Sometimes you don’t realize how charmed your life has been – or at least how generously mundane – until you are wallowing in difficulty for so long. I keep waiting for a sunbreak in the downpour, or even a let up. But it’s been a slog for months now.

Of course, I’ve had my share of challenges. I grew up with an alcoholic/addict and it’s impossible not to inherit some trauma from that. I also grew up fat in a world built for thinness, and that too gave me a layer of sadness to contend with. Thanks to those things, I was in a manipulative and abusive relationship and had to dig myself out of that both logistically and emotionally. I also seem to be biologically predisposed to an anxiety best managed with SSRIs.

So difficulty is not foreign to me, maybe it’s just so far in my rear view that it only seems that way. And of course, in the grand scheme of tragedy, mine is squarely in the ‘first world problems’ camp, though feelings don’t play well with reasonable comparison.

All of this prelude boils down to this: Life still feels immensely difficult in general. Today, right now, it’s not too bad. Partially, this is just luck. Partially it is thanks to some concerted efforts on my part to get myself unstuck. I am hopeful those efforts will manifest into a longer lasting impact. But I can’t say for sure.

As has been the case for months, there is no single thing – no trauma that is precipitating this. There is just a mountain of small difficulties that loom precariously over my head and regularly land slide into me, knocking me off my feet.

I am exhausted, chronically so. Years of not sleeping through the night (I think I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve had uninterrupted sleep) but also something else that a sleep doctor hasn’t quite figured out yet. I use a CPAP despite having basically normal breathing numbers from a sleep test, and I take a medication often used for narcolepsy as well, but still I am just a single long blink away from falling asleep almost anytime.

My children are incredible and brilliant and funny and dear. They are, as well, demanding and thankless, prone to meltdowns, deeply impatient, enjoy throwing toys at each other and me, and despite their impressive capability will still whine for us to do things for them that they have proven able to do. Ansel’s ASD amps a lot of this as well, making the come down from any meltdown or tantrum take much longer or have more intense consequences.

Thanks to exhaustion and the difficulties of raising children, my marriage has devolved into part executive management team, part sadness/anger/hurt/resentment mud pit. We are both aware of our failings here and on Monday, Laurie sent a message to the people who love us the most, asking them to hold us accountable to the promises we made when we got married. Reaching out has been good in and of itself, and I think it will reap some other rewards as well. This might be the most distressing part of this mess. L and I aren’t used to sniping and arguing, we spent the first years of our relationship basically conflict free and even after that, it was rare and isolated. To experience days in a row of conflict feels heartbreaking and scary.

Weighing on this all is my health which isn’t in the best place. The ankle I severely injured in college and, after years of chronic re-injury, had surgically repaired three years ago, continues to cause me a lot of problems. The surgery increased my stability, but a lot of the arthritic damage was done by then and I’ve developed a host of other issues in the intervening years. I can’t walk without pain and running is out of the question. Three weeks ago Angus ran into the street a few steps and without thinking, I darted after him. He was fine, of course, but I kicked my pain up about 10 notches from those three steps. My ortho is kind but at a loss. I’m too young for a replacement ankle, which would only last 15 or so years before I would have to get another, assuming I even could. My other option, a fusion, might help with the arthritis pain in my ankle joint but would exacerbate the pain in my talus and cause arthritis in my hip and knee. I recently found a hybrid orthotic-brace available only at a clinic in the next city over. It’s not covered by insurance and costs $9K out of pocket. The office suggested setting up a GoFundMe and I’m desparate enough to do it right now.

The inflammatory osteoarthritis that, thanks to genetics, I’ve been waiting for has come, causing my hands to curl into stiff claws in the night and ache all day long. Unlike other forms of arthritis, there isn’t anything I can do to stop the progression of the disease, though the pain will likely stop when, like my mother, I reach my 60’s and develop the nodes that disfigure the hands but strangely alleviate the pain.

