There’s a picture I keep on my bathroom mirror. 

It’s been there since we moved into this house, so going on 8 years.

I see it every time I brush my teeth or wash my face at night. The old me, smiling with her very young husband and daughter.

I don’t even remember why I put it there.

I must have come across it while I was unpacking, and felt drawn to it. It’s a picture that has great significance to me.

In the picture, my husband and I are at a church activity in Southern California town, where my parents used to live. We had just moved in with them after my husband graduated from college. He was looking for work as an English teacher.

We were in limbo, not sure where we would end up.

We were also in limbo with our daughter, that cute redheaded little girl.

See, in my last article, I told you that my neighbor had just told us she had autism.

This picture was taken 2 months later. And in those two months, I had completely ruled out autism.

I did my own research, and even took her to a neurologist, and came to the conclusion that she was going to be fine—the neurologist said she was too young to be diagnosed.

She would grow out of those strange behaviors, I told myself.

Autism was not an option.

But she still wasn’t walking. She was afraid to walk.

She was getting physical therapy, and a “teacher” was coming to my parent’s house once a week to help her catch up on her milestones. The services were beginning to grow, and I didn’t like it, because it meant my little girl wasn’t “normal.”

All these things were happening when that picture was taken.

In that picture, I see a mom who is scared out of her mind—who is hiding the truth of her child inside her brain, hoping it will amount to nothing.

I see a mom who is struggling to cope with the fact that her child might have a disability, a diagnosis, but has no idea what that might mean. I see a mom who is scared of autism, who believes in stigmas because that’s all she knew.

But you know who else I see? The most adorable toddler in the world.

A toddler that was complimented everywhere we went, who was told by many that she should be in commercials or on TV, she was so cute.

I see a little girl who was also unsure of herself, scared of the world around her, frightened by cold snow and loud noises. A girl who is struggling internally but did not have the words to express it, and still doesn’t, most times.

This was the beginning of our journey as a family, a journey into the unknown future.

And I keep this picture in my bathroom to remind me just how far we’ve come—it’s a daily dose of hope that I still crave.

But right around this time, an emotion now gripped me tighter than I held my daughter’s hand while crossing the street: DENIAL.

I had moved pushed FEAR back into the farthest corner of my mind and let DENIAL rear its ugly head.

 

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