As some of you may know my youngest son is autistic. He was only three-years-old when diagnosed and I can still remember the day as if it were yesterday. I felt as if I were thrown from a ship in the middle of an ocean. I was shocked and terrified, but most of all I was sad. That was fifteen years ago and my son is now eighteen.
I’m sure you’ve all heard the African proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ it was also the title of a book written by Hilary Rodham Clinton. Well, it definitely took a village to raise my son and not just one… but three!
When he was ten we moved from Norway to Houston and lived there for two years. From Houston we moved to the Netherlands, where we lived for three years before returning home to Norway. Over the last fifteen years teachers, assistants, caseworkers, specialists, neighbors, friends and family in three different countries have helped and taught both me and my son. It hasn’t been easy and I’m tremendously thankful to each and every one of these people!
If you look Autism up in the dictionary it says… A mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.
This is not incorrect, but it is a very general definition because autistics are not all alike. For example, my son can communicate in two languages, Norwegian and English. He’s never met a video game he couldn’t beat and he’s learning to play the Bagpipes online! Yes, my son is autistic, but he’s also unique and I wouldn’t change one thing about him, even if I could.
The phone call came at three o’clock this morning… It was time. I rushed up the road in my pajamas and watched as my daughter and son-in-law drove off to the hospital in Stavanger, to bring their third child into the world.
The other two children were still fast a sleep, so I crept into the spare room and tried to go back to sleep too. I tossed and turned with worry (that’s something I can’t control) and at the same time, was positively giddy with joy. Excitement got the best of me and since it was too early to start calling people in Norway, I started texting people in America. There’s always someone to talk too in another time zone…
I think I may have dozed off a little before six and then heard my granddaughter getting up. After explaining where her mom and dad were she climbed into bed with me, but she’s apparently inherited my stress gene and couldn’t stop talking. By six thirty we were downstairs making tea. Her brother got up around seven thirty and took the news in more quiet, typical male fashion.
I figured the best thing for us to do while waiting was to keep busy. We visited a friend for morning tea, went food shopping, then shoe shopping (not for me… for them). The good news actually came while we were in the shoe store (good things always happen in shoe stores). The tiny package in which we’ve all been waiting for had finally arrived. At eleven o’clock in the morning on a beautiful May day in Norway, a healthy baby girl weighing in at 3800 grams, was born.
Visiting hours weren’t before five, so we went home, jumped on the trampoline, searched for bugs, played with the dogs and went crabbing. They unanimously voted on pancakes for dinner and then afterwards, it was our turn to make the one hour drive to the hospital in Stavanger.
My baby looked wonderful basking in her new mommy glow and her baby, although tiny and helpless was able to instantly claim a giant place in my heart. I lifted and drew her close, smelling her new scent and feeling her soft skin against my cheek I whispered a promise to her ear, “You don’t know this yet, but you and I are going to be great friends.”
My daughter (the one in the pig tails) recently posted this picture on facebook, it was taken on Mother’s Day 1981. When I first saw it I smiled, seeing myself again at twenty-three-years old, adorned with three beautiful children brought back happy memories. I had just given birth to my third child and that baby lying on my lap is now waiting to give birth to her third child. Where do the years go?
My heart swells with pride remembering my children at this tender age and now knowing the wonderful people they have grown up to be. I also see a slender arm and a smooth face, but there is unfortunately a flip side to this picture…
Behind the Farrah Fawcett hairdo is a girl, trapped in a controlling and unhealthy marriage. Weighed down in responsibility and much to embarrassed to let anyone know. If you’re wondering how bad it was, I’ll tell you…
Throughout the pregnancy I begged my doctor to sterilize me after the birth. At first he wouldn’t even listen, but after pleading at every visit and discussing all other options, my hopeless tears got the best of him. He performed the surgery immediately after the birth and I was left barren at twenty-three. A desperate act, of a very desperate girl. Now take another look at the picture…
You never know what secrets are hiding behind a smile in a picture. Since my story has been published I’ve surprisingly received numerous messages from different women, some I know, others I don’t admitting abuse.
Six years after this picture was taken my life took a hard turn and I was thrown out into another direction. I was later able to have the surgery reversed, and was blessed with two more children.
I was fortunate enough to get a do over, not everyone’s that lucky.
Look what the mailman brought yesterday. The first copies of Fly Away Home!
My heart pounded as I tore open the box and the feeling I got as I lifted that first copy into my hands can only be described as euphoric. After two long years my dreams were suddenly a reality in which I could hold. As I skimmed through, my life literally flashed before my eyes. Fifty two years of triumphs and shame. My strengths, my weaknesses, my marriages and my children’s lives, now in print. In twenty-one days it will be available to the world and no matter how it is received, I shall try and remember these three quotes:
“I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.” -E.B. White
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at your typewriter and bleed.” -Earnest Hemmingway
“To share your weaknesses is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength.” -Criss Jami