But still in the middle of all of this, there is still joy and love and beauty, still things that make my heart sing. Ansel returning to school and loving it so much, Angus dancing with abandon and very excellent rhythm, the return of the fall to the Pacific Northwest which brings deep green and cleansing rain and the smell of wet cedar and the proliferation of all shades and textures of moss, my tiny funny urban church and the connections I am building there, a newfound passion to a political candidate (I am all in for Warren and I plan to convince you and all of Tacoma to be as well!) I am doing what I can to cultivate this joy: starting a book group at church, signing up to canvass, investing in some tools to journal and create, carving out and asking for time to do these things and trying to make room for this for my partner as well, looking for the ways in which my children’s demanding need and intensity of feeling are assets to them and me.

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oh, brother.

My brother is not quite three years older than me. We are very different people. We have never been particularly close, outside of the ways in which surviving an alcoholic/addict parent forces you to be. We spent much of our respective childhoods fighting one another about petty bullshit while we were left home alone after school. As we grew up, he mostly just ignored me. My family moved when I was in 5th grade and my brother kept attending school in the old attendance area while I moved to the new one, so we hardly even shared a context outside of our limited interactions at home.

Oh, there have been moments where he felt like an actual sibling, where some sort of legitimate connection seemed to exist. When I was a freshman and he was a senior at the same college, he would occasionally invite me to parties and then drunkenly lecture me about how to defend myself from would-be predators on my way home; later on, when I was a senior and he was a 20 something bachelor, he would call me late at night drunk to talk of his heartbreak or his dreams of kids or sometimes our family; we have commiserated about our mom and her challenges or our father’s social ineptitude; once he told me he was sad we were moving because he’d pictured our kids growing up together. There may be a few more, but I doubt it. We share DNA and parents, some of our childhood story, but in so many ways we are strangers.

In many ways, this is no big loss. I don’t find my brother to be a particularly good person. He is mostly interested in making money – to spend it, yes, but also just to have it. His ethics when it comes to this are at best questionable. He works for a very large investment company and he’s good at what he does, but he will admit he feels no passion for it outside of his ability to profit from it. He is angry and defensive and almost never admits when he’s wrong. My sister in law has all but called him a second child and for the first few years of my nephew’s life, if my sister in law went out of town, my brother would pawn his kid off on my parents or hers to avoid having to do the actual job of parenting. This past Christmas, he told my mom he was mad that she “gave more money” to us for the holiday when, in fact, my mom just gives a set amount of money per person and because we have two kids and he only has one, the check she writes to us is technically bigger. He is actually the type of person to be upset that his nephews might each get a Christmas gift of the same amount as his child.

My grief about my brother and our lack of connection is not so much that we don’t connect as grief over not having the kind of brother I’d like to connect with. But, even still, the things he does or doesn’t do continue to hurt me or enrage me. I know it’s a lost cause but I can’t help it.

In March, Ansel turned four. The day passed with no text, no call, no fucking FB post (his go to is “HBD Andie!” – heaven forbid that he actually spell the words out), definitely no card or gift. A week later, I sent a text saying, “I’m just letting you know that it hurts my feelings that you forgot Ansel’s birthday.” His reply? “Whoops. Tell him happy birthday.”

In part because what the actual fuck and also because she asked, I ended up letting my mom know that he hadn’t sent anything or called for Ansel’s birthday. My mom was upset, but I asked her not to say anything to him. My mom agreed but decided to follow the letter of the law and not the spirit, and instead called my sister in law and complained to her. In the space of two hours, I was getting nasty texts from my brother that ultimately culminated in him telling me to “stay the fuck out of his life” but which also included some choice comments about how he’s been too busy “taking care” of my parents to remember his nephew’s birthday. I made sure my mom knew that while I didn’t appreciate that she had contacted his wife, that she should know that according to my brother, she’s being waited on hand and foot. A week later, my sister in law sent an e-mailed digital gift card to build-a-bear workshop with no explanation, simply addressed to Ansel.

