The first, is to admit, to allow yourself to believe that nothing you did caused your child's diagnosis to happen. That you had no power to stop it.
Yes there are birth related disabilities caused by drug abuse, alcohol abuse or smoking heavily while pregnant resulting in a lower birth weight and reduced learning ability. But we are not talking about those.
The first stage of hearing of a diagnosis is the flood of guilt and fear that maybe something you did brought it about.
And if you were foolish enough to read "What to expect when you're expecting" while you were pregnant, then you are going to be easily convinced that the odd glass of wine, the donuts, the cold tablet you took when you had the flu' all brought about your child's disability. Either that or all the "empty calories" you ate while trying to stuff down the reflux you experienced between week 20 and 42. Or working up until the last month, or going running, or not doing any running, or standing in front of the microwave to heat up your noodle soups or not playing the foetus Bach concertos while having your "beautiful thoughts" for 15 minutes per day.
Don't go there. People have been eating empty calories and working in paddy fields and pushing out perfectly normal babies for thousands of years. What has happened to you happened at a cellular level long before you had any control over things; no matter how many donuts you ate while watching american sitcoms and balancing a large chocolite on your bump, on the couch.
My other take is to do the opposite to step one. REALISE your own power. Once you get through dealing with the shock and have time to adjust your expectations, you have the ability to become your child's best advocate and consultant. You will have to call on resources that you never thought you had, and develop such strength and stamina in the face of the challenges you are about to face. And all of it will be real.
There is no need to go on corporate bonding rock climbing exercise when you have to take on an 8 year old with autism and a chewed video tape. Not only will you produce adrenaline but you will burn it up chasing your beloved child across a field before they reach the electric fence, or road or swollen rapid river. phew.
And you will be forced to problem solve like the folks who wrote the enigma code as you find new ways to lock things, securely close things, hide things and repair or replace things that you failed to lock up, secure, or hide.
You will discover that you have the ability to take on the most intransigent and institutionalised public servants and GET them to help you. You will engage with others in the same situation and learn from some, reach out and help others and give yourself the satisfaction of knowing you can make a difference.
I often wonder what I would have done if both my kids turned out to be typically developing. Apart from sleep a bit more I think I would have been torn between the mundane-ness of accessing the standard health and educational services; and the need to prove myself and be a high achiever in my work. If I chose work, my kids would have suffered, if I chose my kids I might have felt unfulfilled as they found their way without my constant guidance and involvement. Either that or I would have been the world's best ( and worst) stage mom. Dakota Fanning and Haley Joel Osment would be in the dust as I pushed my kids into modelling and acting.
So I choose to focus on the serendipity of being an intense, focused and very loving person, with 2 people who really need a lot of intensely focused love. And that is my power.
Ps. Today's shoes are my long coveted "Lady Melbourne" two tone chanel-esque mary janes.I got them in Hobbs, half price for €100 or only €1 for every post I have drafted. I was powerless to resist!