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Warrior Mama

November 8, 2011

This is the true joy in life – being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. ~George Bernard Shaw

Warrior Mom. I’ve been referred to as a warrior mom quite a few times. I am a mother first. I am an advocate. I am a warrior. We all are. This is what we do for our children. This is what we do for each other. We fight for our own children, paving the way for the next child. We wake up each morning and get to work. We fight the demons that plague our children. We do our best to prepare our children for this world, never forgetting that we must also prepare the world for our children.

We never stop moving. Each morning we wake up ready to do battle with whatever comes our way. The morning transitions leave us breathless and exhausted. Trying to get any child out the door on time can be a battle, but add autism to the mix along with all it’s sensory issues, and you need all the extra time and patience that you can muster. After one child is dropped off at school with his therapists, then we must prepare for the onslaught of still more therapists and doctor’s appointments for the other children.

Our days are filled with small battles, and, if we’re lucky, minute victories that encourage us to keep on going. There are the constant battles with bureaucracies. Fighting with insurance representatives and government agencies that hold the purse strings that are the gateway to accessing the services our children so desperately need. If we are not at our best as warrior moms and as advocates, then it is our children who suffer the consequences.

We are not permitted to have a bad day, because each day there is so much dependent on our abilities, our patience, our persistence. We are the lead therapists and the most important teachers that our children have. We are their most ardent cheerleaders. If they allow us, we are their greatest comfort. We are their safe pace to fall apart at the end of a long day, which often means we receive the full force of the impending meltdown. Often, we are left physically and emotionally exhausted, as are our children. The end of the day brings more battles, more transitions, more sleep problems. We stay up late, preparing for the next day, crashing into a dreamless and often interrupted sleep. We wake early the next morning to do it all again.

Inevitably some will ask us why we do this. They ask as though we have some sort of choice in the matter. We do this because we are moms and dads. We love our children and at the end of the day, there is nothing more important than their success, however we may measure that. We find each other in support groups or online communities. We help each other out, clinging to our shared experiences like shipwrecked survivors cling to each other, trying to stay afloat in a turbulent ocean.

Each day we do this with a measure of resolve, faith, and a fair bit of exhaustion. We do what we do, hoping, often against the odds, that our child will speak, that he will make friends- real friends, that she will be able to live an independent life in whatever way she can. We pick ourselves up and move on, sometimes because it’s all we can do. We don’t always move forward. Indeed, some days it seems we fall backwards. Some days it seems that our children slip a little farther away from us, a little more distance away from their peers. Like any warriors, we suffer some losses in the battle. We may lose touch with some friends, we may find ourselves at odds with some family members who just don’t get it. We may start to lose a little of ourselves and become completely engulfed by our new “identity” of Autism Mom. It’s not always easy. No one said it would be, but we battle on. We keep fighting, because we have a purpose, a seemingly distant goal, even if it is only to get through this one day, or this one shopping trip. We keep going for our children, especially when they can’t do it for themselves.

We might listen to our friends boast about their “typical” child’s latest achievements with a twinge of envy, but also know that they will never experience the same level of joy at witnessing such hard-fought miracles as your child’s fist independent step, or God-willing, a word. They will probably never feel the same surge of emotions that comes as your child achieves a new milestone, no matter how seemingly small. They can take the small stuff for granted. For us, the small stuff is the big stuff, and cause for full-blown celebration. I like to say that in our house, we have small miracles every day. Everyone really does, but does everyone take the time to notice them? Probably not like the Warrior Mom who had to fight so very hard to get to that moment. We don’t live a fast-paced life, but sometimes the slow moving glacier can be at least as powerful, a little at a time, as the swift current of a raging river.

God nods….. “Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a ‘spoken word'”. She will never consider a “step” ordinary. When her child says ‘Momma’ for the first time, she will be present at a miracle, and will know it!”

“I will permit her to see clearly the things I see…ignorance, cruelty, prejudice….and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life, because she is doing My work as surely as if she is here by My side”.

The Special Mother by Erma Bombeck

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