I haven’t talked to him since. I reached out to my sister in law to ask what my nephew wanted for his birthday and sent a card and gift card to target, per his request. (though I never heard from her that he received it and had to send a text to make sure it arrived which, WTF?)  I’m not going to let him dictate my relationship with my nephew, to the extent that it’s possible. And his wife is much more reasonable, which mostly makes me question why she continues to put up with him.

My mom keeps me updated. She told me about a month ago that my brother and sister in law had unilaterally decided not to host a birthday party for my nephew, who turned six two weeks ago. My sweet, kind little nibling was very sad but resigned. Instead, they took him on a hiking trip that he didn’t request and, reportedly, he cried on every hike and said the big one was “the worst day” of his life.

Angus turned two last Friday and, perhaps unsurprisingly, neither my brother nor my sister in law said anything. I guess it’s possible there will be a card in the mail but I’m not holding my breath. And even though I expected this, I feel so deeply hurt by it. Ansel talks about their cousins all of the time, and I want so badly to forge a connection between all of them, but right now I’m dependent on my brother and sister in law to facilitate that and it would appear neither of them give a shit.

I really hope that my kids grow up loving one another, staying connected, treating each other with kindness even if they are very different people. Sometimes I think it might be lonelier to have a sibling who is an asshole than to not have one at all.

#2 turns 2

On Friday, ANGUS TURNED TWO!!

It feels impossible, but somehow we have two walking, talking, big emotion having children and 0 babies in our home. That cliched adage about long days and short years is so, so true.

At two, Angus . . .

  1. Is still very little (exact details forthcoming, after his well child check) – regularly still wearing some 12 month sized clothes, though he’s definitely moving more into 18 month and the occasional 2T as well. Height wise he’s more average, but the dude continues to be skinny. This despite his seemingly boundless appetite.
  2. Talks all.the.time. It’s wild how many words he has, how conversational he is, and how inexhaustibly committed to conversation he is. He has picked up a lot of Ansel’s phrases (“Guys, I have an idea!”) and will often just ramble on (usually about alligators or the unexplained “tootytot”) and we laugh daily about whatever his new sentence or set of words are.
  3. He is a daredevil, convinced he can do everything his older sibling can. It has earned him two scars near his right eye where he got stitches twice in the space of 6 weeks. He regularly bites it doing adventurous deeds and got a scooter (which he LOVES) for his birthday.
  4. Can throw a truly epic nuclear meltdown level tantrum over almost anything. Like, I never understood the ‘terrible twos’ stuff until Angus unleashed his wrath. Which, given the way he perfected his scream as a baby, is actually very unsurprising.
  5. LOVES dancing (he’ll get down with almost any music we put on) and singing – he is regularly singing along (with correct words) to lots of songs. The My Little Pony soundtrack is a favorite, though. We also got him an amazing karaoke mic which has been endless fun for all of us.
  6. Thanks to daycare, is yelling at us in Spanish AND English. “Mas leche, por favor!!”
  7. Is still an easy laugh who adores Ansel, tries telling jokes, and loves being tickled more than almost anything.
  8. Still is REALLY bad at sleeping. Right now, he goes down with Ansel in a double bed. He usually wakes up around 2:30-3 and we put him in bed with us and give him a bottle. It’s not ideal, but it’s working. At least now he’s napping really well.
  9. He is FAR more independent that he was a year ago. While he still cries initially at any drop off other than daycare and our close friends (ie: church, YMCA, etc) he always settles pretty quickly. It took him months of daily daycare to get there, but I’m so grateful it happened.
  10. Has gotten more picky but still is a great eater who enjoys lots of stuff. He’s a grazer, as well, which is much harder to handle. He gets home from daycare and wants ongoing snacks until almost bedtime – even with dinner in the mix too.

I’m very grateful for this tiny, mighty wonder, even when he’s salty sass or wreckless abandon make me feel a little bonkers. He and Ansel are such a fabulous duo, when they aren’t screaming in each other’s faces or knocking each other over.

Happy birthday, little goose!

troisième

On Friday afternoon, I grabbed the mail and sorted: bed bath and beyond coupon, a couple of medical bills, a credit card offer, and the bill for embryo storage. $400 to keep our four little bundles encased in liquid nitrogen for the next 12 months.

