I am not much of a night owl. Those who know me will tell you I am in bed by 9 p.m. if at all possible. Lately, though, I find myself searching for any excuse not to sleep. I am constantly looking for a distraction to keep me awake at night.
I don’t want to sleep because I have started to have a reoccurring nightmare. It is the kind of nightmare that feels so real, I’m not sure if it is a dream or if it really happened.
I wake up feeling like I cannot breathe. I am trying my hardest to catch my breath but just can’t seem to get any air.
This nightmare is different though. It’s not just a dream. It is my real-life worst fear playing out in my mind.
It is the fear that I am failing my son.
My 7-year-old son is autistic. These years, they are crucial for my boy. The problem, though, is no one really tells you what to do. There is no manual. There is no guide. There is nothing but an endless amount of choices.
Private school or public school?
ABA or no ABA?
Too much therapy?
Not enough therapy?
Medication or no medication?
The list goes on, and the truth is there is no right answer. There is no one-size-fits-all plan for how to best help your kid.
What happens if you don’t make the right choice? Well, it could be detrimental for your child.
The wrong choice can be the difference between your child living independently as an adult or never being able to take care of themselves.
The wrong choice can be the difference between your child speaking or never saying a word.
The choices we make, as special needs parents, directly impact the quality of life our kids will have.
Does it all lie in those choices? No, of course not. Sometimes there is nothing we can do to change the future. Sometimes no amount of right choices is enough to change the outcome.
But sometimes, it is. Sometimes those choices mean everything.
Autism is a spectrum and every child is different. Because of that, every treatment plan is different, too.
Everyone has a different opinion. Everyone gives you different advice. Despite all the choices, there is one common piece of advice I hear all the time. I hear it from family, friends, doctors, teachers . . . they all say the same thing.
They tell me mom always knows best. They tell me I will know in my gut what I should do for my boy. They tell me no one will know better than me. But what if they are wrong?
What if I don’t know what is best?
What if I choose wrong?
What if I am not enough?
The truth is I have no idea what I am doing.
I am a 27-year-old single mom. To be honest, before I had my son, I didn’t even like kids. I didn’t know when they were supposed to talk, or walk, or any of that. And autism? I had never even heard of that.
I am doing my very best and that is usually enough to get me through the day. But getting through the night? That can be tricky.
Lying alone in bed, my mind wanders. I begin to question it all. I have nightmares of my baby’s life when I am no longer here.
Who will take care of him when I am gone?
Will he be happy?
Will he be scared?
Will he know where I have gone, or will he just think I stopped loving him and left?
The worst part of all is that we never know. As moms, we never know if the decisions we have made are right or wrong. Sometimes all we can do is hope.
I love my son more than anything, and I will do everything I can to give him the greatest life. I will spend my days reading, studying, learning, and fighting.
I will spend my days doing my very best, and I will spend my nights fighting off the nightmares.
But sometimes, I will still wonder if I am enough.