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My son has always been an autistic child—his diagnosis changed my world, not his

There was never a moment when he was not autistic. Everything he sees in the world is viewed through that lens—everything he has eaten, loved, touched, watched and engaged with has been through the ability of his autistic brain.

My son has always been an autistic child—his diagnosis changed my world, not his

I'm an incessant daydreamer. It's easy to imagine perfect scenarios where I always say the right thing and my hair looks fantastic. My dreams allow me to right wrongs, find that pithy comeback and save the world on a regular basis. While pregnant with my son it was easy to slide him into those dreams. I would happily hand the world-saving reigns over to him, and naturally he would place one hand on my shoulder and say, in a voice ringing with sincerity: “I owe it all to my Mother." Then everyone would clap.

When I was asked if I wanted a boy or a girl I would say, “I just want a healthy child." Secretly I know I sort of wanted perfection. A child to be a perfect version of my partner and myself. A child with height (I am lacking), athletic ability (again, lacking), and a heart big enough to save the world—all wrapped up with a little bit of cheekiness (my contribution). My son is tall, he enjoys hurling himself off various things and saying “ta-da!" when he sticks the landing, he loves fiercely and quickly, and is generally understood to be the epitome of a troublemaker. He's also autistic, and therefore, according to general society, not a “healthy child."

A strange thing happens when your child gets an autism diagnosis. The world around you restructures itself. Your relationships shift, goals relapse and realign. The people around you reveal themselves, for better or for worse. The only constant is this kid you're attempting to parent. He is the only one unaware of the seismic shift undertaken on his behalf.

He has always been an autistic child. There was never a moment when he was not autistic. Everything he sees in the world is viewed through that lens—everything he has eaten, loved, touched, watched and engaged with has been through the ability of his autistic brain.

And before the diagnosis, you never knew. Sure, there were issues. That's why you began asking questions. This wasn't the expected answer though. It seems you have always been raising a child on the autism spectrum. You just didn't know. Now you do know, and for some reason that changes everything.

His future, once bright, is now spoken about in soft voices laced with hesitation, no more gruff proclamations of, “Well he certainly knows what he wants! Har har har!" Now he is showing signs of obsession and it needs to be managed. He needs to be managed. He doesn't need play-dates, he needs social-skills therapy. You don't need a drink with friends, you need respite.

There is the tick-tick-tick of early-intervention time slipping away plus he needs a signed plan and he needs it yesterday. There is a cacophony of meetings, appointments, reports and sessions. Through all of this, your son lines things up, whispers words from beloved books over and over, and places his palm on your face when you cuddle him to sleep. Your life is no longer a solid rock—it is shifting sand and you don't know what to do, but you can hear him breathing in the dark and you love him. You love him.

I just want a healthy child.

The phrase I once thoughtlessly uttered came back to settle in the depths of my mind. Slinking around like a guilty shadow. He wasn't the child I imagined. Parents of autistic children are often told that the time of diagnosis is difficult.

We are told it's okay to grieve the life we've lost. It's okay to grieve the family we no longer have, or the future that's disappeared somewhere in the mire of health care paperwork. It is, essentially, acceptable to grieve the loss of a child while that child sits beside you making derogatory remarks about your knowledge of construction vehicles. Agencies handed out booklets stating grief was normal.

Yet, when I thought about it, I wasn't grief I was feeling. It was remorse and anger. I was never entitled to a child to complete my version of the perfect family. I was remorseful I'd ever placed that burden on him. I didn't bring a child into my life to heal my wounds or fulfill my various forgotten destinies. I am here for him.

I'm not entitled to him, but he is entitled to me. He is entitled to be loved and accepted, to have his fears and dreams acknowledged. To be a complete person in himself, secure in his worth and proud of his capabilities and talents. I was angry for what my child had lost. A boy filled with potential had regressed to various scorecards in filing systems tucked away in agencies.

Jim Sinclair, an autistic adult, said in a speech to parents of autistic children entitled Don't Mourn For Us that when parents say they grieve for their child, what the child hears is that the parents wish for a different child, a non-autistic child. Imagine the pain in that realization. Sinclair went on to say about understanding and loving an autistic child: “Approach respectfully, without preconceptions, and with openness to learning new things, and you'll find a world you could never have imagined."

My son never lost his potential when he was diagnosed. There was nothing taken. He is still a boy with a bright future. However, it's his future now, not the one I would inflict on him. There are many autistic adults who are happy and successful, who live fulfilling lives without reference to scorecards in filing cabinets. Yes, autism requires accommodations, but that doesn't make him any less a bundle of potential than any other 6 year old desperately trying to feed their broccoli to the cat.

When I was pregnant with my second potential troublemaker and I was asked what I wanted, I never said I wanted a healthy child. My “unhealthy" child was perfect, he deserved to be a part of the world and our love and acceptance of him was complete. I would instead, smile and say, “I just want a child."

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We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!


A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.

$239.99

A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.

$219.99

A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.

$379.99

A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.

$29.99

A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.

$99.99

A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.

$15.99

A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.

$79.99

A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.

$99.99

An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.

$24.99

A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.

$59.99

And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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