My life story in six words. Do you drink Honest Tea? Check under the cap. Their most recent quotes are six word memoirs, inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s “six word novel,” and collected by SMITH magazine. (www.honesttea.com/6word)
I thought a lot about this one. In addition to being a mother, I’m also a sister, daughter, friend, confidante, counselor, helper, partner, advocate… and sometimes whiner, pit-bull, fighter, and downright stubborn p.i.t.a. But when it comes to my life story, well, mother is defining. No other role has changed me quite as much, or been more challenging or rewarding. When Alex was born, I didn’t have that instant bonding moment I had heard about. I would come to know that feeling nearly 5 years later when I had Hannah through natural childbirth. With Alex, at first everything was fuzzy from the IV drugs and epidural and whirlwind experience of labor and delivery. My “moment” came hours after childbirth when I sat nursing my newborn son in the hospital room. I looked at him, my heart melted and the strangest words came out of my mouth: “I was born to be your mother.” Mothering defines me not because it is all of who I am, but because becoming a mother, bringing life into the world, forever linked me with another soul for whom I am responsible. The fact that I am “mother” is the most important part of my children’s lives. And so begins my life story.
I hate that word. I admit it. Whenever possible I use “person with autism.” I talk about autism as one aspect of my son’s life, not the only aspect, because I don’t want the world to view him through one narrow lens. I want people to look beyond what their expectations of an “autistic” person might be, and see the amazing individual that is my pride and joy. That being said, I know there are many people across the autism spectrum who say “autistic” is who they are, part of their being, just like any other characteristic could be “defining” for another person. Do I think there’s a politically correct term to use? No. Words are not as important as openness and tolerance and acceptance. And in this case, I deliberately chose the word autistic because despite his individual quirky personality, his great sense of humor, his engineering ability, his sensitivity to others- and all those special things that make him Alex- were it not for the autistic part, my six word memoir would be vastly different. Mothering autistic Alex has shaped my life in a much more profound way than just plain “mothering.”
A tribute. And hey, I’m allowed! He may lack the language to express to the world in words all that he understands, but believe me, it’s in there. I spent years listening to “experts” say there was no way to know the level of his cognitive ability without some sort of language-based assessment. Okay, whatever. I have always known what his cognitive ability is, I know what he’s capable of learning and achieving. Again, back to word one- because I’m the mother, that’s why!
To cause, call forth, to bring about. There’s also some part of that word that’s spiritual (“to invoke God’s mercy”) and binding (“to invoke the law”). Mothering Alex has not only defined me in a new way, at times it has called forth an entirely new woman, a witness to miracles, a stronger person than I believed I could be. I never knew real courage until I had to take the risk to shut out the rest of the world and follow my gut instincts on how to help my child. Until I had Alex, I didn’t know exactly what was in me to be called forth. I am grateful for having the opportunity to find out.
By the time I got to this point in the sentence, I was pretty confident I had it right. Mothering was key, autistic prodigy fit, and certainly those three words together invoke something pretty powerful for me. But what exactly? When I look at my life these past seven years since Alex was diagnosed, I see many ways the struggles and challenges have shaped the person I am. But the things I’ve learned and the ways I’ve grown in themselves aren’t pivotal enough to make the memoir. What strikes me as most profound is the fact that my life with Alex will continue forever. As long as I am alive, I will be this mother to my autistic son. Of course, I’ll be a mother to my typical daughter, too. But my relationship with her will grow and change and evolve. There is something about my role in Alex’s life that will remain constant, will always require faith and perseverance and a deeper understanding of myself and the world. So far I can attest to the fact that traveling this path definitely takes endurance, quite an astonishing amount of it.