This week marks a year since we first met with our paediatrician. A year since the words 'He certainly has a very autistic flavour to him' were uttered. A year since the veil of denial was lifted and we were able to see the blindingly obvious - that our Ollie has an Austism Spectrum Disorder.
What a year it has been. There have been lows like I have never known. There have been many tears shed. Fears have been realised. My teeth are slowly being ground down from all of the teeth clenching I have done. I have felt anxiety in the pit of my stomach more times than I care to remember. Cooking chocolate has been consumed on numerous occasions. I have been scratched. I have been bitten. I have been pinched. I have cleaned up faecal matter from the beautiful curls on Ollie's head and from various other locations. I have helped our little boy to ride through periods of extreme anxiety in the best way I know how. I have been frustrated beyond belief in my inability to ease that anxiety. I have watched strangers stare at him, aware that something is not quite right. I have wanted to escape to a desert island.
I have also watched Ollie blossom. I have watched him go from a child who seemed not to care about anything around him to a child who sees joy in the every day. I have listened to him utter new words, words that I didn't think I would ever hear. I have heard him say Mamma. I have heard him say Dadda. I have heard him say Will. I have heard him say apple approximately 956 billion times. He now says 'Lub you' as regularly as I say it to him. I have seen him go from a child who says nothing to a child with developing language skills, and that was my biggest hope. Spontaneous language has become real. I have watched him learn the alphabet, and I have heard him count all manner of things. He now acknowledges the arrival and departure of our nearest and dearest with waves ('wabing'), hellos and bye byes. He makes contact with his eyes. I can see Ollie developing every day and I am so excited about what will come next.
A year ago when Ollie was unofficially diagnosed one of the things I feared the most was the damage it may do to my relationship with Elloy. I knew the stats. Marriages are torn apart when a disabled child is involved. I don't know what I was worried about. All it has done has made us stronger. I have been with this man since I was a teenager. All of my adult life. Nothing about any of this changes us. We are rock solid, just as we always have been. I couldn't do any of it without him. He really is the other half of me.
Will. A lot of the pain I felt when Ollie was diagnosed had to do with Will. I worried, still do, about how it would effect him. A year on I know that it is inevitable that it will effect him. Nothing we can do changes that. What I didn't realise was that many of the effects are positive. Having a brother with an ASD will enrich his life, his personality. Sure, there are shitty things about Ollie having an ASD. Ollie gets irritated by Will at times and expresses that irritation by physically lashing out. We are trying to teach Will how to manage when it happens and he is learning. I need to remember that siblings fight and it is not always about autism. Will is learning about tolerating differences at an age so young that it will be a part of his being without any effort. He is developing in to a nurturing soul, protective of his brother and aware that he needs a different kind of attention. He is respectful of those differences and I am enjoying watching him become a fabulous big brother. The boys are slowly starting to play together and it is a joy to watch. I so hope that they become fast friends. Time will tell.
And what of me? I have grown immeasurably as a person in the past twelve months. I have seen a strength in myself that I didn't know existed. I have developed patience in truckloads. I'm slowly learning to be bulletproof when confronted with ignorance and stupidity. I have learnt that getting up and going to the gym at 540am doesn't kill me. In fact it makes my days better, and it gives me the ability to continue to take care of myself. I need to do that. I have discovered that cooking chocolate really isn't that bad.
I am learning that most people are good and caring. Many of my friends are showing me just how true that statement can be. The interest that people show in Ollie and learning what makes him tick makes me teary on a regular basis. We have such good people in our lives, and Ollie's diagnosis has meant that we have been blessed with many new friends whom we never would have met. Our network is increasing every day and I feel buoyed and supported by friendships new and old.
I couldn't care less about my career. I doubt there are many people that at the end of their days say that they wish they worked more. I couldn't care less about material possessions. I am lucky to have them, but they don't define me, don't define us. I have come to realise that all that really matters is that we love one another. These are the cards we have been dealt. I can't change that. What I can do is love my boys, all three, with every fibre of my being. That will never change.