Having… THE TALK

There’s those big important talks we need to have with our kids. The birds and the bees, death, anti-racism….. neurodiversity.

I’ve always been a strong advocate of telling your children their diagnoses. It is a part of them. It is a sense of understanding. It is an explanation for how they see and experience the world it is not a negative to be hidden away. It is not ‘just’ a label. (I’m looking at you, Boomer parents).

In fact. My counsellor asked me today: how would a diagnosis have changed your childhood? Dude. That’s so hard. BUT, if my parents just told me. If they just said “hey, you are this thing they call “autistic”. It means you process everything a bit different”. Then. At least I wouldn’t have felt like an alien. At least I wouldn’t have felt unknown, unseen, like a fake…. At least I would have known their was a legit reason typical society didn’t work for me.

If I knew I was Autistic, maybe my teenage depression wouldn’t have run so deep.

If I knew I was Autistic, maybe I wouldn’t have struggled with weight loss as a way to gain a sense of control over life.

If I knew I was Autistic, maybe I could have given the nurses a heads up that I totally shut down in pain, and they would have believed I was in labour.

If I knew I was Autistic, maybe I could have sought out coping mechanisms instead of being thrown into the depths of infant-induced sensory overload.

So. I do not yet know how my own children’s brains work. I feel they are much more typical than mine. But, I also feel like 14 months into Covid regulations that they are potentially having any Autistic social tendencies forced upon them. Mommy’s brain however…

The girls and myself were all in the washroom. I just wanted to have my 5 minutes of face wash self-care. They were extra hyped up today. One shouted in glee and tried to slam the door. (If your auditory senses are anything like mine, you know how much a washroom reverberates noise. Uhg). I felt my anxiety spiking. And it was only 7am.

“Mommy has to tell you something important. Brains work in different ways. Daddy’s brain is something called ‘neurotypical’. That’s a big word to mean he feels comfortable with most of the world. He is great with people. He hears and feels things at a calm level.

Mommy’s brain is Autistic. That means it works differently. One way is that mommy has super senses. My ears and my eyes and my nose and my touch all work really really well. So I can see things other people can’t. And I can hear things across the house. And I feel things really big. Sometimes this is like a superpower! I can find little bits of glass or hear when you wake up. Sometimes there’s so much happening, my senses go AHHHHHHHH! and I need a quick break.

Now. I do not know how your or your sister’s brains work yet. They might be like Daddy’s or they might be like Mommy’s. Or, they might even be a little bit like both of us. Either way, it’s pretty cool.”

Who knows how much the 4.5 year old took in of that. But, she stayed surprisingly attentive. I’m sure a week or so down the road she’ll spew out some tidbit about mommy’s superpower eyes helping find missing lego pieces. That’s how I’ll know she actually listened.

Until then. I’ll brainstorm other differences to tell her about. Or over analyze where she may fall on the spectrum of all abilities. And keep telling her, “cause Mommy’s Autistic, that’s why”, whenever she asks me, “but WHY?!”

becoming a mom

Is there anything more sensory overload than becoming a mom for the first time? Even spending that first 40 weeks learning to give your body over to another HUMAN that is growing INSIDE you: it does not prepare you for the transition to parenthood. Labour, Caesarean, Epidural, Med-free, Adoption- however you went through the process, you suddenly are in a whole new ballgame.

Snuggles in the car, because they are needed everywhere, all the time.

An infant depends on you for touch, food, warmth, affection, soothing, experience. And there aren’t time-outs. Especially with my first. She had higher needs for being touched or held and could not sleep without that connection. This was quite a change for someone who likes to cuddle on her own terms and then sleep on the edge on the bed.

It was daunting to realize that I would never be completely alone. Even when the baby was with daddy, or I left the house, or eventually went to work or on a ladies trip, weaned.. I always have one line in my brain on her. She is not to be shut off.

Actually. Maybe becoming a mom to a second was the most sensory overlap! Now I had a 2 year old pulling my body in one direction, trying to communicate her needs, while the Wiggles played in the background and a fussing baby in my arms grabbing at my nipples, and the smell of diaper wafting my way. I was about to say that the only thing that was missing was heat. But, I had both my babes in the summer months, and I swear 2.5 years later, I’m still experiencing an elevated body temperature. (Of course, that could also be medication side effects.) I digress. I’m talking sounds, touches, smells, emotional needs, body temperatures, combatting demands, all while “Wake up Lachy!” is happening in the background and my mind just wants to place all the faces of the Wiggles in relation to the original cast.

I am very certain that no parenting book or pre-natal class in the world can prepare you for the sensory changes that come with newborns and new parenthood. Especially if you are at all neurodiverse and perceive input to a different degree that the average writer of those books.

So, it can feel like there is no where to turn. I know there are others out there. I know the 4:1 male:female Autism ratios are bogus. I know a lot of us are struggling in adulthood to determine why we feel so different, why life is so exhausting, why “oh you have Depression” never paints enough of a picture… And, we find ourselves in parenthood with little-to-no resources to support our unique needs. I’d like to create a space of that. Because even if there’s connection with one other parent, that’s a connection. That’s shared support.

I am a mom. I have two amazing children. I would not trade watching them play or sleep or laugh or tackle daddy for anything in the world. But, wow, it can be hard when they both want to win for getting the most mommy contact above the shoulders! There’s only so much of me up there, kids, and much of it is precious for survival!