The Undisclosed Heartache

I can’t tell you what kind of day it was or exactly when she entered our lives, but I can recall my state of mind: broken, tired, and lost yet hopeful that God would guide me on this long journey ahead.  My heart ached every day as I felt my 2 year old son fall farther and farther away from me. I thought that I had lost my son and didn’t know when he would return, if ever.

At the time, he was non-verbal, screamed and cried a majority of the day, and was very aggressive towards everyone including strangers. Connecting with him was painful to say the least. I longed for a relationship with him and tried tirelessly to create one. I wanted to show him how much I loved him in my way, but that wasn’t in the cards…until she came along.

At first, I dreaded ABA and every time Emily showed up, even though she always arrived donned with a positive, kind smile.  She was with us 12 hours a week, and every morning she came, a flood of tears ran down my face. My son did not tolerate ABA well…in the beginning.

Every day that Emily came, I was escorted to my bedroom by my son’s screams and protests. Confined upstairs with my 3 other children ages 5, 3, and 4 months for hours a day, my heart broke as my son’s cries echoed throughout our home. Not only could I hear his wailing from downstairs, the thrashing of his body and banging of his head on the tile floor and walls pierced my heart. It was a horrible experience. I wanted to quit ABA. This was not how I wanted life to be for any of us. This just wasn’t working out.

Every fiber of my being wanted to run and hide and shut out ABA forever, but Emily assured me every time that it was worth it. She told me that I needed to give it time. I will never ever forget her response when I asked her: “How can you handle this?  I would just quit.” She said that it is always worth it in the end. How could this 24 year old be so sure?

With that, I gave it a few months, quenching my desire to quit at every juncture. I’m beyond over-joyed that we didn’t quit. Eventually, we were able to come downstairs during session. The screaming slowly but surely subsided.

Trips to the grocery store were no longer like pulling teeth. My son would head-butt me several times a day and hit his brothers as well as bang his head on anything and everything. Those behaviors became a distant memory.

Emily was there when he called me Mom for the first time and when he started engaging with his brothers, laughing and playing happily. Together, we taught him how to hug! Along with my spectacular husband, we were a great team, and we celebrated every milestone together!

My sweet son came back to life, and I will forever be grateful to God for bringing this amazing woman into our lives, this woman who never gave up on my son and my family. She became part of our family. We all fell in love, but now we must say good-bye and never turn back.

Unfortunately, the company who provides the ABA to my son could not accommodate his needs, so we painfully chose to move on. This decision felt impossible to tackle. After much prayer, debate, and pleading with God, it was made clear. It was best for our son to move on to a new ABA provider.

I have cried buckets over this decision. I can’t imagine where our amazing, sweet son would be if God hadn’t brought Emily into the mix. She taught me and my husband ABA along the way. She loved my son even when he was difficult, and, best of all, she believed in him and never gave up, allowing us to build a relationship with him.

As special needs parents, we endure enough heartache (and joy) to last a lifetime, BUT no one ever told me how hard it would be to say good-bye. After we leave our current ABA provider, we cannot have any contact with Emily. We will never see her again. I can’t update her on my son’s progress. I can’t celebrate the huge milestones he’s going to hit. All I can do is tell her in that moment when we say good-bye how incredibly grateful I am to have spent time with her.