Several people have asked me what it is like to be a mother to a child with Autism. Within that conversation, inevitably, the comment or question always arises, "but it must be so hard because she can't give back." Avery can't yet tell me she loves me. She can't ask for me, or talk to me about what she likes or doesn't like. She can't reassure me that I am making the right choices for her, and she can't call for me in the night when she is feeling sick. Thankfully, however, this hasn't impacted the incredibly strong bond I have with my sweet daughter.
Most of you who know us well, or have read my blogs before, know that for Avery's first 15 months or so of life, she absolutely did not have Autism. We knew about the Mastocytosis, and we knew that her health was threatened, but ignorance was bliss as we did not yet know of the link between autoimmune diseases, specifically the one she has, and autism. So during that time when Avery was our only child, she was the focus of our attention, the light in our lives, the source of our happiness and fun. At that time, she could look at us, say mama and dada, laugh with us and at us, breastfeed for over a year, and share our affection. Only later did she start to drift away. That being said, the bond was already in place... and it was and is as strong as steel.
So, though it may be true that Avery can't "give back" now in the ways most are accustomed, she gives us so much more... maybe even because of her disability.
She gives us simplicity. We don't need words to communicate, she simply takes our hand, smiles, or giggles with delight.
She gives us courage. We never truly understood the power of this word until we have had to confront doctors, insurance companies, therapists and spectators.
She gives us understanding and patience. Never before Avery did we think we could "wait for answers," comprehend that some things may never happen, and be graceful in not knowing what lies ahead.
Avery gives us hope. Hope that all people may learn to love so deep. Hope that modern medicine will bring forth answers to our prayers. Hope that our children will be all that they can be, and hope that we can be the best parents we can to foster their growth and well being.
Avery gives us abundant happiness. Happiness that is not dependent on expectations. Happiness found in a look, a hug, a smile, a laugh. Happiness that is not derived from performance or demands, but that exists intrinsically in our souls and hearts.
And finally, Avery gives us love. She doesn't have to say it, but she IS love. She exudes love. She teaches us how to love.
She gives us all these things and more. How could we possibly ask for more than that.