" When we invest in women, we are investing in the people who invest in everyone else.“ - Melinda Gates
This afternoon, I got a chance to meet some of the bravest and strongest women I know: mothers raising children with special needs, specifically Autism Spectrum Disorder. In short, Ausome (Autism+Awesome) Moms. They are members of the Autism Family Support Group founded by Ms. Josie Ortiz.
It has been a while since I got reconnected with these mothers due to periods of adjustments in settling in Cebu City.
This February, my husband and I enrolled my son with special needs for occupational therapy and speech therapy. The new schedule changed the dynamics of our household. Our lives got busier than before, and I somewhat felt helpless after hearing my son’s assessments from specialists.
I could not deny the attack of negative feelings of not doing enough or if there was something I could have done before that could prevent this condition from taking place. In short, I faced a lot of down moments to the point I felt I was not fit to be a mother.
I tried sharing these thoughts to close friends, but I ended up explaining more than I wanted to. It was difficult to put my thoughts into words until I realized it’s no use. It only takes a mom raising a child with special needs to understand what another mom raising a child with special needs is going through. So I longed for connection with these type of moms.
One day, my husband Jerick informed me that he got awarded Starbucks gift cards as incentives for a job well done. Then he said, he would give these all to me so I can have a series of “ME” times. I was so grateful for his generosity.
A few moments later, I felt the need to reconnect with some Ausome mommies, "How about making my 'ME' times an invitation for a 'WE' time?
So I contacted a few of these moms to set a coffee date with them. I was so happy they said yes! Our coffee date began with sharing updates and stories. But truth to tell, their mere presence already strengthened and encouraged me. These are mothers who faced the toughest, most unpredictable situations in parenting, and yet there they were standing strong because of their love for their children. THIS. IS. MY. TRIBE.
There were no explanations needed. Just a look in one’s eye, I know they’ve been through what I’m going through.
There were no questions on why one felt a certain way, they knew.
There were more validations of “I’ve been there, too, but we were able to manage”, “Just keep going, you’ll see their progress soon”, and more uplifting words.
There was no judgment; instead, there were messages of perseverance, love, determination, and hope.
Where had I been, they asked? But before I could answer, they already understood.
I learned a lot from their personal experiences as I sat in this circle of brave and strong mothers.
There were no “Woe is me. Boohoo” statements. Instead, the conversation flowed into, “how can we help other Ausome mommies?”
So together we planned to invite more Ausome mommies this coming International Women’s Day in partnership with World Pulse. We already assigned topics to share including self-care, nutrition, depression, and World Pulse.
We all agreed that our coming together for meet-ups is a form of self-care because mothers can lose ourselves in the process of child-rearing. We need each other.
As I listened to these Ausome Mommies, I felt happy that God opened a door for us to live in Cebu. I consider this support group as an answered prayer after suffering in silence and isolation elsewhere.
I have found my tribe, and this is a strong one. We strive to help our ausome children using both faith and science. My hope for my son to be independent one day grew larger during this coffee date. I am no longer alone.
It takes a special village to raise children with special needs. I am so glad I found a supportive community of women who walk alongside me on this journey. These women gave me hope.
I'm grateful we got to enjoy free coffee at Starbucks. What a wonderful treat it was for these amazing mothers!