Dr. Psychologist called and asked us to set up this appointment for you....." Maybe more was said, I'm not sure. I think I may have politely thanked her and hung up. Then, I sat on the floor, in the middle of the aisle, and sobbed. See, my meeting with the psychologist wasn't until the next morning. This poor clueless nurse was the first one to tell me my daughter's diagnosis. And let me tell you, hearing the words that I most feared, connected to her name...I was beyond devastated. I remember people looking at me as they rolled their carts on past. Someone asked if I needed help, if the baby was okay. I think I called The Husband. After that, it's all a blur. Days, maybe weeks of crying on and off. I couldn't talk about her diagnosis without tears being involved for some time.
I was four months pregnant with Vlad, nervously rubbing my growing belly while answering the psychologists questions. I kept saying "Well, he does that, BUT...." It felt like everything I said was being weighed and just one little word could tilt him into a diagnosis that I didn't want. When it's all said and done, they have some intern playing with Rascal while pulling me aside to a table. "Mrs. MamaSab, Rascal is an amazing, adorable kid with a lot of good skills. But he does qualify for an Autism Spectrum diagnosis today..." I remember feeling like I was going to panic and I tried to keep it all together. I remember asking how sure they were and the sympathy in her eyes as she responded that they were very sure. A little tear may have betrayed me then. And maybe a few more times over the next week, but this time the tears were brief and hope was plentiful. We knew what we were doing, he was already receiving therapy, this time I didn't feel so adrift and lost.
I was greeted like an old friend. They asked about Diva Girl and Rascal, and couldn't believe how much Vlad is looking like Rascal these days. The evaluation is almost a formality, and everything about this was oddly casual. In the end, she pulls up a chair and says "Well, you already know this, but we can confirm that he has a diagnosis of Autism. No point in going through the whole spiel, you probably know more about what to do from here than I do." There were no tears, just a sigh of resignation on my part. We chit chat for a while and I leave with a smile on my face. The tears come later, while I lay in bed. And honestly, they were more for myself than for the bright, loving child sweetly sleeping next to me. And since then? There are twinges of sadness, but even a few days out they are fewer and further apart.
If someone had told me three and a half years ago that I would have three kids on the spectrum and that I wouldn't cry for days on end about it, I would have been shocked. But boy, does life has a way of changing you. For me, these stories are their stories, of how they came into their diagnoses and telling, in a strange way, how different they all are. But it's also my story. The story of becoming a mother. The story of learning acceptance, strength, and joy.
His Story. My Story. Our journey together is what matters. And you know what? He's going to be ok. And so am I.