When I realized that this blog was going to be posted on Labor Day, it piqued my interest. After all, I don’t see anything as coincidence anymore. Labor Day is one of those holidays I always appreciated for the long weekend, but never really considered its significance much beyond that.
So I looked up the history of Labor Day and found that Labor Day was instituted in the US in 1894 as a federal holiday, whose purpose was to celebrate and commemorate the contributions and achievements of American workers. When I pondered this occasion more deeply, I realized that I found it wonderfully exciting that we have an entire day dedicated to the appreciation of the individual people and workers that make up our country and their contributions to society.
On an even deeper level, when I think of what it means to be an autism parent, I felt even greater excitement, as with all parenting — but especially parenting a child with special needs — our job goes far beyond the Monday through Friday 9:00-5:00 grind. Our “job” as workers for our special kids is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week service, and one that is rarely considered a job, as we don’t receive conventional means of compensation. Our bosses are our kids and our pay is often something we must find from within ourselves, usually never receiving outward praise or gratitude from our children.
Being an autism parent is the most rewarding occupation one could ever have, and one whose prize comes from the deepest motivation: LOVE. How exciting to celebrate us all this Labor Day and our continual and regular service to our children! Our labor day is defined by our constant labor of love.
And if we dissect this even further, what does it really mean to call our work “labor.” For some, the word “labor” connotes hardship, pain and suffering. For this reason, so many women today choose to anesthetize the pains of labor during childbirth. We all want that fruit of our labor at the end, but usually see no merit to the actual ‘pain’ we must simply endure in order to birth a child.
But, what if, the ‘pain’ actually had a very deep purpose and significance? I purposefully write ‘pain’ in quotations because the more I think about it, the more I wonder if it actually has to be perceived as such. When we experience a stimulus as representing pain and suffering, our natural inclination is to pull away, shut it off, anesthetize, clench ourselves. From my experience, even with physical pain, the more that I try to fight the pain — wish it away, fear it – the worse it gets. And, on an emotional and spiritual level, I find the exact same thing. Often, when I am perseverating on a particular fear, I find that it almost always happens. So lately, I’ve been practicing flipping it from fear to love. Even beyond that, I’ve been practicing flipping it to gratitude.
Gratitude? How am I supposed to be grateful for pain? you may be thinking.
Well, in my life, I’ve found that every single thing that happened in the past has had a very real and direct purpose that I’m usually able to connect the dots and make sense of in retrospect, after the fact. Since I’m almost always able to do this, I figure, there must be a purpose to it all, even now, in the present, as I’m still experiencing it. I clearly can’t see its purpose right now, but if I know that I usually find meaning in every situation later, why not circumvent the suffering and search for meaning and significance while it’s actually happening? So, I’ve been practicing doing the exact opposite of my inclination of withdrawal, discomfort and judging the situation as ‘painful’ and decide that its actually something to embrace, love and appreciate.
When we flip our pain to gratitude, we attract more blessing. Suddenly, the very same experience we just perceived as painful, is now our very mechanism at achieving pleasure, abundance and bounty.
And such has been the finding even within a mother’s birth experience. According to Dr. Christianne Northrup, M.D. instead of viewing labor as painful, when one leans into the expressions of her body and embraces all its sensations, labor can not only not be an experience of pain, it can actually bring on an orgasm!
“A woman’s ability to orgasm during childbirth is basic science. Anatomically speaking, on its journey through the birth canal the baby passes through and can stimulate the same areas that cause a woman to climax during intercourse. Physiologically speaking, during labor a woman’s body is flooded with the same feel good hormones, like prolactin, oxytocin, and other beta-endorphins, that are released during pleasurable sexual experiences.” The stage is set for all women to have an ecstatic birth! So why don’t more women orgasm during childbirth? Dr. Northrup believes that our culture is ingrained with the misbelief that birth is a dangerous, painful situation that’s likely to require emergency medical intervention. She says, “If you approach something as beautiful and natural as birth from this perspective, you’ll be fearful and expect pain. This results in tenser muscles, a slow-down in the birth process, and fewer feel good hormones to act as ‘Mother Nature’s anesthetizers’.” ~ Excerpt from The Secret Is Out, Christianne Northrup, M.D.
Imagine such a concept! Imagine that we could turn all of our life’s pain and challenge to not only something we can merely endure, but something orgasmic!
For me, flipping suffering to gratitude has been the most effective way to achieve pleasure in my daily life. Instead of focusing on what appears to be difficult, I look for all the reasons to be grateful for the experience, how it is actually an opportunity for me and why it is exactly perfect at this very moment.
And there is so much to be grateful for! On a grand scale, in the world of autism, change is happening all around us! In just the short three years since my son’s diagnosis, more and more parents are becoming aware of the medical connections to our children’s states and acting on them from a place of love and desire for healing. The “big fight” between the autism parent, ‘David,’ and big Pharma, ‘Goliath,’ is naturally moving toward extinction and more and more people, autism parent or not, are finding the keys to health through prevention and a holistic attitude. The need for a “fight” is naturally becoming less relevant as individual people are healing themselves and their families. I marvel on a daily basis how many of my own friends and family members have begun to shift to healthier lifestyles, including juicing, healing thoughts, love and a holistic approach to their bodies and spirits. Everywhere I turn I hear someone talking about the new fish oil they are trying out or the new chiropractor they are seeing that is helping them get well, and, of course, the latest child who has just recovered from autism.
Speaking of which, although I have barely watched any television for the last few months, one of my secret guilty pleasures when I do is Bravo’s Real Housewives. Yes, yes, I admit it. Believe it or not, I could talk anyone under the table about any of these entertaining women from Orange County to New York and of course, my favorite, New Jersey. (Those Jersey women don’t mess around :)) Last week, my husband emailed me the link to a People magazine article  where Real Housewife of New Jersey Jacqueline Laurita came out publicly sharing that her son Nicholas had been diagnosed with autism. Now, of all the Jersey moms, I’ve always liked Jacqueline. She usually plays the diplomatic, even-headed, middle woman in the catfight drama between Teresa Giudice and sister-in-law Melissa Gorga, and always earns the respect of show matriarch, Caroline Manzo. As soon as I read it, I nodded in understanding. If any of those women were going to wear the badge of ‘warrior mom,’ Jacqueline would surely be the one strong and passionate enough to make sense of this diagnosis. I ‘liked’ her page on Facebook that day, hoping to support her and offer her an occasional comment about interventions I’ve found effective throughout my own autism journey. To my complete delight, I saw her immediately updating her status discussing her son’s preferences as she goes gluten and casein free, asking about compounding supplements and sharing the TACA website! How refreshing it was to see another autism mom in the public sphere stopping at nothing to heal her baby!
The climate of autism is changing as we autism parents change the climate of the world through our love for our children. We no longer need waste our energy on “the fight.” Our labor is becoming the world’s healing. Awareness is all around, as autism hits our families and loved ones, inspiring everyone to look within and make the changes to heal ourselves.
The attitude is gratitude as we transform our pain into healing and love. This Labor Day, I am celebrating all of us, and our labors of love for our canary children as the conduit for the healing of the entire world.
Barbecue? Nah, I’m off to sip my green juice 🙂
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