What It’s Like To Be A New Mom…With Asperger’s

 

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My daughter has just been born. I am a mother.

This hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but I do what I’ve read I’m supposed to do, and put her tiny, wriggly little body on my chest while she searches for my breast. I’m still in shock from the unbearable pain of delivery. I breathe a sigh of relief when she latches onto me for a few minutes.
Visitors come by and I’m not really ready for them but I likely never will be. I’m still thrilled to introduce them to the new baby.
I stare in awe at my little girl. Did I grow that? I can’t believe it. I thought I was supposed to feel some indescribable motherly bond, but I’m really just exhausted. I ask the nurses how to dim the lights–they are so bright.

My husband and I smile at each other. Our 2-week old little girl is quiet, alert and lovely. I somehow don’t feel like she is mine but I feel fiercely protective of her anyway. I am so paranoid about the rattly, asthmatic sound of her “flappy airway” that it takes two pediatricians and two doctors at a 3 AM E.R. visit to convince me that there indeed really is nothing wrong with her.
I run through the constant cycle of diaper change, feed, burp, sleep and I wait to feel that “bond”. Weeks pass and it never comes. I am in a constant state of pain and exhaustion, and I try not to let it distract me but it does. Breastfeeding is a terrible, painful struggle for us both and my daughter never latches properly, despite numerous experts’ help.

I am defective, I decide. I should never have become a mother because I am not feeling what I should feel for my beautiful daughter. Surely she deserves better than me. I am angry a lot and numb the rest of the time. And I am afraid. Afraid of how I feel when I’m stressed, afraid of her and her piercing cry. I don’t want to soothe her when she is screaming in the nursery because it causes me such intense anxiety that I want to run far, far away while my heart pounds in my ears. I grit my teeth, and I go in. I try to cradle her tense little body, but rocking her doesn’t help, she keeps screaming. I put her back down in her rocking swing. She eventually stops. I feel like I couldn’t calm her because I couldn’t remain calm.

I can’t handle the intensity of my emotions, which run to extremes multiple times a day. I lie awake one day daydreaming about sitting in my running car with the tailpipe blocked–and then I know this is something more than the “baby blues”. I’m eventually prescribed an antidepressant for post-partum depression. I was already naturally prone to depression, as well as anxiety, which I was treating before I was even pregnant.

Just days later, I start to feel a difference. Then for the first time, I feel like a mother. My wee one looks at me and smiles and I catch my breath and my eyes tear up with joy. I didn’t know I could feel this way. She is mine.
It’s been assumed that Aspies don’t feel properly for others. I know they’re wrong because I feel so much for her–too much, on top of my own emotions I feel hers too. I feel her anger when she doesn’t get what she wants right away, her anticipation when she’s getting ready to eat, her happiness when she giggles. I am constantly looking for ways to get her to smile and laugh.

It’s easy to find moms with children on the spectrum, but oddly difficult to find any parents with Asperger’s. I want to reach out and connect with other mothers, and I also want to hide and protect myself. I’m so awkward–I laugh too loud, I interrupt, I get so  nervous. I make tentative friends whom never contact me and I never contact.
I want my daughter to have friends someday, more than I ever had. How can I help her do that, and teach her the “right” way to socialize?

So many thoughts run through my head. What if my baby turns out like me? How do I teach her the skills that I still struggle with?
What is the best way to provide her with the breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact that will help her thrive, when it can be so painful for me? Am I providing her with everything she needs to be happy?
I see my daughter growing every day and I know she will someday soar past where I am able to fly, learn things I was never able to master, learn from me and then teach me.

One day someone asks me how I am enjoying motherhood. I know what they want to hear–a glowing declaration of “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced”. Instead, I shrug my shoulders, make a dorky face and answer, “It depends on the day. And the time of day”. Because I’m nothing if not bluntly honest. Sometimes it IS beautiful and my heart feels like it will burst with pure love for my daughter, and I don’t even know how to contain it. Sometimes it’s the most terrifying experience ever. Sometimes it’s just “blah” and I’m nearly nauseous from the smell of dirty diapers and I’m waiting for bedtime.

But I always love her. It’s like that for moms–Asperger’s or not.


Image © veranuem / The Puzzled Mom

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6 responses

  1. I’m a mum with aspergers and I thought this was just me to feel this way! My boys are both grown up now (19 and 17) and I’m finally feeling like I really like them. I always loved them, but now I like them as well; I understand them. The whole motherhood thing just never clicked for me. I always felt guilty but I have a really strong bond with both of them and they’re awesome humans who say I was a great mother, so I guess we do what we can and muddle through! Good luck and you’re not alone!

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    • Anjella,
      Thank you for your encouraging comment. 🙂 It sounds like you’ve done a wonderful job by your kids. I’d love to hear if you have any parenting tips you’ve learned through your experiences as an Aspie mom–you could probably teach me a few things! If you feel like a chat, I can be reached at thepuzzledmom@gmail.com. Have a blessed day!

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  2. I only found out I was an aspie after my 3yo daughter was diagnosed ASD (tonight we ran out of melatonin and she has only just fallen asleep, its 11pm I am exhausted).

    My daughters ‘trigger’ me constantly, everyday is a battle to maintain my sanity, I feel like a failure all the time. .. Often I beg them to leave me alone, to stop nagging, asking questions because its sensory overload for me but they don’t stop and eventually I have a meltdown, it is utterly exhausting, but I have an amazing supportive partner who gets me, loves me how I am and that gets me through …. Some days just the sound of my kids voices is enough to tip me into sensory overload, other times their laughter brings me joy . being an aspie and a parent is a battle but worth it

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    • Hi Blessed,
      Thanks for sharing. I feel for you, that must be rough. I only have one child, but she is very spirited and loud– it would probably be a lot harder if I had more than one. I’m glad you’ve got someone to help. My partner/husband has been wonderfully patient with me too. We are truly blessed when we find people who accept us and help us regardless of our unique struggles.

      If you are doing the best you can with what you have, than you are NOT a failure. I worry about that too–I have extra-sensitive moods and days where I’m totally on edge from the second I wake up, I pray that it doesn’t rub off on my daughter and upset her. Sometimes a sound she makes will be like nails on a chalkboard to me, and others I can practically ignore it or even find it endearing. The things that have helped me so far are anti-anxiety medication (this has been a HUGE help), enough sleep (ha!), a supportive partner, and the token “exercise and good diet”. I’m not very diligent about the exercise but you can’t win em’ all!

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  3. Although I am not an Aspie, my daughter’s father is. He had difficulties adjusting to the changes in routine, our relationship, and I suppose everything after our daughter was born, and walked out when she was 4 months old. I think now, looking back, that was the best things for him, and for us. Although I would never generalise and say that of every family situation similar to our own (before he left), in our case it meant he could grown to love and bond with our daughter, tolerate the frustrations he felt at various stage of her development, and then go home to his own place and distress and have his down time to process what was happening. She is now 6 and a half, and although none of us are perfect, this arrange still works for us, and means that their father and daughter relationship still continues to grow and flourish.

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    • Hello Happy,
      I am so sorry you’ve had to go through that. I’m glad that your daughter and her father continue to be close.
      Hopefully over time, with more research and resources, Aspies who struggle with these issues will be able to find better ways to cope and become stronger parents. Bless you all and thank you for commenting.

      Like

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