April is Autism Awareness Month. This is a guest post by Austin Weddings Unlimited’s PR Director, Rene Craft.
There are a few things on your wedding day that are most likely a blur. For me, it was the vows. (I know the irony). I was both laughing and crying during my husband and my wedding ceremony. One of my cousins in attendance said I deserved an award for best performance in both comedy and dramatic role for the way I behaved during what is normally a solemn setting. During the actual ceremony, I was cracking jokes about how tight my wedding dress was and also crying at the beauty of the moment. But one thing I do NOT remember was the part where you run through the vows basics like, “In sickness and in health.” And this was really something I should have paid attention to more carefully…
On that October day 20 years ago, when my husband and I stood there before our friends and family members and said “I do,” little did we realize that those words would actually apply within the first few years of our marriage.
Our first child, a son, was born in year three of our marriage, and from the very beginning, we knew something was amiss with his development. He cried and was inconsolable for hour upon hour as a child. He had a number of chronic health conditions in the first year. Our pediatric gastroenterologist said to both of us, “How sad you all didn’t get to have a good first year of life,” because we were constantly in distress and at the doctor’s office with GI problems that first year.
We sought answers and therapies to help him, knowing something was going on, but not believing that it was too serious. After a few years of medical dead-ends and confusing doctors’ appointments, our son was finally diagnosed with autism at age 4. It was quite a shock to our system and to our marriage. These were years of worry, concern, therapy appointments, school meetings, and the constant search for resources to help our son learn to speak and function at school and in public. This one paragraph doesn’t begin to describe the years of effort and work from our son, our family, his therapists, his teachers, and his physicians to support his progress. Now, 14 years after this initial diagnosis, our son reports that having autism helps him be a good artist. He is able to attend general education classes with support and loves his high school art classes—all major victories for our son and our family.
When you’re married, you realize how strong your bond is when it’s tested. It’s cliche, but unfortunately true. And ours frayed from time to time under the stress of the loss of sleep, the concern, the fighting for services for our son, and the daily therapies. It was a lot for a young marriage. And in our exhaustion, we leaned on our bond, our commitment of marriage. Our marriage bond became a source of strength for both of us during this time but mainly our deep core values kicked in and we relied on our personal values of determination and supporting each other no matter what. My husband and I literally shook hands on being kind when we first got married, but we also shook hands on “I have your back” in recent years. If your partner doesn’t have your back in life, who does?
So, when you stand there at the ceremony, be careful of the words you use and the promises you make on the happiest day of your life. They just might come back to mean something real for the rest of your life together. In sickness and in health.
If you would like to learn more about autism, visit the Autism Society’s website.
Craft is an Austin-based blogger, communications consultant, and autism advocate. She writes about autism, life, and travel at her blog TravelswithAutism.org. She is also the PR Director for Central Ceremonies.