My Not-So-Perfect Family of 4
Adjusting to a new reality after hearing your child has autism.
After almost two years of struggling with infertility, my husband and I were so excited to finally be pregnant for the first time. Our excitement was compounded when we discovered we were expecting twins. After all the months and months we struggled to get pregnant I could not believe our luck that we were going to have two babies, a boy and a girl.
Almost immediately I began fantasizing about our family. I pictured us cheering on our kids at soccer, gymnastics and tee-ball. I pictured family vacations to beaches and mountains where we would share in activities and adventures. I pictured our twins as teenagers teasing each other or even (God forbid) dating each other’s friends! I could not wait to start living our lives as a perfect family of four.
Mommy Alarms …
I carried our twins, Bryce and Brooke, to full-term without any complications. The first year, they reached all their milestones on time, Brooke usually a few weeks before Bryce. I was assured that it was normal for girls to develop slightly faster than boys. Then, a little after they turned 1, my mommy alarms started going off. While Brooke was babbling and starting to talk, Bryce rarely made any sounds. Brooke was engaging in pretend play, but Bryce seemed content playing by himself with little care about who or what was around him. After discussing our concerns with our pediatrician, we were referred to a developmental pediatrician. Then, in February of 2013, when Bryce was 2-1/2 years old, he was diagnosed with autism.
Adjusting to a New Reality
I remember leaving the doctor’s office that cold February day and feeling all those fantasies of sports, family vacations and teenage teasing evaporate into thin air. No longer did I have my perfect family of four with two healthy kids where the possibilities seemed endless. I had to start imagining a new future for our family, but what would that look like? Not only was I was heartbroken for Bryce and worried about his future, I worried about how his autism diagnosis would affect his twin sister? My marriage? My career?
I suddenly felt confined by Bryce’s diagnosis. I felt my world shrink around me. And that is actually exactly what happened — my world became much smaller. I left the job I loved as a data analyst to take care of Bryce full-time. I had to turn down play dates with friends as Bryce’s autism made things more difficult and awkward. Date nights with my husband rarely happened because it was hard to find babysitters who could handle a child with autism. I was only able to enroll Brooke in sports or dance classes that fit into Bryce’s exhaustive therapy schedule. Everything seemed to revolve around Bryce’s autism.
After five-and-a-half years of several steps forward and a few steps back, Bryce is about to turn 8 and is a happy, healthy, smart and silly boy. It hasn’t been easy, but I am learning not to let Bryce’s autism control every aspect of our family’s life. We are still able to do a lot of the things I fantasized about while I was pregnant before autism entered our family. We go on family vacations each year, we eat out at restaurants every week and hang out with family and friends as much as we can. While each of these activities looks different in reality than they did in my fantasy, I still love life with my “not-so-perfect” family of four.
Lindsay Pavlish is a wife and stay-at-home mom of 7 year old twins, Brooke & Bryce. Originally from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, she has lived in South Charlotte since 2006.