"Everyone is fighting battles you know nothing about", Grace's story
“She REALLY should know how to do these things, ya know.” I will never forget the feeling of all the color flushing from my face. Of the tears and curse words that threatened to embark from my very being at any moment. We were at the local YMCA outdoor pool, somewhere that seemed like and all-inclusive break from my life that summer. My daughter Grace who was almost 3 was in the baby pool. And I had just breathe my 1st sigh of relief in what felt like forever. I was relaxed and enjoying a little break. When what felt like normalcy (children laughing and splashing while the sun beamed down) was shattered in an instant. “She bumped into the baby and didn’t even say sorry, “ the voice continued. “And I asked her what her name was, she just looked at me and walked away.” “She REALLY should know how to do these things, ya know.” I couldn’t even verbally respond. The chaos of thoughts and emotions surged through my entire body and I trembled. The face of a 60-70 something old grandmother who had probably smoked a pack a day for the last 50 years stared back at me. Waiting for a response… “Ya know.”
And the problem was I DID know! Oh my gosh how my whole existence, the very essence of motherhood within me KNEW. I DID know what my almost 3 year old was supposed to be able to do. The 14 year old embodiment of perfection sitting next to me waiting for my response was why I knew. The active 11 year old “all boy” diving in the deep end and showing off his backstroke was why I knew. I KNEW because I had been blessed with 2 other perfectly healthy, active, thriving kids and it was NEVER this hard. I KNEW as I lay on a cold table in the numerous specialist office during the final months of my pregnancy. I KNEW as I anxiously watched the doctor and nurses faces while I was in unbearable pain for any indication that the baby I was delivering was “okay”. I KNEW because I sat in therapy 4 days a week 2-3 hours a day an achingly watched my child struggle to master the most basic of skill.
But she, she didn’t know. She didn’t know that I was hanging on by that oh so ominous thread. She didn’t know that I felt like my military marriage which had already endured so much was on the brink of destruction over a medical diagnosis that we didn’t see eye to eye on. She didn’t know that I was worried my other children felt overlooked, ignored and harbored some resentment towards their sister. She didn’t know that I had become a little too dependent on that nightly glass (or sometimes bottle) of wine and then cried myself to sleep. She didn’t know that I was lonely, depressed, and on the verge of what felt like absolute hopelessness. And she didn’t know that all of this happened because a military doctor I entrusted was careless with my healthcare. That my husband had deployed when I was only 6 months along and they were telling us they were uncertain if our baby would make it after delivery. She didn’t know I did that alone. She didn’t see how I watched for every indication, any indication that something was wrong at every developmental stage. How my heart broke as a I sat in the developmental specialist office and heard “she’s definitely on the spectrum.”
But she also didn’t know just how blessed I considered myself to be. Or the feeling I had when we were at a therapy session and a parent with a severely disabled child came in. The ginormous sigh that I breathed when I heard that first cry. Or how much compassion and understanding the entire process had given me for other moms. She didn’t know that I had been raised by amazing people whom taught me to always respect my elders even when they’re ignorant and hateful. She didn’t know that I left that pool that day, after apologizing (it was literally all I could muster up.) And cried big, hysterical crocodile tears in front of my kids. The likes of which they had never seen. Even during the deployments and burying my grandmothers without him by my side. She didn’t know that my child had been diagnosed as “autistic”. And it was one of the hardest, scariest, proudest, most humbling experiences of my life. And that on that day, at that pool she taught me one of the most valuable lessons of my life. That sometimes when you don’t know you shouldn’t act like you do!
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting battles you know nothing about.”