Oh my, it has been so long since my last blog and my heart has been so filled with words all this time. Life is just chaotic and busy and most days more than I can handle, much less putting words to paper. I’ve spent the past month wrestling with sick kids and harsh realities…the kind that feel like a kick in the gut and change your life forever.
My youngest, Tate, is without a doubt a blessing to our family. The child that we knew we were supposed to have even though we had said we were done. He came into the world fast and furious but was the sweetest little baby. From the start his health was a struggle and we experienced numerous doctor, ER and hospital visits. As he got a little older his demeanor changed from happy to miserably grouchy. We spent our days attempting to snuggle while he screamed and cried. He became aggressive and emotionally shut off and it was heartbreaking to see him struggle daily. My reality changed practically overnight and most days seemed unbearable. The joy in our home seemed to seep away more and more daily and I found myself wondering why this was my life.
Close to Tate’s second birthday we made some diet tweaks and found an essential oil regimen that had him functioning so much better. But as time went on and we were less strict with his diet, he regressed. There are no words that adequately describe a life nothing like what you imagined, but its even worse when you see your child struggle with no way to help. We were doing everything we could to help him, and I secretly wondered what was really wrong with this child. Having raised two other children through the toddler years, I knew that his behavior was far from normal. They were the kind of fears you keep buried in the back of your mind and avoid at all costs.
Then it happened, we were at a doctor’s appointment because Tate had been struggling with a “stomach bug” for over three weeks. His cultures showed no parasites or infection, so we were left with a simple answer of “it will get better”. But during that visit, the Dr noted Tate’s anxiety, slow speech and lack of socialization…all signs of autism. He wanted to have Tate’s hearing and speech tested and the dreaded “A” word was used. I should clarify he in no way said my son suffered from Autism, but my biggest fears were right there, spoken, and a punch in the gut like no other. In one moment all of my dreams and desires for this little boy were dashed at the thought of him fighting this for the rest of his life. Struggling to connect and relate to the world, struggling to learn and thrive and live what most would view as a “normal” existence. This was my baby, and while there are wonderful people fighting this fight daily, I didn’t want my baby to be one of them.
I give you this emotional context because the flurry of emotion and the impact is so crucial to a heart change…so crucial to feel that blow and find a way to keep standing. Our family clung to God, prayed, and started to explore other causes for his behavior. Almost instantly gluten intolerance and celiac disease came to light with cases of it mimicking Tate’s situation, not to mention the mysterious “stomach bug” he had been fighting. We removed gluten from his diet and almost instantly he was a different child, he is socializing and happy and the “tummy bug” was gone. He was all of a sudden a normal toddler!
The emotions of the journey, which has in many ways just begun, were not so quickly healed, and that’s okay. It was as if God was hitting the reset button in my life. I think back over the past two years fighting for Tate’s health, struggling to survive each day and wondering why this was my life. There have been numerous times throughout the journey with Tate that I tried to find outlets for me in midst of it all…thinking that a hobby or fun thing would somehow make it more tolerable. So many blogs and articles and journals encourage mothers to seek an outlet and take care of them; I would in no way say that is a bad or wrong message, but I now believe that seasons will come when that just isn’t possible. Each and every outlet I pursued required me to walk away; the at home sales opportunity that was perfect for me, the early morning workouts that just weren’t feasible with so many hospital stays and sleepless nights, the play dates that were next to impossible with a child like Tate, and so many other missed chances. My life needed to focus solely on this child and my family, there was room for little else.
I’ve realized that it’s okay to have seasons where our focus is on nothing but what’s in front of us. It took me a long time to accept that my view of perfect, that all of those amazingly wonderful things I used to love doing, might not happen right now, and if they do, it likely won’t meet my previous standards. And while I wish I could only embrace the perfect and revel at how amazing it is, I know that without the imperfect, my life would be a shallow mess of perfect pictures and little depth. It’s the valleys that allow us to appreciate the mountaintops…I’m still waiting to find my way back to the mountaintop, but even a few more feet up the mountain is improvement. And needing to cling to God daily, while hard, isn’t a bad place to be. Being able to experience his provision and grace daily with a raw heart is a huge blessing!
While this journey isn’t over, and has been less than fun, I know that right now I’m being required to live in the trenches and fight for those I’ve been given me. I know that I fail daily and offer less patience than I should…but it’s my journey and I am learning so much. The more I am required to give (and I’ve given so much more than I knew I had!), the deeper I love. I never knew how strong my Momma Bear instincts could be until they were tested, and who knows, you might see me crusading for a Tate cause someday soon, but I will leave that for another day.