Women with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) (aka high-functioning autism) become mothers, too. While limited research on the topic is available, I believe that knowledge of my condition would have helped me better prepare for the stressors and challenges faced by Aspie mothers.
During pregnancy, my changing body sent my sensory issues into overload. My body was all wrong. My skin hurt when touched; clothes felt foreign on me. And the overload never turned off. Day after day, I could not find relief from the overstimulation placed on my own body.
Once my son arrived, a new set of challenges emerged. Between the crying, feeding, and constant touching, my need for routine and recovery from the sensory overload went into a tailspin.
Juggling the needs of this very dependent baby with other life responsibilities was like juggling 20 baseballs and riding a unicycle – at the same time. Something was always falling. And, worse, sometimes I don’t even notice when it does. That is how difficult it is to keep up. In a recent study, only 51% of autistic mothers feel they are able to handle parental multitasking compared to 94% of non-autistic mothers.
How many times did this mommy cry along with her baby? Too many to count.
Several friends became mothers around the same time, but they didn’t seem to have the same issues. They questioned why I felt the way I did. Their response always involved a version of “you are overreacting” or “you are exaggerating.”
At the time, I didn’t know I had Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) or the specific struggles I would encounter because of it. All I knew was that I wasn’t built to be a mother. I couldn’t handle it. I was a failure.
The pressure to handle motherhood like the neurotypical women in my life was constant.
Guilt weighed on me. I love this child, but I couldn’t be a mother. How could that happen? How could I not be what he needs? I believed that my son was better off without me. Autistic mothers are more likely to experience postpartum depression according to the same study.
Knowledge is Power
Had I known that I was an Aspie, perhaps my husband and I would have been more prepared for the challenges.
There is extraordinarily little research on autistic mothers. After Googling “autistic mothers,” most of what is coughed up by the Google-gods are articles on mothers raising autistic children.
But the few studies that do exist, suggest that the challenges for autistic mothers are exponentially greater with the increased risk of postpartum depression, the lack of support systems, and difficultly juggling parental multitasking.
But knowing your limitations and preparing for them is essential to enjoying motherhood.
Work with your partner to ensure you have time to walk away from the sensory overload.
Take the time to focus on yourself by indulging in your self-interests, meditate, or soak in a warm bath. Whatever you do, be sure you are uninterrupted, and you can clear your mind.
Remember that no one is a perfect parent. Let the chores go if you need a break. Share the workload with your partner. (It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t do the dishes “correctly.”)
Find a support system, even if it is online, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
And, most importantly, if you are experiencing depression seek professional help.
Although my children are older now, receiving my diagnosis has helped me tremendously. I have a better understanding of myself and how I approach relationships with my children. Because of it, I’m a better mother.