The next time you wanna call a special needs momma “crazy”… or any momma for that matter… consider the following:
Find the right partner. That may take you forever, or it may be the first guy you fall in love with when you are 15. I will gladly skip over this part because I was spared all of the drama and horror of adult dating. I was the lucky few. Don’t be jelly.
Either way, if you want a family first you gotta get pregnant. OK no problem. Take the prenatal vitamins, don’t drink alcohol, exercise daily, lose weight, but be careful. Not all vitamins are regulated and you don’t want to accidentally use tainted vitamins that have lead or mercury. God forbid. Don’t drink alcohol, but actually, maybe just one glass of red wine a day because it has antioxidants and some studies show cardiovascular benefit but then again… fetal alcohol syndrome… there’s that. Exercise but be careful. Don’t go to hard. I mean you don’t want to get injured or overdo it. You want your body to be as peaceful and calm and stress free as possible to encompass the full Fertile Myrtle aura. Lose weight. Yup. That baby weight will come on fast so better lose weight first. But not too much. I mean make sure you have proper “nutrition” and are eating a variety of foods and maybe even pay attention to the acidity of foods and the Chinese moon if your heart is set on a certain gender. This might not happen right away. It might happen the first time. If you’re lucky, it will happen within the first 3-6 months of trying but maybe you aren’t so lucky. Maybe you try for months, years. Maybe while you’re sitting at a friend’s baby shower your phone pings the reminder for your upcoming appointment with a fertility specialist. Maybe you have to do hormone injections, maybe ovarian stimulants, maybe in-vitro. You don’t give up. You want this. You dreamed of this.
So it happens, the pink plus sign shows up. Now a whole new ball game. You step up to the plate of what you can and cannot do or eat or wear or use. Don’t eat seafood. Well, eat seafood but cooked seafood. Not raw. No sushi, no ceviche but maybe just well-cooked salmon. Actually, don’t eat fish with high mercury content. No more shark for you ma’am. Tuna? Consume at your own risk. And your unborn baby’s risk too. Oh! And meat, no undercooked or processed meats. What is processed? Yeah, everything. No hotdogs. No deli meat. No sandwich meat. Again, consume at your own risk. It’s on you momma. Now for eggs. No raw eggs. I am no Rocky Balboa so no worries here, except oh shoot, a lot of stuff has raw eggs. No mayonnaise, no poached eggs, no over easy eggs, no hollandaise sauce, no salad dressing, no homemade icings… again, consume at the risk of hurting your unborn baby. No organ meat. Yup, no liver. Vitamin A toxicity. NO caffeine. Oh for the love of God. Yup. No caffeine. Prepare to be judged every time you have a Starbucks in hand while patting your little belly. Nobody knows you ordered decaf and they don’t care. Haters gonna hate. Also avoid sprouts and unwashed fruits or vegetables and all unpasteurized cheeses, dairy and juice! What does unpasteurized mean? Google it and good luck. Better check those labels momma because again, it’s all on you. I mean if you mess up… never mind, let’s stay positive. Lastly, no processed junk food. Yes, you read that right. In the months of your life when you will crave this the most, like I will kill-someone-if-I-don’t-get-an-Oreo-right-now kinda crave, you can’t have it. Because you know, excessive weight gain leads to preeclampsia and gestational diabetes and macrosomia and well you get it. Alcohol is out the window but again, if you were a “good girl”, that would have been gone since you started trying. Exercise while pregnant? Omg yes! Run. No, don’t run. Too much stress on the uterus. Lift weights. No, don’t lift weights because it could pull an important tendon that’s holding things in place in the nether regions. Exercise the same as before, but take it easy. Rest, but move every day. Who to believe? Oh, you know, just trust your body.
Now it’s baby time. Do not get an epidural because it will prolong labor and the baby could suffer. Oh my God get the epidural so you can rest and enjoy the experience. Demerol? Oh heck no! Do you want your baby to be drugged at birth? How could you!? But then again do the Demerol, it is easy and will have no risk of damaging your spinal cord and paralyzing you for life like the epidural. Of course if anything goes wrong it will be your fault whether it was an epidural or Demerol or nothing or a water birth… you know… it’s all on you. Vacuum? C-section? What will you agree to in an emergency? Because you know, that could mean life or death for your baby. The baby you stopped eating hot Cheetos for for 9 entire months and even though you know ZERO about having babies you have to decide … come on … trust your momma instinct.
