Monday, July 12, 2010
Recently, Good Morning America had a feature called "Be Inspired." Each of anchors had a story that described the person who had somehow made a difference in the world. For weather anchor, Sam Champion, his inspirational person was his older sister Teresa. Apparently, Sam's nephew has autism and Teresa gave up a successful career as an attorney to become a tireless advocate for her son, and for other children and young adults with autism. There was one part of the interview in particular that moved me. Sam asked his sister, "You've become this person who is…advocate lady, but where are you someplace inside there?" His sister responded, "I don't know because honestly I don't know what you're asking me." So, Sam asked her again if there wasn't a time that she thought to herself, "I get to just be me" and she shook her head slowly and started to cry.
In the weeks and months leading up to David's diagnosis, I worried about labeling him. What if they say he has autism and it turns out not to be the case? Would we ever be able to remove that label from him? What I did not consider, however, was the label that would forever be attached to me, as well.
I have not read Jenny McCarthy's new book, Mother Warriors, and I am really not sure who originally coined this term to describe autism Moms, but I find the subtitle of the book interesting, A nation of Parents Healing Autism Against All Odds. Warrior mother—the term certainly does paint a vivid picture of a tireless woman, decorated with war paint and equipped with every possible tool and intervention, clawing her way through the world of autism to "heal" her child. But, what about all of the mothers who set aside their own lives, who make sacrifices on a daily basis like having coffee with friends, the chance to take a walk in the park, to have time to themselves? They may give up a lucrative career, or even a happy marriage to do everything in their power, use all of their resources to "heal" their children, but what if their children are not "healed" of their autism?
For awhile after David was diagnosed, I started wearing my college class ring again. I am not really sure what I was trying to prove, except that I went to a pretty competitive university and the ring was a symbol of my first big solo accomplishment. Maybe I was looking for a reminder that I had faced challenges in the past. Maybe I wanted to remind myself that I had an identity before children. Maybe I was just delirious from lack of sleep. I do know that my delight at the combination of being able to find my class ring and slip it easily onto my finger was quickly tempered by the realization that I would not be able to get it back off of my finger without the aid of butter or Vaseline.
Of all the people Sam Champion has met during his career and could have chosen to profile, he picked his sister as his inspiration. I have never met his sister, Teresa, but I bet she would say she is not trying to inspire, just doing what she feels compelled to do for her son and for other children with autism--like so many mothers out there who do not feel like warriors, just occasionally weary.