Motherhood changed me fundamentally. Almost from the moment my tiny son was placed in my arms, I knew the world would never be the same again. My purpose, my reason for being, shifted. Instantly, the world was more terrifying and more amazing. Joy was exquisite. Pain and fear were all-encompassing.
When I fell pregnant with my daughter, I struggled to know how I could ever love another being as fiercely, as absolutely, as I loved my son. And then she was born and it happened all over again. My children were like sudden, blinding lights, changing the way I viewed the world forever without really changing a thing.
My son was diagnosed with autism when my daughter was nine months old.
I am ashamed to say that for a long, bleak time, I was lost. I thought it was a tragedy. My new baby girl was a torment to her brother. He could not bear the noise, could not understand the change. She suffered severe reflux and screamed for more hours of the day than she was peaceful. I could barely function through the gripping fear that consumed me. I feared for my son and I feared for my daughter. I feared that I would let them both down, that I had, already, let them both down. I was bone-tired and full of despair.
At the age of 33, my perception of parenting, of everything, had already shifted so violently, so categorically, that I barely knew myself. And it was so dark. There was so much, pressing me down, constricting my chest, burning my lungs. I honestly do not know how I survived it – but for the love. The only thing more powerful than that darkness was my love for them, my love for my husband, his love for us, our love for our family.
Eventually, there was another evolution. This one seemed much subtler in comparison to the blinding lights. It was slow. Gentle. It shifted so gradually that I barely knew it was happening at all, like a glacier carving its way through a mountain. I learned more about autism. I talked to other parents who were going through the same. I started a blog. I realised that autism was not a tragedy, in fact it was often a joy. I learned that it was an old friend, not an unknown enemy.
I learned that I am likely autistic myself.
My children grew and flourished. They learned to love each other. I found an online community that taught me a great deal – about parenting, and myself. I started a new career that led to amazing opportunities and new friends – not least of all in my role as a Johnson’s Ambassador. I have done things I never dreamed of and I am happier than I could have imagined. The internet is such a mixed blessing for modern parenting, the ultimate double-edged sword. In my darkest hour, in my most vulnerable, lonely moment, I was Googling autism and despairing. I saw the parent I should be, the life we should have, and I felt cheated.
And yet, it was the online community that gave me a new lease of life, a new passion, too. It enabled me to go through that final, more subtle evolution, the one that has meant I am now comfortable with myself, with my parenting. It enabled me to redress the balance of joy and fear so that I was no longer paralysed by the latter. Modern parenting in the digital age is a minefield, and it is easy to fall down the rabbit hole of information available to parents, rather than feel informed and supported by it.
One of the reasons that I am so happy to be working with Johnson’s and to be supporting them in the evolution of their own brand, is because I really feel that they understand this journey. They put parents and parents’ wishes at the heart of everything they do. Parenting is the hardest and most rewarding experience that I have ever been through. It has made me a better person – more caring and less tolerant of unkindness and injustice.
Parenting is hard. I am so thankful to have found an online community to help me navigate these pressures. And while I know that there will be many challenges to come, I find myself feeling safer and more content than I have in many years.
I am looking forward to what 2019 brings.
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