One of the many lessons I have learned in my 5 years as a parent is to expect the unexpected and that being a mum makes you stronger. You have no choice but to deal with all the challenges that you face, for your child’s sake. Sometimes you will find strength and energy reserves from a space inside you that you never even knew you had.
When I was expecting my first child, I never thought that 3 years down the line I would be there with 3 little boys, and it never crossed my mind that I would have a child with Autism.
When I became a mum for the first time with Mr Z, it suddenly hit me that I am the one responsible for this little person, and that as he grows up the first person he is always going to turn to and rely on and expect to fix his problems will be me, his mum. I will admit that as a young parent to realise this for the first time was such a strange feeling. It’s overwhelming and surreal at first. Whatever your age, it is a major adjustment to suddenly go from mainly looking out for yourself to having such a small helpless (and of course very cute!) little being relying on you for their every need.
I remember saying to some of my friends that I would leave about 4 or 5 years between children so that I would have my first one off to school and then have the next one, to give me plenty of time to spend one to one, and to be able to relax and make life easy for myself. They reminded me of this when I ended up having my next baby within 18 months! We may make our plans, but we never really know what life has in store. Expecting a second baby while my first was only around 8 months was quite a surprise to me, but it was lovely. I really enjoyed having the two of them so close together, and that is why my next one has the same age gap because it was so happy with that age gap dynamic that I thought I would repeat it!
After having my first child, I might have thought that I will know exactly what to expect, being a seasoned mum by that time. I soon found out that was not the case. At the times I would have expected my second little one to be meeting his milestones, he wasn’t meeting them. So by the time he was one and a half and my third baby was born, he still was not able to stand and walk, and was not talking at all. We knew he was globally delayed but it took another year and a bit before he was formally diagnosed with Autism.
That time was quite challenging for me. At the time my husband should have been just finishing his paternity leave, he was unexpectedly hospitalised and I was on my own with a brand new newborn baby, a just turned 3 year old, and a one and half year old toddler with special needs. Just to add to the situation, at that time we were living in a mouldy damp flat with a leaking roof and a crazy landlady so we had to pack up and leave!
The gift my children have given me is to know that whatever life throws at us, I will deal with it and find the strength to make the best of any situation and always do the best for them. I sometimes feel like being a mum gives you a sort of super power – to deal with the unexpected and find strength to cope with whatever life throws at you. In a small child’s eyes, Mum knows everything and Mum can do anything. So when you see that look in their eyes, you know that you have to try!
I’m not saying it is all a struggle. On the contrary, it’s a joy. There have been so many laughs and smiles and special moments along the way. The words your child says unexpectedly for the first time; the steps they take, when you almost thought they were never going to get there. The last minute spontaneous trips to new destinations and seeing the joy in your children’s faces at seeing something new and exciting. So many special moments that I never knew to expect back when I was expecting my first baby, and so many more still yet to be experienced!
Maybe the unexpected is not always all that bad after all.