"If you're autistic, why did you have a child?" ~ Question asked by too many people
Once of the toughest questions ever asked of me is the one above.
Right off, let me say this:
Autistic persons vary on whether or not they want children as much as Neurotypicals do. Frankly, asking someone who is autistic why they have a child "knowing what they have" because "our children might be autistic, too" is downright insulting.
This implies two things: one, that we have a problem with being autistic or see ourselves as "suffering" from our autism, and two, that an autistic individual has no right having children who will potentially end up being on the spectrum themselves.
I'm here to tell you...that's utter bullshit.
If you think these things, consider this post part of your reality check.
Why did I have a kid?
Well, some people know they want to become parents someday from the time they're children; others are sure they'll never have children.
Me? I waffled between wanting kids and never wanting them at all, mostly from my upbringing. My mother had my brother, me, and then six more girls. My biological father had me, followed by two more sisters with his second wife. All-in-all, I have eight half-sisters and a half-brother, although they are only half when I'm explaining the family line; otherwise, they are simply my brother and sisters.
Anyway, that's not the point. The point is...it is easy to get "lost" in that large of a family, and being the oddball I am, something I never did was "fit in" when it came to my family. I always thought of myself as outside them and it wasn't anyone's fault; that's just how I experienced the world around me.
However, I never had a strong urge to become a mother, nor did I want to avoid becoming one. Eventually, it just became something that "might happen" one day, and I really didn't think about it much at all. I was responsible in that aspect as much as I could be, understanding I wasn't in a position financially to have a child.
But then, when I was 23, I got pregnant. Even though I wasn't ready as others believed I should be, and I'm pro-choice, I wasn't going to have an abortion. During my pregnancy, my emotions really evened out, but there wasn't much of a connection and it was uncomfortable, my body changing in unavoidable ways for someone who hated change. By the end, I was just wishing for it to end. Many things going on at the time contributed to this feeling of detachment, too.
My son's entry into the world followed an inducement, which then led to me almost bleeding to death, and a surgery about a week after he was born due to complications.
I didn't know it at the time, but I suffered from postpartum depression that bordered on psychosis after his birth. Nor had I any idea I was autistic, something not diagnosed with until three years after my son's birth when the fog of the PPD had finally lifted. All these mixed together brought an extreme difficulty to the whole situation and for a while, I feared my son's bonding with me had ended up impaired through all the mess. But I also loved him like nothing else and adored him with every fiber of my being.
Today, my son is almost eight, and he's a funny, smart, awkward mini-version of me, even when it comes to our physical resemblance. He's homeschooled because he's socially & emotionally behind, yet academically, well beyond his peers. In public kindergarten, my son did wonderfully, yet the minute he came home was the hardest; he would have complete meltdowns that would ruin the whole evening because it took so much energy for him to "behave" the way the school dictated during the day.
I couldn't do that to him, understanding completely how exhausting it is for me to "hold it together" for eight hours a day because of someone else's expectations, ones that make me go against every instinct I have to stim or move or whatever I'm not allowed to do in this other place outside the safety of my home.
My son might be on the spectrum, but you know what? I don't need a diagnosis for him; he'll always find love and acceptance from his mother because autism isn't a curse. And what do I have now? Well, the desire to have another child, honestly. The chances of it happening aren't likely, yet that is one of my hopes for my near future. We'll see.
Autism itself isn't an impediment to living a satisfying and full life with the things other people have, such as a job and a family. The only thing telling us we shouldn't or aren't capable most of the time is a world that doesn't know how to accommodate us and so far, hasn't wanted to try all that hard to do it, either.
I won't say I "survived" having my first child, even though I've been a single parent the whole time when I never imagined doing it alone, but I will admit parenting didn't come easily to me. Then again, who does find it easy from the get-go? I've no doubt I relate to my son differently than many parents, as I've read plenty over the years and heard plenty from other parents, as well as experienced when around others. Even my soon-to-be husband deals with his children entirely different than how I handle things with my son, but you know what? That's absolutely fine.
To this day, I don't fit in, and I'm perfectly okay with that. I let my son embrace his weirdness and I've no desire to force him to fit into a little box, even as I encourage him to get outside his comfort zone on a regular basis. The world forced me to adjust to the point I lost my way for a while; I don't want that to happen to him. I want him to find fulfillment in the things he enjoys, not chase after a life that doesn't suit him but conforms to society's expectations.
So, do I "suffer" from my autism? Flat out, no. There are some who feel as if they suffer, and they have legitimate reasons for feeling that way, because for some, their autism is debilitating. Me, however? The only thing I suffer from is the ignorance of others who see autism as nothing else except something that needs cured ASAP. I suffer from the world I live in, from what others see as "a chronic lack of real employment" (whatever the hell that means, as I'm pretty sure any job you make money from is real), from being a person who needs some accommodation sometimes — which automatically makes it harder to get jobs if I tell them I'm autistic.
Autism isn't a disease. Disease is a word which connotes something people see as "adversely affecting" a person or group of people, and that's only true if the world continues to refuse to accept differences outside what is seen as the 'norm' of society. Nor should autism be considered a disorder, as the literal definition of the word is “a disruption of normal physical or mental functions," something that makes autism a disorder only because people believe in a “normal” at all.
Are there legitimate diseases and disorders? Yes. Cancer is one, diabetes another, and so on.
But autism is a neurological difference and you know what, you "cure" autism, and you literally will change who your loved one is. Ease the symptoms that cause the most issues with daily living? Sure, there's nothing wrong with that, although the best way may be through coping techniques and allowing an individual to move at their own pace, because we will likely get there eventually even if it's not at the pace those around us or the world requires.
What autism doesn't make me is incapable of being a parent, or holding a job that suits my skills and oddities, or having friends, or living on my own. It doesn't keep me from knowing what I want, even if I have challenges that "normal" people don't.
And as an autistic parent? I don't want recognition, I don't want accolades, I don't want people to congratulate me on becoming a parent despite all my challenges, as if I deserve an award for daring to take on such a responsibility and actually succeeding at it. In that case, every parent deserves such praise, as we all have our own difficulties, yet nobody is asking why these parents thought having children was a good idea.
All I want is the same thing every other parent wants: to have their child grow up and have a life that makes them happy, one that isn't defined by what difficulties my child has, but for what he does for others, for living his life honestly, and for doing everything in his power to make certain he has zero regrets at the end of his (hopefully) long and healthy life.
And for nobody to ever ask me that stupid question ever again.