You know what sucked? The months leading up to Kate's diagnosis sucked. The months directly after were a cakewalk in comparison.
I've written before about how I knew something was different about Kate. I guess even earlier than those months before her diagnosis she wasn't connecting with us and she appeared deaf and all those things that all parents of autistic children will talk about. Those moments were not the worst. The worst, for me, were the short months after returning home from Disney (where I finally accepted what I had suspected for a while), as we waited for Kate to see the pediatric neurologist to get answers. During those months we watched and waited and lived in fear of hearing the dreaded words. When really, hearing those words allowed such a release of built-up tension and fear that I now look back on that day with gratitude that we finally had a small piece of the puzzle, as they say.
I had some level of denial leading up to that day, but for the most part, I knew. The initial day of the diagnosis and the few days immediately after were difficult because we had to wrap our brains around what this might mean. But guess what? There was a huge feeling of relief after the diagnosis, and here is why:
- I had been agonizing over what was "wrong" with Kate since she was born and now I knew that she had a neurodevelopmental disorder. (If you are hurt by my use of the word "wrong," then you misunderstand what I am saying. Kate is perfect to me and I adore every bit of everything that she is. She does have a disorder, however, and I have written before about how dangerous I feel ignoring that can be).
- We now had a plan of action. Looking back, things did not go as smoothly as we would have hoped, but we had a team of professionals helping us figure out our next step to help Kate.
- I could stop obsessing over Kate's developmental milestones. I could stop obsessing about why she wasn't talking or playing appropriately. Now we knew, and we immediately relaxed our expectations and everyone was happier. I did not say lowered, I said relaxed, so relax. ;)
- I could throw myself into research and writing and networking to meet and learn and advocate for Kate. I could finally direct the anxious energy into something good.
- I could stop doing those stupid Internet checklists. "Does my child have autism?", "What to expect from your 2-year-old," etc. Someone should be policing those things. I had everyone I knew diagnosed at one point.
I suspect I am not the only parent who found some level of comfort in hearing those words. The unknown can be so much more consuming than the truth.