**Guest Post by Marla Bautista**
Finding my strength after my child was diagnosed with Autism was something I never thought I’d have to do as a mother. Often people outside the military world think we have it all. Our civilian family and friends see the amazing homecomings, the places we travel, the pride in our community, but there’s some things they don’t always get a chance to see; the struggles we face as military spouses.
Having a child is a dream most women want to fulfill in their lifetime. In the military community, there are babies and children everywhere. A military spouse without a child was a rare sight on post. For me, having a child wasn’t as simple as it was for others. After two miscarriages and a myomectomy, I was able to have a successful pregnancy.
I had a beautiful little boy named Junior. He was a perfect baby. He only cried when he was hungry, and that was not often because, I believe, I breastfed him 24 hours a day. He developed normally; sitting up, crawling, and babbling, you know… normal baby stuff. There was one thing I found to be abnormal, he hated solid foods, except barbeque chips and baby Cheetos. I know, it’s weird, why would a mom give her baby chips, you ask? Well that’s the only crunchy food he would eat. The doctors didn’t seem concerned about it because he was healthy.
On his first birthday, we moved from Hawaii to Germany. He began to walk on his own three days after our move. A few months went by and Junior wasn’t saying any new words. He would regurgitate every time I tried to feed him solid foods, and he wasn’t developing socially. At his 18-month doctors visit, there was an evaluation form that needed to be filled out prior to the visit. The questions were about Juniors’ development. I began to read over the form and answer the questions. Does he walk? Yes. Does he use utensils to eat? No. Does he ask for things he wants? No. Does he eat a variety of foods? No. Does he play well with others? No. I realized then something was different about my baby. The doctors suggested we see a developmental pediatrician for further tests.
After a long travel to Landstuhl and a series of two-day tests, Junior was diagnosed with Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder. I just had another baby a month prior to Junior’s diagnosis. My marriage was in a difficult place, I was a college student, and now I was being hit with all this new medical jargon. I didn’t understand and was struggling to process it all.
Luckily, my military spouse friends were there for me. They helped me emotionally and physically during the initial process of setting everything up. My new life consisted of therapies for feeding, speech, occupational, and ABA. On top of that, I was still a military spouse and my husband left for TDY shortly after the diagnosis. In addition, I had a one-month old baby to care for. I was becoming unhinged. The stress of it all began to wear on me and my husband. I went to counseling to cope with everything. It helped talking to someone outside of friends and family. Counseling gave me a different perspective about my life, from someone completely on the outside, looking in, like a bird’s eye view. It was refreshing.
Junior has grown in so many ways. He is Seven years old now. He stills struggles with daily activities, but he has a clever personality like you wouldn’t believe. He is the coolest, most handsome Autistic boy I’ve ever laid eyes on. Okay, I may be a little biased because he’s my baby… but seriously, I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had with him for anything in the world.
While my life may be far from perfect, I have learned that my strength is something that develops over time through my personal experiences. We are all required to be strong for different things at different times in our lives. My advice to you is; get the help you need from others, use your resources, and do not punish yourself by struggling in silence. There is ALWAYS someone in this world willing to help you. Ask for it!
Marla is an Army Spouse and mother of three amazing children, currently living in New York. She is a freelance writer, blogger, and recently released her first book, My Thoughts Abandoned. She has written articles and blog posts for numerous companies including SleepingBaby. She has an Associate’s of Arts Degree from The University of Maryland University College and she is currently working on her Bachelor’s in Communications. She loves to volunteer within the military community and advocate for those in need. She is also an avid couponer and hopefully one day will become a millionaire because of her frugal lifestyle!
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