Today, I am forty.
As we grow, we tend to lump our life into decades. The childhood years, the teenage years, the twenties when you are finding yourself, then the thirties….the childbearing years. I had my kids in my thirties, but they were not the happy, go lucky, raise your normal kids type of years. No…. my thirties were more about dealing with medical diagnoses of my children.
My thirties started with the birth of my oldest child, now 10, and her diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy and later Autism. It was the Autism that truly rocked our world.
Growing up in a family of five myself, I was taught to do what was right. (Not that I always did.) I was taught to use my manners, be kind and work hard because that is how you get ahead in this world. My mom taught me to stand up for what I believe in. My dad taught me to love fiercely. And my parent’s relationship taught me to stick with my husband…even when things get hard.
But then, life got ugly. In my thirties, I started to see things for what they really were. I watched my beautiful, engaged, babbling 12-month-old daughter spiral backward in her development. By 18 months old, we had lost her to autism. There is not much that can break your heart like that. Having your child there…but not there. Watching other kids develop so quickly and leave her behind while she was lost in her own world.
But in reality, I’m sure all this happened, in part so my soul could grow. I needed to learn to lean on my husband for strength when I had no more. I needed to learn to trust him because he loves her too. I needed to love fiercely, like my dad, so I could see the truth. The truth in what really happened. I needed to work hard to get my daughter back. I needed to develop the strength to stand up to doctors who simply wanted to medicate my two year old. I needed to teach myself everything, just as my mom has in her life, so that I could learn HOW to bring her back to me.
Little did I know that I would spend the bulk of my thirties learning about gut flora, methylation, candida overgrowth, nutrition, adrenals and mitochondrial dysfunction. If I had known in advance, I certainly would not have majored in business and marketing in college. I have spent the last ten years changing the way my family eats and lives life.
There have been many tears and long nights in the past ten years….but I have also felt intense gratitude and incredible highs when she started to come back to us. I now know my daughter…. something I feared would never happen. I can hear her voice. She tells me when she is nervous, angry or happy. She tells me that she loves me. She gives me unprompted hugs and tells me she is sorry if she has made a day particularly hard for me.
During all this, I have had the honor of getting to know an amazing group of mothers. They are autism moms. And they have shown me the way. They have taught me to read medical studies on my own. They have held my hand when times got tough and helped me find answers to my daughter’s problems. And these answers, incidentally, also helped my second child with sensory processing disorder and my son with severe food allergies. And now that my daughter is recovering, I have the honor of holding the hands of newly diagnosed parents when they need me.
Needless to say, I learned more lessons in my thirties than I have my entire life. And I feel stronger for it. My gray hairs and crows feet are earned. I guess my parents knew what they were doing when they named me Kelly. In Irish the meaning of the name Kelly is: warrior.
And now that I have looked back, it is important to look forward. I try to take one day at a time because when you live with autism, you never know what tomorrow will bring. But I am optimistic. I am living in a time when parents are demanding answers. When passionate parents are healing their own children despite the odds. And hopefully, we will see a cure in my lifetime. There are already promising recovery treatments, although the results vary from child to child. Despite my wariness of the medical community because of their denial of vaccine involvement and their insistence of the use of anti-psychotic drugs, I am excited to see what the next ten years will bring. Functional medicine and Epigenetics are on the rise which is very promising.
As my husband always says…it is not what happens to you…it is how you react to it. It is all about attitude. And I love my children fiercely and that will never stop. I will continue to fight for them, enjoy them, learn from them and hopefully continue to heal them. God willing. Here’s to the next decade of healing.