So let’s say you do it. Success! That gorgeous thing is born and here we go, it’s time for Apgar scores and hearing and vision testing and vaccines. Yes, you will have to decide whether to give vaccines or not. That’s a whole new Google rabbit hole. Good luck in there. It gets ugly quick. If you had a boy then you have also played circumcision jeopardy and questioned religion and science and medical journals and your mom and your mother in law and now that you are more confused than ever you literally look at your husband and say, “decide.” If you are a single momma, you say yes or no and hope your sweet son will not resent you for the rest of his life for his sex life. NBD.
So the super delusional hospital staff actually let you leave with this stranger baby but not before the “breastfeeding consultant” lady talks to you first. As you lay there, bleeding, torn apart, a little traumatized, maybe still drugged, your belly resembling a deflated circus tent and wearing a pamper … this lady tells you that you must also make breastfeeding a priority. “Breast milk is the best” she says. “Do not give up!” She almost yells. She gives you a bag with coupons for nipple cream and info pamphlets with statistics about breastfed baby’s being smarter, more athletic, having less risk of learning disabilities, and on and on. Well darn. OK. Let’s get this latch perfect then. Pressure. Pressure. Pressure.
But you are still OK because this is natural right? I mean you can do this. Your body should and will do this naturally. Except that for some, it doesn’t and for all, it is really, really hard. So after about a day or two your nipples are bleeding. Yes that’s right. Bleeding. Cracked. Raw. Painful to the touch. Even showers are torture. All of a sudden your torn up “privates” are a thing of the past. The pamper is still there but damn, these nipples. Maybe your milk flows like a freakin volcano, maybe it doesn’t, maybe you make enough milk in a day to feed a family of 5 and maybe you get an ounce or two and it literally is as valuable as gold. GOLD. You feel guilty. You want to stop. You are in pain and exhausted and dreading each feed. You can’t even take time to appreciate or love your baby because oh my goodness, each cry means, more bloody nipples. But you come across that info pamphlet again one day as you clean up. Maybe you continue, maybe you don’t. Maybe it’s easy. Maybe it’s not. Either way you will probably be judged by someone. A friend, a family member, for continuing or stopping. You won’t win this. Be your own hero lady.
And sleep? How will you learn to live without sleep? You will. You will get used to less and less and less. And just when you think you got the hang of things… time to go back to work! Maybe you haven’t even completely healed yet, too bad. Maybe you have overwhelming guilt about being a working mom when your baby needs you so. I mean these first years are precious. Get over it. Stay at home moms will be mocked for “doing nothing all day” and working moms will be mocked for being “selfish”. If you are the “selfish” mom and decide to go back to work make sure you excel, work hard, be valuable, be focused, ignore the fact that a stranger is rocking your baby to sleep. Never mind that. Women can do it all, right? Anything a man can do? Rise up! You were made for more! But also breastfeed for at least a year if you haven’t stopped already. So make sure that taking 3 breaks a day with suction cups attached to your boobs won’t make you lose focus. No distractions. Don’t let it throw you off. Oh and the baby weight? Oh lady you better lose that quick. But quietly you know? Like make it seem natural and seamless. You don’t want anyone thinking you’re trying too hard or don’t love yourself. Be subtle. But eat the salad. Remember that the magic pill to beautiful skin and flawless complexion and overall health and wellness and happiness and energy is sleep. Yes. You need 8 hours minimum. You know, because it’s super easy to ignore a colicky baby’s screams or night feedings or fevers or coughing or the nightmares you’ve been having about all the random tragic ways your child could die suddenly… ignore it all. Sleep. But also get up at 5 am so you can exercise. Make time. The self-help gurus say, “NO EXCUSES.”
So life is nice and dandy and maybe even your butt is lifting back in place nicely and then you go to your first birthday party with your new baby decked out in Target style. And maybe there is another baby at this party just a few weeks older or younger than yours.
Um. Uh oh. Why is their baby so smiley? Why is their baby cooing and babbling? Um. My baby still hasn’t even looked at me. My baby is not holding their bottle like that baby and I don’t even think I’ve had a smile yet? OK. This is fine. Totally fine. So you go home and either in the bathroom while the shower is running so no one knows what you are Googling, or maybe under the covers, you start to read the “milestones”. Crap. 2 out of 10. But an article says all kids are different. Yeah. That’s right. Chill. Slow your roll. You are overreacting momma. But now your baby is 1 and there are no words. And now your baby is 2 and there are still no words, but a lot of screaming. A lot. Meanwhile your friend is posting her baby singing the ABCs, maybe even dancing to the beat. Damn it. No problem. You hate-like the post and decide to put your baby in a private preschool. This will be good. Socialization. Friends. Structure. All good.
So after almost passing out with the cost per week, per month and Googling the best way to basically meal prep for a tiny human, you give in. So remember that baby? The one doing more than yours? The one that secretly makes you feel so jealous it’s disgusting? Yeah. Now there are 10 of those, all in a class with your sweet little thing. And guess what? You see them EVERYDAY. You compare EVERDAY. Not on purpose. Just naturally. Don’t compare. Comparison is the thief of joy. Are you nuts? You have to compare? What if something is really wrong and you are losing time? Time? Time for what? What am I doing wrong? I’m reading to this kid every night and singing and praying and loving … what are these other mommas doing that I’m not?
Then the calls start. Your kid is hitting. Biting. Screaming. Hitting themselves. Crap, I was hoping that wouldn’t happen at daycare. Maybe by now you have noticed this but just thought it was your little one being silly. The head banging, maybe the hand twirling, something weird but you wrote it off as unique, cute. Who are you kidding you never wrote it off. You ignored it. It made you uncomfortable. Embarrassed even. Your kid is getting close to 3 and you are on to preschool number 2 because the first one kicked you out. That’s right. Children actually get kicked out of daycare and preschools. Your 2 year and 3 year baby wellness visits at your pediatrician are excruciating. Nothing. You answer no to everything. Zero milestones. Vision? Great. Hearing? Great. What is the missing link? You get a referral to a healthcare professional you didn’t even know existed. A behavioral pediatrician. What the heck? Sure. But the appointment is months away. Months? Yup. Why? Who knows. (I know, but that’s a different post.) After waiting 6 freaking months for this appointment you fill out forms with 123 questions, then the nurse asks you the same 123 questions after you wrote them and then somewhere around 2 hours since you checked in, the doctor asks you the same 123 questions again. After all that, the doctor says… “It’s too early to tell. Too early to diagnose anything.”
For the love… but by now it’s too late.
It’s time for preK and you don’t have answers. It’s a couple weeks in and the calls are constant. Calls from the nurse. Calls from the teacher. Calls from the principal. They don’t know what to do. Your kid is fighting, biting, kicking, destroying stuff. Your kid is climbing shelves and banging their head on their desk during math and walking directly in front of fast balls during PE. Screw this. You need a second opinion and quick. You go to a doctor hundreds of miles away and that’s when your world changes. Literally the day your life turns upside down leaving you like a turtle on its back.
It’s a spectrum.
“It’s all on you momma”, the doc says.
Children with autism thrive when they have parents willing to risk it all, give it all, sacrifice, never give up… but that’s just it. Risk what? Give what? Sacrifice what? Never give up on what? What now? I’ll tell you what. Speech therapy. Occupational therapy. So this is totally fine expect in the instance you have multiple kids because that means you are going to be in a waiting room for 4 out of 5 weeknight dinners at a therapy center instead of at your dining table. That means McDonalds becomes the go to and there goes your lifted butt not to mention the nutrition of every kid you have created.
