This article was written by guest writer Lisa Gray, a FabFitFun Member.

I often joke that my oldest son came screaming into the world; in reality, he actually did. After an average pregnancy and a quicker than average labor, I was shocked when this little person cried for the first hour of his life after delivery. Looking back now, I see so many clues from the beginning that my parenting journey would be anything but typical.

D was developmentally ahead of the curve; rolling from back to front at 3 months and crawling at 7, he was strong, healthy, and hit milestones ahead of his peers. He also screamed at everything, hated to sleep, banged his head when he was mad, and refused to leave daycare until we had walked around the parking lot looking at every single vehicle. His pediatrician assured me he was fine, offering that he was likely just sensitive and spirited but my husband and I struggled to parent and felt like we were failing at every step.

By the time our second boy G was born 2 years later, we were exhausted and felt like we were drowning. G screamed in pain around the clock from a severe food protein allergy and D couldn’t be out of sight for even a moment because he was so impulsive. Whatever I thought parenting was, it wasn’t this.

We sought out therapy and poured our hearts out to the therapist. We even brought D to a session and, after only 30 minutes, she suggested he have a full psychological evaluation. Although I was nervous at the idea that something was wrong, I also felt validated in our suspicion that these were not just typical toddler stages D was going through.

In May 2016, we met with the psychologist who evaluated D and were given his diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. The doctor had spent several hours with our son over the course of a week and her report reflected everything we had been sharing with our friends, family, and pediatrician. Finally, I felt seen.

As we listened to her full assessment and the pieces started to fall into place, I also had another realization. Many of the characteristics and behaviors of autism also applied to my youngest son G. Was it possible I had 2 children on the spectrum? Armed with accurate information and more determination, we had G assessed and received his diagnosis of ASD in January 2017.

Although diagnoses are important when it comes to receiving appropriate treatments and/or services, the reality is they don’t actually change anything. Subconsciously, I believed that once I had an “answer”, life would suddenly become easier but it didn’t…at least not right away. However, having a diagnosis put our family on a path and allowed me to learn as much as I could about autism, behavior, and the needs specific to my children.

I started individual therapy as a form of self-care in 2017 and I joined FabFitFun. FabFitFun was the first thing I had done just for myself in 7 years. This quarterly treat gave me something to look forward to and cemented the idea that I am important and worth celebrating and I found a community I could share with and feel supported by. In 2018, I had the opportunity to visit the FabFitFun headquarters and meet Katie and Michael. When Katie asked what I liked most about FabFitFun, I immediately said “the Community.” This community of caring and strong women who lift one another up is truly what sets the subscription apart from others.

Today, my boys are 10 and 12 and still wild but we are so much further along than I could ever have imagined. They are both wickedly smart and funny and see the world in such a unique way; I’m so lucky to have a front row seat to their vision. We still have moments and meltdowns and our family lags behind when it comes to socializing and traveling. But we have all grown in a way I don’t think most families do because we celebrate every milestone no matter how small. I chose thisbeautyfulllife as my FFF handle because it’s truly how I feel…my life is full of messy, complicated beauty and I wouldn’t change a thing.