We haven’t had this particular reminder of ‘what-if’ recently. Last year, when July came and went without a bill, I got freaked out and called the clinic to make sure they hadn’t inadvertently destroyed the embryos through some miscommunication of the USPS. The women I spoke to was very reassuring and guaranteed that even if we didn’t pay right away, there were many steps between sending the bill and the great thaw. But, in recognition of the error, they didn’t charge us for storage, which is the only time in my personal experience that a fertility clinic didn’t gobble up any opportunity to make a few extra (hundred) dollars.

Our plan had been to check in about prospective #3 when Angus turns 2 (which is just a few short weeks away) but the conversation has been coming up more spontaneously recently. We are both pretty solidly in the ‘not right now’ camp, and we both waver on the “if ever” question. This past Saturday, when I was on my own with both kids for most of the day, I couldn’t fathom adding another child to the dynamic. This morning, it seemed challenging but totally doable.

As little as 6 months ago, my ideal timeline was:

  • Angus turns 2!
  • I call the insurance company to find out if they would cover a transfer at the clinic in Colorado or if we would need to have the embryos shipped here
  • Depending on that answer, we start the process of shipping and scheduling with the clinic in WA or make an appointment with a doc in CO to talk timelines.
  • Transfer sometime in the winter – Maybe as early as December?
  • Baby arrives in the fall-ish of 2020 when Ansel has started kindergarten.

This plan is not happening. Laurie isn’t on board and honestly, neither am I.

But I do feel like a decision – one way or the other – needs to happen relatively soon. There are a few reasons for this: I don’t want a huge age gap between kids, I am inching up on 40 and feel nervous about having a baby too much after that, the inbetween of maybe/maybe not is hard for me and I want to either move forward or move on.

In January, our insurance will change to a plan with more flexibility in providers (the ‘top tier’ of my choices at work. We had been with the middle tier, but had to get a special dispensation for Ansel’s ABA therapist to be covered, so we’re switching for that reason and others) which would likely give us more options with clinics. For this reason, we are clear we wouldn’t want to do anything until the change in insurance coverage.

But on Sunday night, I told Laurie that I want to make a decision by the time the next storage bill comes, sometime in July 2020. Even if it was a last minute decision and we didn’t move forward until then, we’d be looking at a transfer in the fall/winter of 2020, around my 39th birthday, and a baby in the summer/fall of 2021. At that time, Ansel will be 6 and headed into first grade, Angus will be turning 4 and in his final year of preschool. The gap is a little more than I always dreamed, but it doesn’t seem too wide. And maybe by then, the two we have would be more independent. Maybe.

As immensely overwhelmed as I can feel at times, the idea of not having a third child fills me with deep sadness. As a kid, I always expected to have two kids and it wasn’t until I met Laurie and we started planning our dream family that having 3 even occurred to me. But once I had it in my mind, it stuck there and now it’s grown into my plan.

I like the idea of a rowdy home, filled with kids and their friends; of our kids having multiple relationships in case one doesn’t work (I haven’t spoken to my brother in 5 months, since he told me to ‘stay the fuck out of his life.’), and I want another opportunity to be pregnant and give birth.

I know there are pros to only having two – the ubiquitous ‘family four pack’, not needing to purchase a car with a third row (though, L is 100% team minivan anyway so . . .) one parent per kid means special time is more manageable and you have 1:1 supervision. Not to mention the fact that even getting pregnant again will cost a fair amount of money, even with good insurance coverage. This is not a rational feeling because if it was, the answer would probably be an easy no to #3.

I’ve been spinning on this for days now. Maybe because there is a piece of me that knows a “no” is more of a possibility than it used to be. Until recently, while I was pushing for sooner than later and L was telling me to slow down, she was always a solid yes, just not now. More and more I hear her sinking into that no and staying there for good. And while, yes, I waver from day to day and moment to moment, I think I know in my heart that I am longing for that third baby. I guess it comes down to this: If I was at a no but Laurie was at a yes, it wouldn’t take much for me to climb on board. But I don’t think that might be true for L. My fear is that her ‘not yet’ is becoming ‘not ever.’ And while I wouldn’t jeopardize my marriage over this longing, I would have to navigate through it and the idea of that scares me.

