Autistic Parent in a Neurotypical World

I wanted nothing more than to be a mother, but I didn’t factor in the social and communication implications of parenting – such as clinics, playgroups and school.

Then there were the sensory issues..

I was highly aware of changes within my body. I didn’t ‘bloom’. If anything I looked tired, only with great hair. My body became even more sensitive than before and I was even more emotional than before. I struggled with how ‘alien’ my body felt. Then again, I’d struggled through puberty so carrying a human being inside me was never going to be a total joyride, eh? It was a VERY sensory experience culminating in a 21 hour labour during an NHS staff shortage with a very unsympathetic midwife!

My son eventually came into the world and when he was placed in my arms I felt a rush of emotion so intense that it almost burst my episiotomy stitches! Until that moment I’d existed without knowing what I was really here for, but for the first time in 17 years it wasn’t about me anymore – it was about the wrinkly human staring into my eyes and for once I felt no discomfort in eye-contact at all. In fact, I loved nothing more than to look into those blue eyes that would slowly turn green, not unlike my own.

I breast fed my son for six months. Text book mothering. Only I struggled because it was incredibly sensory. See, the little dude had a powerful suck and it hurt – not to mention two bouts of mastitis!

Terry-towel nappies?

Nope!

I’ll have it noted that I entered into motherdom with the very best of intentions, but I didn’t figure that my overly-sensory self wouldn’t be able to handle a bucket of slimy shit-filled cloths, so I bunged my son into disposable nappies after a couple of weeks and I believe my exact words to my (then) husband were ‘Go and fetch me some f**king Pampers!’

While I’m in full confession mode, I put my little boy in his bouncer while I cleaned the kitchen one day and he bounced himself to sleep. The dilemma was – did I leave him hanging in the doorway or disturb him by taking him out, knowing that he chances of him getting back to sleep were zero? As it was, our Jack Russell intervened by licking the drool off his chin annnnnnnnnd he was back in the room..

Sensory wise, it wasn’t all bad, because I loved nothing more than to hold my son and smell his hair and feet. When I see his hairy size 10s now I think back to those sweet little feet that I used to rapid-fire kiss, which is odd, given that I hate people touching my feet!

Practically speaking, I didn’t realise that I would have be so socialble as a mother.

What a complete muppet, right?

All I wanted was to be alone at home with my son, but I knew that I had to ‘socialise him’ or he might grow up to be a raging social phobic like me, so I pushed myself to be sociable and for that I needed to mask because that’s what most autistic parents do. I struggled. I floundered. I died inside, over and over again. But the effort paid off because my son grew up to be an actor and I like to think that forcing myself out of my comfort zone helped to give him his social skills, which makes every arse-clenching second worth it!

Some autistic people don’t want children, and they think that autistics shouldn’t be parents, but I strongly disagree. I’d imagine that those are the ones who see autism as a curse, instead of a difference? Yes, some people are so severley affected that parenting is beyond their capability but I’d argue that there are also many NT parents who also don’t have the capacity to be a parent! Making a baby is the easy part and anybody can do that. That’s not parenting, that’s reproducing. Autistic parents put a lot more effort into parenting than most because we have to, but it’s worth it – especially when your child grows up to be independent.

The chances are that an autistic parent (s) will produce at at least one autistic child, but the positive is that autistic parents understand their autistic children in a way that no NT parent ever can and when I asked my autistic son how he feels about having an autistic mother, he said, ” Very happy (cuz) you know my weaknesses and strengths and I’m not the only one autistic in the house”.

I know when my son is struggling with something and I know when to hug him and when to give him space. I understand his obsessiveness. I understand him, and he can bring me out of a shutdown because he instinctively knows what to say and do. He understands me too.

I asked my eldest son if me being autistic held him back and he answered, ” Never – I remember you having problems with groups and things, but you always pushed me not to have that. I thought you were wonderful and one of the funniest people I know. I think I get a lot of my humour from you. Also, I get a huge sensitive side from you – which is obviously key to my job.”

Finally, I asked my middle son how he feels about having an autistic mother and he replied, ” You’re my mum. I love you regardless. I don’t see you any differently.”

My boys are my pride and joy, literally. They are the very best part of me and I will leave this world knowing that I’ve created three very special human beings who are enjoying life in a way that I never could. I’ve taken my worst experiences and used them as the incentive to make damn sure that my children live, rather than exist. It’s been one hell of a journey, and it isn’t over yet, but it’s been worth every ounce of effort I’ve put into being a mother.

As I write this post my eldest son is about to become a father for the first time. I can hear the excitement (and anxiety) in his voice and I remember that this was exactly how I felt before he was born. His journey as a parent is about to begin and when he holds his baby in his arms, he will finally understand what I’ve been on about all these years..

‘You’ll understand when you have children of your own.’

I must have said this a thousand times..

He will understand that nothing is more important than this tiny human being and I know that my son will be as smitten with his child as I was with him – from the moment I breathed him in.

“What it’s like to be a parent: It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do but in exchange it teaches you the meaning of unconditional love.”
― Nicholas Sparks, The Wedding

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