After months of this and 20lbs later… it doesn’t work. Your kid is not cooperating. Each session is brutal and pointless. You become a Google maniac. You discover ABA therapy. Some say it is a miracle and saved their sanity and their life, some say its abuse. Seriously? When will a girl catch a break? No, instead use the Son-Rise Program. No, maybe use the floortime method. Find a great child psychiatrist or psychologist. Your pick. Hippotherapy does wonders the internet says. Yup. Google that. Use medication. No, don’t use medication! Go chemical free in your home. No more endocrine disrupters like Clorox and Pinesol entering your unsuspecting child’s feet as they walk innocently around your house. No more eggs. No more dairy. Go gluten free. Go dairy free. Are you seriously feeding your baby the poison that is goldfish crackers? How dare you? But actually, feed them whatever they will eat. Your kid has food aversions and only tolerates chicken nuggets, cucumber and string cheese. Go for it. Just feed them. Don’t worry. But do worry. Because it all starts in their gut. That is the answer. Clean the gut. Give them probiotics. Yogurt. But not yogurt with too much sugar. No, give them fish oil. Brain health guys. Go keto. Keto is amazing for children with seizures so for sure it will be amazing for your kid who doesn’t have seizures. Plus keto is soooo easy because kids hate sugar and bread and rice and peanut butter and jelly and macaroni and cheese and fries. Consider a magnesium supplement. Uh huh. Teach your 3 year old to swallow horse pills. No problem. You will also need a really great sensory diet. That has nothing to do with food by the way. Confused? Don’t worry, your occupational therapist will know all about this. If not, ask the teachers. If they don’t know ask the school district’s behavioral specialist. If all else fails. Google it. You got this.
But meanwhile while you are struggling daily with decisions that are so big, that could be so groundbreaking… don’t forget your husband. Don’t forget your partner.
Make time for date night. It’s so important to keep your relationship feeling like new! At least do this once or twice a month so find a good babysitter… you know, one with tons of experience in autism who is willing to deal with self-injury and fecal smearing. No problem. Stop making excuses. Don’t worry about the extra money this will cost, a divorce is more expensive. And for heaven’s sake dress your age. But don’t be frumpy. Don’t show too much skin. But don’t be a prude. Wear heels. Actually don’t draw attention to yourself. It looks desperate and you are happily married remember? Why would you want to attract that kind of attention? But do enough to keep your man’s attention. Be sexy. But like mom sexy. Like I have had 3 kids and am a zombie with a crap load of concealer sexy.
But back to your kid who is falling apart literally with each passing day while attending a school that is not made or created or even accepting of them. It’s time for something called an ARD meeting. What the heck? You google it. There are sooooo many posts about ARDs. Everyone hates them. Great. They say, be demanding. Schools suck. They don’t care about your kid. You have to be tough, mean even. Know your stuff. Know the law. Don’t give in. Omg. The law? Where the heck do I learn the law? But no, no never mind, now they say be nice. Be sweet. You don’t know how hard it is in the schools. The system is overwhelmed. Don’t ask too much. Don’t talk too loudly or too much. Don’t be intimidating. Don’t be bossy. They will call you a bitch in secret and take it out on your kid. Even if they are blatantly wrong or lazy don’t overact. You will cause too many waves. And my God don’t cry. Men in the room will pass it off as PMS and ignore you. Be pleasant. They will like you more.
Hey but seriously, whatever you do, do not forget to recycle. I mean the world is in crisis. What are you doing to save the planet? You DON’T recycle??? Monster.
Nah, but jokes aside, don’t be so up tight. Have a little fun. Smile more. But speaking of smiles, wrinkles make you look old. Men like young fresh faces and it’s already going to be tough for my single mommas to find a man that will gladly embrace a child with autism so, Botox… there is that. And while you’re at it make sure you shave. Frequently. Stay tanned. Spend some money on good stretch mark creams. Don’t let your eyebrows get all cray cray. Are you working out like I told you? 5am? Good because a flat tummy is hot. All of social media would really love you to plump your lips. Please. Maybe even perk up those boobies that fed an army. But girl, look natural, look timeless. Stay classy. But don’t be so basic. But be genuine. Authentic. Confident. Fake it till you make it. But don’t fake it so much that people notice.
And friend, do me a huge favor. Find a hobby. Make time for YOU. Make sure you keep up with politics and the evening news and celebrity news and fake news because if you find yourself in a random conversation with an adult in the grocery line, you will need more content to discuss than the latest Blippi episode and Ryan’s World’s super rich parents.
