Where It Began
I am talking to Nikki Gottesmann, who is an amazing mom to her son Gabe. She talks about how she endured the loss of her husband during her pregnancy with Gabe, processing an autism diagnosis for her son, how she survived breast cancer and meeting the love of her life.
When Nikki was twelve weeks pregnant with her son Gabe, her husband Seth passed away from a sudden cardiac arrhythmia. Six months prior to this, they had a baby who didn’t make it past six months of pregnancy. Seth had to go back to work and didn’t have the ability to really process everything and recover. The stress and worry of the pregnancy were too much stress on him.
It was the absolute worst experience Nikki has had in her life. She was so traumatized, she didn’t know after losing her first baby how she would keep the second pregnancy with Gabe. It was a hard pregnancy. She felt depressed, she wasn’t sleeping at night, and she lived far from her family. She felt completely alone.
What The Early Days Were Like
Thankfully, Gabe was born healthy and happy. Nikki’s aunt and uncle had a house out in Long Island, and they invited her and Gabe to stay with them for the summer. Nikki was still recovering from losing Seth, but this trip was important because it was the only time she could focus on feeling and healing.
She came back home and soon after she joined a mom’s group. It was at this point that she started realizing that her son wasn’t pointing or talking. He wouldn’t answer to his name. He would stare at the ceiling fan. Nikki’s mother finally said something to her. She thought Gabe had autism.
What the Signs Were
Gabe still wasn’t talking at all, even though he seemed like he wanted to. One day, Nikki was at a birthday party, and she noticed that Gabe was the only baby who would not look in the direction of the camera. She talked to someone the next day, and they asked if he had been evaluated. Nobody seemed to think there was anything wrong at that point.
Nikki was told that he should do Early Intervention. The county provided a speech therapist and occupational therapist and they would come to her apartment to work with her son.
What Was It Like Before the Official Diagnosis?
Nikki was praying every night that it wasn’t autism. She kept thinking, “this is hard enough on my own. How am I going to manage this?” She knew absolutely nothing about autism and she didn’t want to read anything because she was so scared.
He finally did get diagnosed at a year and a half and they said he was on the severe side of the spectrum.
Gabe went to an autism program up until he was three and then he went to another program that was part of his preschool. Nikki was taking him to private therapy in addition to people coming to her home. She wanted to do everything possible to help him.
Nikki heard about this dance class from a woman who would send information about events and places that are geared for kids with autism.
She had no idea what it would be like, and it changed their lives.
“It’s his personal heaven.”
During the dance class, you can tell the students are all severely impacted by special needs, and you see the joy and the happiness that they have. You can see how happy every single person in the room is.
How She Found Love Again
Nikki met Caroline almost five years ago and by happy accident. She wasn’t looking for a relationship, but she fit so well in their lives. When Nikki brought up the fact that her son had autism, Caroline had no reaction. It had always been a fear for Nikki to tell people, but she also knew that if someone had a problem with it, she didn’t want to be with them anyway.
Since Seth passed away, she went through a series of experiences where she wasn’t looking for someone with the qualities she should’ve been, until Caroline came along.
“She was everything I wanted in a partner, and if I didn’t have Gabe, I wouldn’t have been looking for someone like her.”
Sometimes we look at our circumstances, and sometimes we can get overwhelmed with the hardness of it. But when you look at Nikki and Caroline, they were able to find the love of their lives, and Gabe has given her such a beautiful life, even though he has autism.
Overcoming a Cancer Diagnosis
Back in February, Nikki decided she would get her mammogram just so she could confirm that she was healthy. She went in for what she assumed would be a routine mammogram, but two days later she got a call, and soon after she found out she had breast cancer.
She went in to get a lumpectomy. Then they shut down the hospitals and she couldn’t get the additional surgery she needed till a few weeks ago.
Since then, she found out the wonderful news that she doesn’t have cancer anymore and that she is completely fine. It was very difficult for her to remain calm during the process because she didn’t know what the outcome would be.
Why It’s So Important to Take Care of Ourselves
It was comforting for Nikki to know that Gabe would still have Caroline to take care of him if something was to happen to her. But at the same time, she didn’t want to miss anything in his life.
“I have to be here for him. I love being his mom. Every day is a new thing and I can’t imagine what his life would be like without me in it, even though Caroline would be there.”
Advice for People Scared to Post About Their Journey
Nikki feels like social media has made such a big difference in her life. She has met so many people from all over the world and it has been SO helpful because she knows she’s not alone. She’s made friends with people who gave her so much insight into Gabe that she would otherwise not know.
“Just do it. Don’t be scared. It is so therapeutic to just write about what is going on.”
People are afraid of criticism and getting attacked, but personally, Nikki doesn’t get very much of that. Receiving comments and advice from other people that read her posts and watch her videos has been so helpful. Often they see things that she doesn’t see. It has also helped her to see different angles and perspectives.
- It is possible to find love again. And it is possible to find someone, even if you have a child with special needs. If someone cannot accept your child, then you don’t want them in your life anyway.
- It is so important to take care of ourselves because we want to be around for our kids as long as possible. Get your check-up. Even if you feel well. Make sure that you are healthy enough to stick around for your kids as long as possible.
- Social media has made a huge difference in Nikki’s life. It has allowed her to realize that she is not alone on her journey. And it has helped her to realize so much about her son that she never would’ve known without the support.
- Don’t be afraid to post on social media about your story. You have a story and a purpose that needs to be shared. Someone needs to hear what you have to say. Your child was meant to help change the world and sharing your story is a part of that.