I think the main entity that causes anxiety in life are expectations. The anticipation at the results of an event or the sudden change in plans drives my anxiety through the roof. It also happens with good things! The planning and excitement leading up to events leaves me exhausted. The exhaustion isn’t always bad, and I’ve even learned to welcome it, give it a warm hello when it knocks on my door, and offer it a room to have a nice, comfortable stay until it’s visit is over.
Expectations require a little more planning on my part. Scratch that, they require a lot of planning. I’ve learned it’s important to have a Plan A, Plan B, and even accept that there is no plan at all.
Alongside my parents, I was also raised by my grandparents who I loving refer to as Granna and Poppy. G&P adopted my Aunt Martha who has several mental and physical handicaps, all of which don’t keep her from smiling the biggest smile you ever witnessed and demanding hugs at every turn. Martha taught me the importance of ability in disability. Granna taught Martha she could pretty much do anything she wanted, if she put her mind to it, and tweaked a few things. Aunt Martha lives an independent life in a group home with other ladies, she has a job, and she even has a boyfriend!
I feel that when the media includes autism in its programs, it only illustrates one side of the spectrum, and it is usually the side I don’t entirely relate to. There is an entire other half of the spectrum that Hollywood doesn’t explore near enough, and when they do touch on it, it usually showcases the “classic,” male-sided idea of autism. The truth is that people on the spectrum, and all differently abled people can live healthy, productive lives and be part of society.
With all of this in mind, I know how important differently abled people are to the community. I know they can live successful lives, I know they can over reach impossible standards placed before them. Even with this knowledge and witnessing it first hand, I’m ashamed to say that upon receiving my Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis…I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to be put in the same category as these types of people, handicapped people. Then I felt ashamed of myself for having these thoughts and feelings. I was raised to include everyone, different or not; to embrace them as equals. So, why did I have these thoughts and feelings? One answer…expectations.
Expectations followed me into my marriage. You know the saying, “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage”? Hello, expectations. I was determined to get pregnant right after I got married, in 2014. I just assumed my Momma’s prayers reached God’s ears with more force than mine because my husband and I were stupid-broke newlyweds who could barely afford to live ourselves much less care for a kid, and that’s why there was no success in conceiving.
Earlier this year, after much discussion and prayer, we decided to contact my OBGYN and get the process started, for real. My expectations were that the doctor would figure out what was wrong, she would give me some medicine, we would do The Dance, and we would get the results we wanted. HAHAHAHA!!! Yeah, it doesn’t happen that way.
One morning I decided to take my one millionth pregnancy test of the week. Guess what?! It came back positive! I showed a few friends who confirmed that their eyes saw a positive, I showed my husband, I texted my sister, then I called the doctor. As I waited for the doctor to call me back to confirm my blood pregnancy test, I calculated that my due date would be December 24. Christmas had been such a bad time of year for my family since my Mammaw, Nana, and Granna had passed away a few years earlier on or around Christmas. I began to refer to the holiday as Doomsday. I was so ecstatic that I would get to give my husband and the rest of my family the best Christmas gift ever and make the holiday season happy again, and associate it with LIFE. I even tried to convince Christopher that if the baby was born on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day we would name her/him Noel.
Then I received The Call. Along with autism, I also battle with Polycystic ovarian syndrome. It’s pretty common for people with PCOS to receive a false positive, or a chemical pregnancy, due to imbalanced hormones, and that is what happened in my situation.
Expectations out the window, I was crushed. I was bombarded with anger, shame, guilt, jealousy, just to name a few. I had “all the feels,” if you will. Those feelings are overwhelming to anyone, especially to an autistic.
Here I was, struggling with both my mind and my body not working “correctly.” It was embarrassing. I questioned my self-worth. Why was I on this earth if I was going to be “retarded” and barren? I questioned my worthiness of motherhood, if I would even make an “acceptable” mother since I had autism. Surely God thought the same thing and that’s why he didn’t send me a baby.
The truth is there are plenty of women on the spectrum that have successful careers. There are many women on the spectrum that live an ordinary, everyday life and blend into the crowd. There are many women who live amazingly funky lifestyles and are noticed for their talents. There are plenty of women on the spectrum who reach motherhood and excel. There are also many women on the spectrum that let life take them on a journey and learn to embrace their travels, heartaches, and joys.
My goal is to open the door to that discussion, to break down the walls and barriers that are autism. It all starts when we begin to open our mind to the great and numerous possibilities. It starts when us aspies begin to believe in ourselves. Most importantly, it starts when we change our expectations.