Lenore was going to give a lesson on motherhood. Sara, our second daughter, has Max, a son with autism. Lenore asked Sara her perspective on the experience. Sara writes so well and I thought others may enjoy!
"Did you know that a front-loading 4.5 Cubic-foot LG washing machine has a maximum speed of 1300 rotations per minute and is available in red, white, and graphite steel? I did.
Did you know that a Boeing 747 has four wing-mounted engines and eighteen wheels? I knew that too.
I wouldn’t have known it a few years ago, though. My 10-year-old son, Max, has recently become a master of all things regarding washing machines, airplanes, and elevators, filling his mind with any and every piece of information that he can get his hands on. He is a walking encyclopedia. And he has autism.
Max was diagnosed a few months shy of his second birthday. Having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in human development, my “spidey senses” were tingling six months prior to that. But there was something about getting the official diagnosis; it triggered a reaction in me that I wasn’t quite prepared for.
I ugly-cried. A lot. I sobbed until I shook. And when I thought I was done, the tears would start again. My husband and I found ourselves mourning the loss of our son’s life as we had pictured it would be. It is okay to feel that way. As I speak with mothers whose children have a new diagnosis, I actually encourage it. You have to go through the grieving process before you can get back to living. And that’s when you put down your plan, pick up God’s, and grab the hand of that little child who still has so much love to give. What I didn’t anticipate was how much I would learn from Max.
Max is always 100% authentic. He embraces life with reckless abandon, completely oblivious of society’s opinion. And he is so very happy because of it. One particular Sunday he came to church wearing a headlamp and six watches on each arm. Another Sunday he yelled “Amen!” in the middle of a prayer that he believed had gone on too long. And after a beautiful musical number had been shared during Sacrament Meeting, he stood up, clapped, and yelled, “That was great!” How much time do we waste worrying about what other people think? Now I’m not suggesting that we all start wearing headlamps to church and interrupting prayers, but there is freedom in living without inhibition due to the fear of criticism from others.
The most important life lesson that Max has taught me is to trust. We were all part of that special council in heaven who chose to come down to earth. We sustained Heavenly Father’s plan and made the decision to follow Jesus Christ. What would your premortal self say to you? In times of struggle, I imagine my premortal self saying something like this: “Hey – you signed up for this. You know the beauty of this plan. Have faith in Heavenly Father. Trust in Jesus Christ. You know them, remember? Trust that they will help you do the hard things.” One of the most difficult aspects of motherhood is feeling like you aren’t doing it right. Guilt is a brilliant little tool that Satan uses to make wonderful mothers feel like they don’t measure up, like they aren’t doing enough. Don’t listen to those voices. Focus on your relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ; listen to that wonderful still small voice who works as the instrument to communicate their guidance. Trust in that.
And guess what – the trust goes both ways. The first few years following Max’s diagnosis were very difficult for me. The frustration that Max experienced not being able to communicate came out in explosive tantrums and meltdowns. On top of that, a surprise pregnancy two weeks after his initial diagnosis brought along a little girl who mimicked everything that her brother did. When I introduced them to people I would say, “This is my son with autism. This is my autistic daughter who does not have autism.” At the end of a particularly difficult week I sat in the temple with tears streaming down my face and a very heavy heart. I felt completely paralyzed in my life and didn’t know what to do. And then the relief came. I heard a voice in my head call me by name and say, “Sara, don’t you know that I trust you?” It caught me completely off-guard. As I sat there, trying to process what had just happened, the clarity came. Yes, it’s going to be difficult. Yes, there will be a lot of tears. But God trusts in my ability to do it.
As mothers, it is vital that we constantly remind ourselves that Heavenly Father trusts us to raise His children. Let me say that in a different way. The Almighty creator of heaven and earth, the all-powerful and all-knowing God, trusts you with His children. He is vouching for you. He is pulling for you. And He is there to give you all the help you need. Nurture that relationship. Jeffrey R. Holland said, “Sanctify yourselves. For tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” He wants to bless you. He trusts you. And he loves you.
In the Doctrine and Covenants we have been promised that our minds and bodies will be restored to a perfect state. This scripture takes on new meaning to those of us who have children with special needs. I look forward to the day when I see Max after our time here on earth is complete. I am excited to fully remember him from the preexistence and embrace him again, knowing that we did it together. But more than anything I want to thank him for the gift of being his mother. "