Before “Normal” Was A Bad Word

I came across an old photo the other day that stopped me in my tracks.

It was a photo of when my son was a baby, he was probably just over a year old.

It was from before I got divorced.

My son’s father and I had taken a spontaneous trip to the clearwater. It was my son’s first time at the beach.

 In the photo, we were standing in an aquarium.

As I stared at the photo, I couldn’t help but think how normal we looked.

It may not seem like it, but that is a strange thought for me to have.

You see, nowadays, normal is not the word I would use.

Now I would say neurotypical.

That is one of the things that change when you find out your child is autistic.

Words change.

You understand how hurtful things can be, even when they aren’t intended that way.

My day went on, but I kept thinking about that photo.

I kept thinking about that day.

I was replaying it over and over in mind.

Most of the day seemed like a blur, but other moments of it I remembered so clearly.

I didn’t know why but I just couldn’t get that day out of my head.

Suddenly it occurred to me, that was the last normal day of my life.

My divorce rolled right into autism signs beginning to show in my son.

I missed them.

I was caught up in my sadness.

I should have seen them, but I didn’t.

The autism signs rolled right into a diagnosis and my life was never the same.

One moment we were a regular, happy family and the next I was a single mom to a special need’s child.

For just a moment, my mind started flowing with “What If’s”

What if I hadn’t gotten divorced?

What if I hadn’t found out that my son was autistic?

What if we had just stayed normal?

I wondered what our life would have looked like.

The thing is, there was no big change from the aquarium day to the next.

We were never a happy family.

My marriage was already broken, even in that perfect normal picture.

It was not healthy.

It was not okay.

My son was still autistic, I just didn’t know it yet.

He still had signs.

He was just tiny then, so they didn’t stand out as much.

Our picture is far from normal now.

It is loud and messy and beautiful.

I am glad our picture changed.

My sweet, wonderful, autistic boy?

He is perfect.

And what a life I have built for us.

Tonight, I’ve been thinking of her.

That girl in the photo.

That version of me from a lifetime ago.

I wish I could talk to her, for just a moment.

The more I think of that day, the more I remember her.

She was scared.

Her heart was broken.

Her biggest goal was being normal. All she wanted was an average life.

All she wanted was a family.

If I could talk to her, for just a moment, I would tell her to stop selling herself short.

I would tell her that she and that baby are never going to have a normal life.

They are going to have such a special life.

I would tell her that baby she is carrying, he is far from normal.

He is a miracle.

He is going to change her whole entire world.

And I would tell her that she is going to change the whole entire world for that baby.

She will fight and advocate and educate.

She will teach the world about her perfect baby and all the perfect babies just like hers.

If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change a single thing. Every moment of our life worked out exactly as it was meant to.

If it wasn’t for that broken marriage, I wouldn’t have my perfect child.

If I hadn’t been on my own, I wouldn’t have fought for the life I have now.

If I could go back in time, I wouldn’t change a thing. I would just tell her to keep hanging on because all her fighting is going to be worth it.

That is what I would say if I could go back to before “normal” was a bad word.

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