This is an incredibly personal post for me, and I have thought for a while about whether I should even include it on here, but since this in a place to help me work out my thoughts and feelings in a somewhat anonymous environment, except for the 3-4 regular readers I have (Hi Mom!), here goes nothing.
I think that many woman of a certain age (but not all) have a time where they look around and see nothing but babies and pregnant women. I never really noticed it before until J and I reached a point in our relationship and marriage where we wanted to start a family. All of a sudden I felt I was surrounded by pregnant women or babies in strollers all the time. All I could think about were babies and a pregnancy. It didn’t take very long for us to become pregnant, and before I knew it I was growing a little life inside of me and we were excited/terrified/looking forward to the future of our little family. Until the very end, I had a picture perfect pregnancy. Very little nausea, minimal aches and pains, and other than being a bit uncomfortable by the end, it was a great experience. I had to be induced due to a medical complication (cholestasis), but the induction didn’t go as planned and I ended up having a C-section after 19 hours of labour.
She was finally here – 8 lbs of hopes, dreams, and love. After we got out of the newborn fog, seeing all of the new things she was learning every day and interacting with her kept my heart full. Seeing the man I love become a father made me fall in love with him all over again in a way I didn’t know was possible. Life was perfect. If I am being completely honest with myself, I was starting to feel concerned about Monkey not reaching milestones from about 14-16 months onward. She did not walk until she was 17 months old, her babbling had decreased a bit, and she started to repeat a lot of phrases from 18 months onward. She wasn’t formally diagnosed until she was 3, because she met all of the checkpoints on the developmental checklists with our doctor. Our doctor told us, she is just a late bloomer…she will get there. I wish I had gotten her assessed earlier, but I can’t live in the past and need to be here in the present moment as much as possible.
Here is the thing: I see myself surrounded by babies and pregnant women again. I think about having another child all the time. I know that there are certain things (like my masters degree) that have to be finished before I even entertain the idea (I know my limits), but now the decision is so much more complicated. Once you have one child with Autism, the chances of having another child with Autism are 20%. 1 in 5. That is a very real possibility that we need to contend with. Not only that, but there is a possibility that our next child could be on the severe end of the spectrum. I don’t know if J and I could handle the assessments, the wait lists. the IEP meetings, the ABA and the financial implications all over again. I don’t know if I have enough fight to start from the beginning while still fighting for everything that Monkey needs. J has expressed this fear to me and being the worrier that he is, I can understand where he is coming from.
Our basement storage area is exploding at the seams because I won’t throw any baby items away. Clothing, bottles, bibs, a stroller…all things that Monkey doesn’t use anymore, but things that I can’t bring myself to sell or donate for the possibility that we might need them again one day. I know that if Monkey was neurotypical, we would be having another child. Autism has robbed out family of so many things…and it may rob us of having a second child as well. If we choose to go ahead with it, does that make us selfish? If our child does end up being neurotypical, how will his/her upbringing be impacted with an older sister on the spectrum? Once J and I pass on, is it fair to them if they end up becoming her caregiver? Then of course, there is the thing that we don’t want to think about…what if our next child is on the more severe end of the spectrum and will need full time care for the rest of their life? There are so many things to consider.
Trying to use logic with a matter of the heart is so difficult. I always thought that I would have two children – having a close sibling relationship is something that I was so happy I had growing up – are we taking that experience away from Monkey? There are so many questions and things to consider, and we don’t have the answers or a decision yet. This is yet another way that Autism impacts families and a reality that we need to live with every day. For now, I will finish my degree and we will wait, but I am not getting any younger. For now we need to concentrate on getting Monkey ready for Junior Kindergarten in September – a stage that I have a LOT of other worries about, but that is another post. Right now, I am using this Disney song lyric to push me through:
“No Matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true”.