But, for now, we are here: trying to wade our way through the chest high mud of our lives. I shouldn’t borrow sadness from tomorrow when I’ve got so much to manage in this moment. But, that’s probably why I’m doing it, right?

Up Hill All the Way

I’m lucky enough to have found some communities of parents where honesty is considered a virtue, and the bullshit expectations of parenthood (or, really, motherhood, if we’re being honest) are called out. Where people are encouraged to be vulnerable and name the things that are hard. (If you want to know about these groups, I am happy to recommend them – just let me know.)

That doesn’t mean I’m immune to the flood of cultural expectations telling me how I should feel about being a mom. Those ideas are inside me from years of hearing them and seeing them and unintentionally enforcing them. The problem with bullshit cultural ideals is that we live in the midst of them – it’s impossible to fully escape them or even understand just how insidious they are.

So while I think I have some support when I say, “some days recently I wish I wasn’t a parent,” I also still feel like an awful person. When I admit to myself that I spend all of the tiny moments alone in my mind either nostalgic for a simpler past or daydreaming about a different kind of present, I still think there is something wrong with me.

I know this is a season. Or maybe I just hope it is. Eventually the equation of difficult + wonderful will be contentment or satisfaction, or something like it. I won’t always feel like I’m walking up hill, in the forest, in pouring rain, wearing flip flops . . .with no summit in sight . . .right?

There are things to look forward to on my horizon, and I am grateful for that. But they don’t feel like changes to this slog, just perhaps a few (lovely, needed) time-outs from treading water. Sometimes those time outs seem like they will be enough to sustain me. But at other times, all I see is the endlessness of difficulty that come before, between and after.

I don’t know what to do. I have a therapist. She’s nice, and sometimes she has some ideas about things that I appreciate. But I don’t feel like she is or even can get at the deeper things I need to address. But finding a therapist, especially when the only way to have one at all is through your insurance (which, is awesome but also limiting), is a whole other somewhat hopelessly defeating endeavor. It is like dating but with no promise of getting laid at the end.

And the worst thing is how guilty I feel even entertaining these thoughts, indulging in my ennui bordering on depression. Because in so many ways, things are kind of . . .ok. We, for the first time since getting together, have enough money that we don’t really need to worry on a monthly basis about what we can afford. We have some very lovely friends. My job is good and really only a reasonable amount of hard or stressful. This is all true, and it coexists alongside my very real feelings of struggle. It’s not the big things that feel hard. It is all the tiny moments wrapped up into a string of frustration and failure and fatigue.

There isn’t a lot to do except keep going. Can’t go around it. Can’t go under it. Can’t go over it.

Gotta go through it.

What an absolutely wonderful welcome back, friends. I’m so glad to know there are still people out in the universe who care enough about a relative stranger to respond to their call into the void.

Some of you even recalled the things that were happening in our little corner of the world so long ago when last I wrote. So I figured I’d tie up some loose ends/provide some general updates:

  1. My health (aka why do I keep collapsing?): After the video EEG, I was referred to a sleep doc and completed a sleep study. That study showed that I had a decimal point’s more “apnea” episodes than the average person (did you know we all stop breathing while we sleep, just mostly only a couple of times?) which technically put me in the “undetermined” range but with the weird collapsing stuff too, they decided to put me on a CPAP. It took me months to be able to keep it on all night, and once I did I saw some improvement but not enough, so my doctor also put me on modafinil and that seems to have done the trick (?!) because I haven’t had an episode since. So I guess you can actually collapse and lose consciousness because you aren’t getting adequate sleep.
  2. Laurie got a job! After many months and a lot of interviews and busting ass writing resumes and cover letters, Laurie got an offer to be the education coordinator for the Rainbow Center in town. It’s 20 hours/week and pays $19/hour which isn’t bad. The office is only a few blocks away, which is nice, and the schedule is flexible. Is it her dream job? No. But life has improved vastly now that she is not stuck at home with our children for the entire day. Angus goes to daycare and while it took months for him to stop crying at daycare, he now adores going and it has done wonders for him as well. She has a couple of apps out for jobs that are closer to her dream (and full time, and better pay) but for now, this has been a great transition.
  3. We are now both legally the parents of our children. And the whole thing was relatively painless, even though I resent that we had to go through with it.
  4. My mom. Things are . . .complicated? Mostly ok? I don’t know. Most recently, her dentist saw a strange spot on her tongue during a routine check and referred her for a biopsy. It turned out she had an oral cancer (very likely caused by HPV – so vaccinate your damn kids for that too, ok?) They were able to remove the entire area and get all cancerous cells, and took one of her lymph nodes as well. She doesn’t have to go through radiation at all, which is wonderful. Right after her surgery, while recovering at home, she ended up getting a UTI and between that and severe dehydration (likely from not being able to eat properly + a bunch of other factors) she ended up having medication toxicity that caused a stroke and a bunch of other things. After a week + in ICU she recovered and is really back to normal now. But it was fucking terrifying for a while. They still seem weirdly resistant to coming to visit us in Washington, which hurts my feelings, but now she has suggested taking Me, L and the kids to the Disney resort in mother fucking Hawaii instead so . . .I guess that’s cool.
  5. Baby #3: No idea right now. Maybe, maybe not? I think a lot depends on how things continue with Ansel and if it feels feasible to add another being to our circus. We are planning to check in and evaluate in the fall, but who knows.

I think those are most of the pieces from the past, but let me know if you’ve been losing sleep over some other great unanswered question.

There are other, new things too:

  • I got a part time gig doing training for a national org. I’m in the middle of negotiating a rate, but it should give us some extra cash to work with.
  • Ansel recently told us “I feel like both a boy and a girl in my heart” and, after we explained what pronouns were, said they would like to use “they/them.” This is more challanging (in practice, not theory) than I would have anticipated. I LOVE that they were able to articulate this, and did so out of the blue. But I have so many well worn ruts of language and they just slip out. Once again, kids make us rethink and learn to live in new ways.
  • Things between L and I are hard. We haven’t really had a whole lot of hard in our relationship, which compunds things. I believe deeply in us and our relationship, so I know we’ll find a way out of this forest, but that doesn’t make it any less dark and daunting right now.
  • Ansel started ABA with our lovely friends and while it’s going SO well, they have also been SO tender and quick to frustration. Transitions are hard and this is adding a whole new layer. I feel dauntingly exhausted by life.

Well, it’s been a long time.

But I’m back, and I need this space. And I need the friendships I once built here, even though I think many of ‘my people’ have moved on from the blogosphere. And so, maybe there will be new people who I will find and who will find me?

I need this space because, just as was the case 5 or 6 years ago, I have a HUGETHING that is taking up immense space in my life and my brain and it’s a thing that I don’t feel comfortable sharing with just anyone which is especially hard because it’s also a thing I NEED to share with people because I need to figure this out, and I need to hear about other people’s experiences as well.

When I started this blog, the thing was trying to get pregnant. We got pregnant, twice, and this blog was instrumental in having a place to store my obsessive worry, the numbers no one (except the other people going through it) cares about, the minutae of personal crisis. And it worked, I got through it, I made friends. All of us have children now.

So, I’m back.

And here’s why:

I have been worried about Ansel for a little while. I chalked a lot of it up to my personality and, for a while, first time parenthood. But at 2.5, I felt like he should have been talking more, that he should have been easier to understand. So I took him to get testing through early intervention. He ranked low on verbal skills, but high enough to miss the cut off for services. They mentioned, too, that he seemed to have some proprioception differences. “Come back before he turns 3 if you’re still worried.”

