“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” ~Melody Beattie
A life with autism was not something we wanted for our son or for our family. When my husband and I were newly married, we prayed for children- daughters, to be exact- and we asked for healthy, bouncy baby girls.
Our first child was a son, born six and a half weeks early, and he was a cute little boy with a lightbulb-shaped head and a button nose who made us forget we asked for daughters, “California-rolling-baby-style.” Eighteen months later, we had our second child, and early sonograms told us we were expecting a daughter- yes! Because there were complications with this pregnancy, we had bi-monthly check-ups to track growth and development. At the last sonogram barely a week before delivery, “she” turned around and flashed us with a highly visible third leg. This baby was already playing tricks on us early on, so his Mama decided to get even. Alphonse wore pink during his entire infancy, haha.
So we were zero for two- no daughters and our sons didn’t exactly come into this world perfectly healthy and bouncy. Both boys had early health issues, but a lot of them were resolved by their sixth month, and let me tell you, they were the two most beautiful babies we had ever seen in our life!
While Alex went on to blossom beautifully, Alphonse’s development began lagging. After his first birthday, he lost his words and stopped making eye contact. When he needed something, he would grab us by the hands and lead us to what he wanted. He didn’t know how to ask. He no longer tried to speak; he just grunted a lot. He flapped his arms and hands, walked on tiptoes, and spun everything he could lay his hands on, even Oreo cookies. After some wait, at a year and a half old, Alphonse received a clear-cut diagnosis of autism.
In the last 25 years, we have had a rollercoaster ride with autism; it has led us to depths and places we never even knew existed. To say it has been difficult would be an understatement because the truth is, this kind of life is not something we would wish on anyone. It is draining, exhausting, incapacitating, and a lot of times, demoralizing. When you deal with meltdowns, aggression, and self-injury on a daily basis, it takes all your energy just to get through another day.
Still, what we lack in so many things that make up a “normal” life, we try to make up for it in the things that matter. Laughter. Love. Faith. Grit. Gratitude.
These are the things that allow us to wake up every single morning, get out of bed, and do the same things over and over again. They allow us to bravely welcome a struggling man-child into our arms to calm and soothe him, certain that we will get hurt in the process. They allow us to laugh, to take things in stride, and say “Hey, at least, it wasn’t THIS bad.” They remind us that this difficult, prickly, oftentimes combative, young person is a child we have loved since the day he was conceived; we just always wish we could make things easier for him.
When you have love, you have gratitude. And when you have gratitude, everything is enough.
This smile, this moment captured forever in this photograph, this is enough.