On Nov. 17, 2006, at 4:51 a.m., my world was forever changed. I was a 20-year-old new mom, looking down at my daughter swaddled in hospital blankets. I had never felt more proud. I brought this tiny treasure into the world and I knew I would go to the ends of the earth for her.
“Mama bear” instincts are real. And it’s true, the moment women give birth, we are changed beyond the ‘feel good’ emotions of oxytocin that cause us to bond faster with our children. Our physiology is hardwired differently and life as we know it is changed forever. Scientific American reports that pregnancy and lactation hormones may alter the brain, “increasing the size of the neurons in some regions and producing structural changes in others.” I also know a mother or two who would fist bump me for shouting from the rooftops that:
Mom brain is a real thing!
I accepted my calling to be a mother. It did not matter that I was single and that I, by all accounts, was ridiculed for not marrying my daughter’s father. I knew I was purposed to not hide behind the shadows of a fledgling marriage and that my daughter deserved a happy mother.
Interestingly enough, I like to believe that I was set up for the fight of my life with my daughter. I experienced hardship as a young girl and steeled myself against getting kicked out the house because I was pregnant. And somewhere along the lines, I realized I was born a warrior; a fighter with a resilient mind poised for the brawl of a lifetime.
When my daughter was diagnosed with autism, I laughed because I thought the therapist said, “Ms. Banks, your daughter is artistic.” I, of course, said, “I know she’s artistic, my entire family is creative, but why isn’t my daughter engaging with me? Why isn’t she speaking?”
I think I was in denial.
When I think about when daughter was initially diagnosed, according to the doctor’s report, my kiddo should be off in some corner staring at a wall. If I would have left it up to them, my daughter would not have a life of independence and strength.
People attach so much negative stigma to anything that is different to them. Autism is a neurodevelopment disorder. And, I still find “disorder” to be subjective. Somewhere, I ended up attaching myself to the definition of disorder as a disrupt in the systemic way of functioning. I’m totally OK with a revolution in thought and social processes.
But from the time I snatched my daughter from that diagnostic room till now, everyday has been a fight. My daughter and I have fought for the life she should have and what I knew in my heart she was capable of achieving. I dreamed of the memories she could make, the sports she could participate in. We have fought with school administrators and therapists and even our own emotions.
The word ‘autism’ is overshadowed at times by people’s misinterpretation of individuality. I asked my daughter, “Baby, what are the main things you want people to know about autism?” My daughter said to me:
If I learn a different way, if I socialize a different way, I cannot and will not let myself be stereotyped by anyone’s small thinking. Everyone has the right to be comfortable and free to learn they way we need to without fear.
Our children teach us so much. And I thank God every day for selecting me to be the warrior mom of a miraculous activist and revolutionary. My prayer is that if you don’t remember anything else, remember that labels come with a living, breathing, thriving person behind them. Please treat each other with kindness and acceptance.
Hi, Antoinette here. I am a mother, author, budding neuroscientist and believer. I strive everyday to be the best mom that I can to my little girl Nevaeh. It’s just us two, rocking it out and hoping to inject autism acceptance worldwide!
Better Than A Diagnosis: A Single Parent’s Guide to Autism is a never before seen autobiographical novel meets well researched roadmap in navigating the world of autism. Click HERE if you’d like more information on the book.
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