When you find out you’re having a baby, you have all these wonderful ideas of what life will be like, how you’ll feel and what the future will hold. And when your child comes in to the world it is amazing but at the same time everything seems, well, slightly mental as you navigate through being a new parent; you have no idea how many times you’ll be covered in sick, poo and wee within any given 24 hour period, you probably won’t get a hot cup of tea or coffee until they’re at least 10 and you don’t get much sleep, but it is wonderful and amazing and hard work, all at the same time. Then within 3 months you no longer have a newborn, before you know it your little one is a toddler, hitting their milestones, walking and talking. Oh, hang on, they’re not talking . . .
That, for me, was the first clue to the fact that Anna was different to other children. (There probably were other clues, but I’m not Poirot). I wasn’t worried for a long time, as Anna’s big sister didn’t walk until she was 2 years old but was talking in full sentences by the age of 20 months, so I just thought that Anna would get there in her own time. After all, all children are different and do things at different times regardless of what the books say. However, my husband and I had agreed that we would seek advice from our doctor if Anna wasn’t talking by two and a half. Two and a half came and off we trotted to the doctors. We were reassured that it was most likely a speech delay as everything else seemed fine and then we waited and waited and waited for a speech and language appointment.
It was only when we got the appointment that it came with a questionnaire and one of the questions was ‘does anybody else have concerns about your child?’ and so I emailed it to the nursery. Nursery hadn’t expressed any concerns, despite the fact that I had discussed my concerns with them about Anna’s speech on several occasions and I was told ‘no’ there were no concerns at all. It turns out that they did have concerns, but for some unknown reason, for the 6 months that Anna had been at nursery, they had chosen not to share their concerns with me, her mother. So the following day, whilst dropping Anna off at nursery, I was told that they thought that there was ‘something wrong with Anna’. And suddenly I was falling. Not like in a dream where you suddenly wake up, because I kept falling
I attended a meeting with them the following day where they told me everything that Anna couldn’t do in comparison to her peers. It was painful and extremely difficult to listen to. I told them that I just wanted facts, not opinions, because facts I could deal with. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried the whole way through that meeting. I mean huge tears that fell on to my notepad and made the notes that I had been trying to write illegible. (My notes from that day look as though they’d been run under a tap). I felt as though someone had pushed me off a boat and told me to swim to the shore, in a storm, without even knowing where the shore was or if I could swim. It was just all so overwhelming.
I think I was in shock more than anything and I suddenly felt alone and terrified of what the future might hold for Anna. I honestly don’t know how I got up every day and carried on with life; school drop offs, shopping, helping with homework, all the normal stuff. I think somehow I switched my auto pilot on as I really couldn’t tell you much about those weeks at all, except for the fact that I kept a diary. My head felt that it was in such a mess I had to get it on paper just so I could try and make sense of it all.
Our speech and language appointment confirmed my fears that they suspected that Anna didn’t just have a speech delay. The appointments and the follow-ups and the general chasing was overwhelming and almost like a full time job and all the time I was searching for answers to the millions of questions I had running around in my head. I was googling all the time and what I was looking for was somewhere or something that would tell me that everything was going to be OK, that Anna would be fine, it was just a speech delay, and that she’d wake up one morning and tell me exactly what she wanted for breakfast or what she wanted to do that day.
It felt like I was talking about somebody else’s child at times, almost like an out of body experience. I had to keep reminding myself that this was my daughter I was talking about, my daughter whom all of a sudden might have more than just a speech delay and that it might, in fact, be autism.
I started to look at every single thing that Anna was doing and I was questioning all the time whether what she did was normal behaviour for a 2 year old or was it something else and if it was something else, was that something else autism? The fear and worry started to consume me completely and at times I felt like I was losing my grip on things.
Then one day, we were at my parents’ house and Anna was restless. It was a beautiful spring day, so I guess it was towards the end of April, and I decided that Anna needed to get out and burn off some of that energy. We went for a walk, just her and I and as we left the house, Anna bent down and kissed the garden path. I couldn’t work out why or what she was doing first of all and I remember thinking, oh no, this is a sign, a terrible sign that something really is wrong and that things are getting worse. Anna kept stopping and kissing the floor every so often and suddenly I realised what she was doing; Anna was kissing every single ant she saw and she carried on doing it for some time. Then it was the flowers turn and Anna started to kiss every flower she saw. I have no idea if the kissing is linked to anything, but I don’t care. I loved the fact that she saw the details that I didn’t see and that I suddenly realised I’d been missing. So, from that day on I decided that I wouldn’t miss the small things, because it’s only later when you realise that actually they’re the big things, the special moments and most importantly, they’re the things that really matter.
Photo source: Pixabay