Read books. A lot of them. They are soooo good for your brain. Which reminds me… are you keeping up with your doctor visits? For you? The annual pap and mammograms and dentist and skin checks and OMG what about your mental health? Are you still crying in your shower every night about this autism thing? Oh my. Get a therapist. Make time. Hopefully your insurance covers a good one. Get close to Jesus. Yes. You will need Jesus. But going to church will be hard. Your child with autism will have a super hard time in children’s church and you will miss most sermons because of bathroom accidents. Maybe if you are lucky you will make it back through the communion line a couple times a year. Jesus understands, right?
Are you still wondering what you did wrong? You ate and drank all the good stuff. You stayed away from hot tubs and don’t live near an open field where chemicals are sprayed on produce. But girlfriend… did you get your hair colored while pregnant??? How could you? But hey, water under the bridge you seriously are going grey. Don’t do that. Your roots are showing. You should make time to dye your hair.
Are you drinking your water every day? Cutting carbs? Because carbs are so bad. I mean, hold on, I refreshed Google and now carbs are good. Oh crap, I refreshed again and now you should slather lard on broccoli. Oh my bad, now it says too much fat will give you a heart attack. Never mind the diet girl just don’t get too fat. Slim down. Stop your emotional eating pronto. That Reese’s you snuck in last night before bed, you ain’t fooling no one. But don’t get too thin. Don’t be a skeleton. People will start cracking jokes like “give that girl a hamburger” and that will get annoying fast.
It helps to dress up each day. Spend some money and time on a good makeup line. Don’t wear too much because you will look desperate. But do learn how to contour your nose that stayed stretched out from pregnancy and learn highlighting techniques and maybe experiment with lashes? That will help. 2 words. Cat eye. Yeah.
Hey so what about the other kiddos? Now you have more than one and even though your child with autism requires infinitesimal amount of time for therapies and has exhausted your savings, make sure your family is well-rounded. It is so super important that your kiddos are great readers and eat healthy food and are nice to people and learn an instrument… any instrument will do. Also don’t forget to keep the weekly schedules for Drug-free week and Christmas week when they will each need to dress a certain way for 3 different schools and schedules EVERY SINGLE DAY. Also, not sure the other parents told you but, you should volunteer. Yeah you should volunteer in your child’s class for stuff.
Speaking of volunteering… are you giving back to your community? Are you even a good friend?! Geez, no one likes a self-centered momma. Go out! Be a good friend! Plan some wine nights and dancing. It’s good for you and good for the soul. This will require moving mountains but do it anyway.
I almost forgot! While you are chauffeuring your brood to school and the grocery store and the doctor’s office and the dentist and the mall (because no one has had undies that fit for 2 weeks and the babies pants are 2 inches above his ankle), and to after school practice for soccer and basketball and piano and guitar and therapy and more and more therapy… protect yourself. Be aware of your surroundings. There are predators. Stay in well-lit areas. Maybe take a self-defense course. Don’t smile at strangers. But teach your children to be nice to everyone.
Also that Christmas puppy needs vaccines and heart worm medicine and keeps rubbing its butt on your carpet so who know what else it needs.
And because all of this is so stressful, make sure you take a good vacation every year. Oh! You are out of vacation time because you used it all for doctor visits, ABA therapy parent trainings, that time all 3 kids had the flu exactly 3 days apart? Ugh. That’s a shame. Vacations are so important for rest and renewal.
And tonight when you go home and realize that your child with autism is close to puberty because bath time was shocking and as you bathe her and think of the future… Omg. What happens when I’m not here? Who will love her? Respect her? Protect her?
Don’t worry. Be brave. Know that you are not alone. No, really. There are hundreds and thousands of mommas who totally relate to you… they just aren’t in that bathroom with you to hug you and tell you it will really be OK in the end.
You see, that’s the only difference between a special needs mom and a mom who doesn’t have special needs children. For many moms with special needs children, this won’t end. We will bathe an adult, brush an adult’s teeth, change an adult’s pampers, dress an adult…
All of the above is not a “season” of our life. It is our forever.
So dear reader, the next time you wanna call a special needs momma “crazy”, or any momma for that matter, think about this post.
That momma doesn’t deserve judgement or stigma, she deserves a FREAKING STANDING OVATION.
Let's just be kind to each other today