He was hard to understand, and he just kept throwing up, gagging, eating fewer and fewer foods. We asked the pediatrician. “He’s a normal weight. Just picky. Keep exposing him to foods. He’s fine.” Then we were worried about how much he ran into things, how often he got hurt, “He’s ok, just clumsy.” We kept asking and people kept telling us he was fine.

He seemed anxious sometimes. He picked at his cuticles and sometimes his lips obsessively, distractedly. He had to be the first one in the living room every morning. He collected sticks, had to find one every day on the way into school. He couldn’t leave the house without something in his hands. He couldn’t – or wouldn’t – dress himself. He went limp when we tried to help him and more mornings than not, one or both of us was sweating before we got out to the car. I fondly refer to him as ‘my little weirdo’ and it is with deep deep love and appreciation for his weirdness but also, if I’m honest, some worry.

We asked about all of this. He’s fine, everyone said. He’s fine.

But things didn’t feel fine, and so finally I called Child Find (the school based, federally funded program available in all public schools) and asked for another evaluation. In January, we took him to the initial evaluation and got some basic results: normal cognitive function, solid gross motor skills, good language comprehension, but evidence of delays in fine motor and articulation and sensory processing. We went back for more evaluation in February and this time the folks we saw recommended we also get him evaluated by a doctor or psychologist. The waiting lists for those evaluations through insurance was 12-18 months, so we handed over our credit card and paid out of pocket because now that someone was taking us seriously, we needed things to keep moving.

The child find evaluation showed him to have substantial deficits in fine motor skills, he ranked just above the 5th percentile in speech understandability (kids his age are usually at 100% intelligibility, he’s at about 60%) and the rater noticed he had “significant sensory differences.” He qualified for developmental preschool and we got him enrolled immediately.

Finally, the expensive but very kind and very highly regarded child psychologist gave us her assessment: autism spectrum disorder. High functioning, no cognitive or intellectual impairments. With support, she thinks he will do very well.

And though nothing about my joyful, funny, weird, wonderful child changed from the morning before that diagnosis to the afternoon I heard the words, I felt like the entire world tipped on a different axis. On one hand, that huge, somewhat scary word means we will have access to things that can help him in a way we didn’t before. On the other, that word carries stigma and can be interpreted in a lot of ways. Which is why I am trying to be thoughtful about who I share with.

I am struggling now with a sense of disagreement with the diagnosis, while I’m also beginning to see things I didn’t see before. And I don’t know if that disagreement is my mama gut sense of truth, or if it is resistance born of grief and my own emotional baggage. I know that he struggles to connect with peers but also that he craves friendship and is so kind and so extroverted and so loving; I know that his meltdowns are not like the tantrums I’ve witnessed in other children – they feel much more out of control in a scary way, in a horribly sad way, in a very specific way.

Even as I feel deeply grief stricken and terrified with the ways the future may have just shifted, I also feel like we are in the absolute best place for this to have happened.

Our closest Washington friends are a lovely family we met through co-op preschool. They have two daughters, one Ansel’s age, the other just finishing 1st grade. The dad is a special education teacher, the mom is an ABA therapist working on her BCBA certification. If you don’t know what all of that means, the basic is this: ABA therapy is the best ‘treatment’ available for ASD. And now some of our very best friends are going to be on Ansel’s ABA team. People he already knows and loves.

I have been managing a lot of my feelings by reading and researching, which has always been my most beloved strategy. And through it, I have started to understand the ways in which this difference makes Ansel’s brain so beautiful and unique. I was already in the camp of understanding autism as a difference vs. a disability, but I have a greater understanding of what ASD really means and that has allowed me to see the ways in which he is able to see and do things I cannot.

There is a lot to think about and process here. Plus, of course, the many other facets of life: my ongoing struggles with my mom, the realities of parenting and being married and managing all of that, continuing to become rooted in a place that still feels very new.

So, I think I need to be back. And, I’m going to be honest that it took me two weeks from start to finish on this post. So, we shall see. But, if you’re still out there – I’m back, and I need you.