How It Feels to Be a New Mom With Asperger's
My daughter has just been born. I am a mother.
This hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but I do what I’ve read I’m supposed to do and put her tiny, wriggly little body on my chest while she searches for my breast. I’m still in shock from the unbearable pain of delivery. I breathe a sigh of relief when she latches onto me for a few minutes.
Visitors come by, and I’m not really ready for them, but I likely never will be. I’m still thrilled to introduce them to the new baby.
I stare in awe at my little girl. Did I grow that? I can’t believe it. I thought I was supposed to feel some indescribable motherly bond, but I’m really just exhausted. I ask the nurses how to dim the lights — they are so bright.
My husband and I smile at each other. Our 2-week old little girl is quiet, alert and lovely. I somehow don’t feel like she is mine, but I feel fiercely protective of her anyway. I am so paranoid about the rattly, asthmatic sound of her “flappy airway” that it takes two pediatricians and two doctors at a 3 a.m. ER visit to convince me there indeed really is nothing wrong with her.
I run through the constant cycle of diaper change, feed, burp, sleep and I wait to feel that “bond.” Weeks pass and it never comes. I am in a constant state of pain and exhaustion, and I try not to let it distract me but it does. Breastfeeding is a terrible, painful struggle for us both, and my daughter never latches properly, despite numerous experts’ help.
I am defective, I decide. I should never have become a mother because I am not feeling what I should feel for my beautiful daughter. Surely she deserves better than me. I am angry a lot and numb the rest of the time. And I am afraid. Afraid of how I feel when I’m stressed, afraid of her and her piercing cry. I don’t want to soothe her when she is screaming in the nursery because it causes me such intense anxiety that I want to run far, far away while my heart pounds in my ears. I grit my teeth, and I go in. I try to cradle her tense little body, but rocking her doesn’t help; she keeps screaming. I put her back down in her rocking swing. She eventually stops. I feel like I couldn’t calm her because I couldn’t remain calm.
I can’t handle the intensity of my emotions, which run to extremes multiple times a day. I lie awake one day daydreaming about sitting in my running car with the tailpipe blocked — and then I know this is something more than the “baby blues.” I’m eventually prescribed an antidepressant for postpartum depression. I was already naturally prone to depression as well as anxiety, which I was treating before I was even pregnant.
Just days later, I start to feel a difference. Then for the first time, I feel like a mother. My wee one looks at me and smiles, and I catch my breath and my eyes tear up with joy. I didn’t know I could feel this way. She is mine.
It’s been assumed that Aspies don’t feel properly for others. I know they’re wrong because I feel so much for my daughter — too much. On top of my own emotions, I feel hers, too. I feel her anger when she doesn’t get what she wants right away, her anticipation when she’s getting ready to eat, her happiness when she giggles. I am constantly looking for ways to get her to smile and laugh.
It’s easy to find moms with children on the spectrum, but it’s oddly difficult to find any parents with Asperger’s. I want to reach out and connect with other mothers, and I also want to hide and protect myself. I’m so awkward — I laugh too loud, I interrupt, I get so nervous. I make tentative friends who never contact me and I never contact.
I want my daughter to have friends someday, more than I ever had. How can I help her do that and teach her the “right” way to socialize?
So many thoughts run through my head. What if my baby turns out like me? How do I teach her the skills I still struggle with? What is the best way to provide her with the breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact that will help her thrive when it can be so painful for me? Am I providing her with everything she needs to be happy?
I see my daughter growing every day, and I know she will someday soar past where I am able to fly, learn things I was never able to master, learn from me and then teach me.
One day someone asks me how I am enjoying motherhood. I know what they want to hear — a glowing declaration of “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced.” Instead, I shrug my shoulders, make a dorky face and answer, “It depends on the day. And the time of day.” Because I’m nothing if not bluntly honest. Sometimes it is beautiful, and my heart feels like it will burst with pure love for my daughter, and I don’t even know how to contain it. Sometimes it’s the most terrifying experience ever. Sometimes it’s just “blah,” and I’m nearly nauseous from the smell of dirty diapers and I’m waiting for bedtime.
But I always love her. It’s like that for moms — Asperger’s or not.
Follow this journey on The Puzzled Mom.
If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.