I hope you have been enjoying this Faith-Filled Moms series – each story has been a blessing to me personally, and I’ve captured words of wisdom from each mom’s story. You can also catch my interview with each guest blogger on Destined 4 the Dub’s Facebook Page, as we go deeper into their stories.
This week, Sheera Berdecia is sharing her Autism story and experience, which is still being told. Sheera has been a long-time follower of Destined 4 the Dub, and I wanted to share her story of faith this week. I hope you are blessed by her journey, and please share with another mom who may have a child with autism and could use some encouragement today.
All the individual moments play like videos in my head. I think back to my prayers and each scripture that I held on to for dear life. As each milestone was cleared, I grabbed another scripture, as they led me on the journey to the bigger picture that I was meant to experience…
I gave birth to this beautiful baby girl despite a myriad of labor complications, which resulted in her premature-stable birth at 35 weeks gestation. Layla was a whopping 5 lbs 9 ozs and she made her presence audibly known upon entering this world. An emergency c-section revealed that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. In spite of a difficult birth, I was grateful to leave the hospital with my daughter a week later.
Layla had a lovely first year of life, where we marveled at her personality and took such joys in little things; her eating, and the first time we heard her infectious laugh. We could not have imagined the direction our life was headed in. As she neared one year of life, we noticed that she was not clearing milestones, such as talking and walking. She said Mama and Dada but that was it. She began to crawl at about 10 or 11 months but did not walk or say basic words until after 15 months. We knew what all the books said, but being our first child, we chalked it up to Layla being a late bloomer.
Still, I internalized my fears about something not being right, as I just did not want to face them. By then I was pregnant again, and my fear about Layla led to unfound concerns about the baby I was carrying. I couldn’t let my anxiety consume me as I knew my daughter needed help, and as her mother, I had to find it for her.
My husband and I discussed our concerns and decided to have her examined. A child neurologist gave us the formal diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which felt like a knife through my chest. All I could think of was what would her quality of life be, would she experience some of the moments I had as a young woman, like choosing a career, getting married, having a family, and traveling? Could she live a fulfilled life?
A million different scenarios and concerns clouded my head in a fog of crippling fear. And then God’s word came to me. Everyone reacts in their own way, but I like to think that God slams the Word on the table in front of me like a Draw Four card in UNO to refocus me and get me out of my head. But the scripture, “God’s word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against thee” snapped me out of my depressive coma so I could hear Him. I began recalling the scriptures that have been poured into my life and hidden in my heart.
My husband’s words about the grace of her being a physically healthy child reminded me to think of the good and praiseworthy things about Layla, as Philippians 4:8 instructs us to. I could not let her see my weakness, so God shrouded it in His strength. The chaos of possible future scenarios was jumbled in my mind, but God covered them with His peace.
You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.
When Layla entered the preschool autism program in our district, she was introduced to the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). PECS included a binder filled with detachable pictures of everyday items and needs that allowed Layla to communicate as she worked on forming her words. I can still hear the Velcro ripping from the book when she wanted to tell us something.
When it was time for her to enter the elementary autism program, we felt the district program did not meet her needs, and wanted a more centralized program, so we pushed to see out-of-district options and found The Bancroft School.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29: 11
She made leaps and bounds through their early education program and we worked with her at home. I was available to the school regardless of my work schedule. I remember days when I would get barely four hours of sleep after working overnight, because the school would call when Layla was “having a moment”. I would drive up to the school to investigate – those days were exhausting, but we got through them and never let up on her progress.
When we felt that she had outgrown Bancroft, we began discussing other educational options. We were in the process of moving to a new home and decided to see how she would fare in a public school. We were blessed to live in a district where she could thrive, and the administration addressed our concerns openly and honestly.
But then, the pandemic hit, and remote learning was introduced to the equation. Even still, we worked tirelessly to create an environment for her learning and more importantly the closest scenario to a routine we could find. It has not been easy, but God has been with us the entire time. It’s just been another opportunity to trust God through a situation of uncertainty.
Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.
I remembered all my requests to God concerning Layla. I was determined to do whatever it took, no matter how many sleepless nights, early mornings, late evenings, breakdowns, crying sessions, and periods of repetition. I recall crying through those tough potty-training days that lasted well into her school-age years, but Layla eventually conquered that too. These moments were such a reflection of God’s grace.
My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.
2 Corinthians 12: 9
I knew as long as I kept showing up, God would keep meeting me at the point of my needs and the same was true for Layla. All she had to do was show up, and God would meet her every time.
We have fought and petitioned for changes in Layla’s development outside of the home, specifically in school. She is not in a special needs’ class in our new district, and that journey has required a new level of advocacy. I learned that the world will not always see the needs of my child, and I shouldn’t expect someone to immediately perceive the best options for my situation. In difficult times, I’ve had to be firm while still showing the love of God, and I’m thankful for chances to continually work on myself.
I’ve learned to embrace my journey. As I trace our lives, it is evident that the hand of God has always been there, providing, sustaining, and leading us to the next step on our path. I’ve realized that no one else can care for the precious life that was entrusted to me, despite all the challenges we’ve faced.
I didn’t know I could love like this and I didn’t know I could fight like this. But God knew what I never saw in myself. There will never be a shortage of things to worry about concerning our children, but there will also never be a shortage of God’s promises to combat every single worry.
I pray for moms everywhere, for them to obtain and be wrapped in your matchless grace. I pray that all moms, myself included, give ourselves space to be human and receive the love you have for us all. You have given us such a precious responsibility and sometimes we can become overwhelmed by wanting to be perfect parents or do everything right and on time, but you have blessed us with little ones who just see us as beacons of unconditional love towards them.
Help us, Father, to see how you love us the same way and even better. Remind us that your love is UNCONDITIONAL and we don’t have to critique ourselves so harshly but trust what you have and are placing in us. Replenish our confidence, oh God!
Our children were placed in our hands for a reason, and while not perfect people, we are the perfect mothers for them. Let our mistakes become lessons from which we can teach them, and our frustrations become new opportunities to practice patience. We can only tell them they are fearfully and wonderfully made by you if we believe the same about ourselves.
So, God, please help us to believe your word with fervency. Every part of you loves us and shows us how to love others. Help us to go forward guiding with the same love we have so freely received from You! I pray for every mother’s strength, endurance, faith, and peace in the journey.
In Jesus Name, Amen.