Before I write this, I'd like to say that I am in no way comparing my grief to that of parents who have physically lost a child. To be frank, I'm not sure how your world keeps turning and you are superheroes. However, the grieving process I went through is real, and one many, if not all, parents who have children with any kind of additional needs go through.
As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I knew I'd have a boy. It wasn't a hunch, a mothers instinct, a 'feeling' - it was biological science. Females have 2 X chromosomes, a male has an X and a Y, so they get the deciding vote. Neil comes from a family of 3 boys, his dad comes from a family of 6 boys. The math was set. Female Dudzik's are a rarity.
As the weeks passed, I'd start to imagine. What would the house be like with a raucous 7 year old? How many times would I have to call on my pre-teen son to get out his room and come and get his dinner? Would I be driving my teenager to the cinema or would I let him get the bus? As he started driving lessons, would I take him out in my car, or leave that for Dad? Would I be the sweet mum meeting the girlfriend, or the crazy mum? Would he go to university like me or go straight to an apprenticeship and work his way up the corporate ladder like Dad? Would we help with his first house deposit? I did a lot of thinking in those 40 weeks.
I used to joke when Luca was around 9 or 10 months that he showed signs of autism. Not because it was funny, but because I wanted someone to tell me I was being silly.
'Of course he doesn't, he's absolutely fine". And I did hear those words. I heard them at his 11 month review, even though I tentatively mentioned autism and was it something I should be concerned about.
And then all of a sudden, things that were maybe just a delay were now a red flag. There was a very real probability that my little boy had autism. And at first, it wasn't a big deal - so he operated a little diffrently, so what? I taught kids who were on the spectrum and they were in mainstream education and doing just fine.
But then the words never came. Was he non-verbal or just speech delayed? And that was hard to accept. My little boy wasn't going to talk? Probably not. Definitely not any time soon. He wasn't going to start mini-kickers. School would be different. Friendships would be different. Life was going to be so different, so unexpected.
And that was the point where my mind started to shift. We'd have good days, for sure. Luca was the exact same little boy - happy, crazy, a bit weird, loving but I couldn't shake the 'why me?'. Why was this happening to me - not us. Me. Why did I have to have the autistic child? There were 3 other woman who gave birth on the same night as me but I bet their kids were developing just fine. They didn't have to go to development centres, or have bloods drawn, or have various professionals come to asses their children in their home. It was unfair. I was angry as hell.
And those were the bad days, but there were terrible days too. Days when I couldn't look at my child and see all the things that wouldn't be on the cards for him. Days where I could only see the negative side of this lifelong diagnosis. Days where I was reminded that this was lifelong. As in, as long as Luca lived. Not as long as I lived, or Neil lived. Who the hell was going to care for him when we weren't able to? I'm crying as I write this because this is still a very real fear for me. Who can I trust to love and care for my child as much as I do? - nobody on this planet could.
But then I look at him now. How much he progresses each and every week. And I hope.
I don't think I'm done grieving for the parenting job I thought I was going to have. I still have days. But I'm learning. Learning to let go of all the things I thought I wanted for him. Learning to want new things, to experience a different kind of parenting job, learning to just let Luca be Luca.
Because he is really, really great. Just as he is.
Acceptance. It starts at home.