Autistic Pregnancy- My Story.
As you may have read in my last post, I was lucky enough to have some of my writing featured in the women's magazine 'The M Word'. The first article, a 600-word piece on being an autistic mother, was well-received and garnered the warmest of responses from readers. Read below...
It was the most definite pink line of all and a welcome sight. I jumped like some sort of human-spring hybrid, my hands and arms flapping as quickly as a cheerful sparrow taking a dust bath. I was pregnant and ecstatically so. Pregnancy and conception is challenging for many women, but the prism of my autistic brain certainly added to the experience. Think of it as having the same recipe but using different spices. An appropriate metaphor because curry became such an overwhelming craving.
I'd never before experienced such a range of emotions at once but the rush of hormones and instinct added to my already supercharged senses. The pink line was a definite, autistic people do well with black and white, 'yes' and 'no'. Grey areas cause anxious times ahead and nothing cast a shadowy grey area on our joyous news as much as our miscarriage three months earlier. For three months I had struggled with the physical and emotional fallout; guilt-laden relief at the torturous HCG levels finally dropping, anger at the language used, "failed pregnancy" was wrong. I didn't fail anyone and neither did the baby. I fixated on the phrase for weeks, as linguistics is my 'special interest', the sometimes patronising term used for the speciality/subject an autistic person invests a lot of time in. I fought isolation, being annexed by a world built on rules I don't understand, in a body that I couldn't guarantee would work (despite reading reams of academic journals on miscarriage causes). The dichotomy of an autistic brain meant that although my anxiety and obsessive research had its place, the same ability to focus enabled me to pull myself out of the vortex of grief.
But there it was, my joyful little piece of urine-soaked plastic. I felt different this time. The lines were stronger and I already felt different in my body. Another misconception about autistic people is that we are rather 'disconnected'. This is absolutely untrue, we are intensely connected to everything and it's quite overwhelming. Imagine your whole body being as sensitive as your lips, for example, it would be a bit much, right? However the connection and sensitivity I had to my own body meant I felt the changes almost immediately. I felt kicks earlier, felt aches and pains (yes, I mean you, evil SPD!) more intensely, connected with my baby's stubborn personality from the first scan.
The countless appointments when pregnant are tiresome and worrying for most women. From an autistic perspective they are that much more difficult to navigate. Some times you get a consultant who appreciates that you've read and memorised the NICE guidelines. On occasion you'll get a midwife who has an autistic niece and understands that even if you can't make eye contact, you're still listening intently. A nurse is onto a winner if she knows that holding or touching your back when being weighed will put you on edge. These tiny instances of mutually social interactions go a long way to making the intense and invasive business of being pregnant bearable.
Birth itself is like a minefield. If you went over one with a bulldozer.
Comforted by readings, numbers and protocol but absolutely unable to verbalise the epidural doesn't feel right. My logical brain angrily rejected every 'comforting' piece of advice like "You're doing brilliantly!" (give me stats or nothing at all, lady!) for hours, until our baby arrived via emergency C-section. Forty hours of labour will teach a gal something. My lesson was that I have immense strength, undoubtedly enough to live unapologetically autistically.
Throughout my first pregnancy I put pressure on myself to mask my autism. I almost felt like I had to 'audition' for my own child, prove I can do it like everyone else. But becoming a Mum taught me a better lesson: my autistic behaviours allow me to cope and thrive. They allow me to be the best Mum I can be by letting me let off steam. That can mean avoiding eye contact from strangers for a few days, having half an hour in the garden with ear defenders and a coffee, quietly indulging in a verbal stim while I do the dishes. Or chuckling about the logical reality of Wendy Wolf joining Peppa's playgroup.
This is just a small difference, I hope to touch on more eventually. But for now, here's my article: