Sunday, July 6, 2014

Autism and Pregnancy

OK. I'm about to discuss how two things that vary intensely from person to person happen to mix for me. Don't think for a moment that my autism or my pregnancies, or how they effect each other within me, are some kind of standard. This is one of those things that isn't discussed much, though. So, I feel a kind of compulsion to get that conversation going. ;)

As common as both these things are, you'd think they'd ever end up in the same conversation, right? I know, I know. It's a controversial issue *eyeroll*. With organizations that claim to be autism advocates claiming parenthood is unfair to both us and our children (both because we're incompetent and that we are likely to pass along our "disease") ... it's a subject that is often avoided for fear of flamers. The thing is, it's not really possible to flame on this without sounding like a moron, so they don't really scare, I'm totally comfortable deleting comments. ;)

I'll do a point by point thing here, because it helps me organize me thoughts. If there seems to be particular interest in one area, I'll jump in with a more thorough post at some point in the future.

BACK PAIN. This isn't usually much of an issue until later in pregnancy. Applying some of the techniques I've developed over the years, for dealing with daily sensory input, actually make this easier for me than most pregnant women, I think.
BRAXTON-HICKS CONTRACTIONS. For whatever reason, I don't really have least not noticeably. The sole exception is if I have a pelvic exam. That always causes me issues, pregnant or not, and can cause very painful Braxton-Hicks, or even real labor in late pregnancy.
BREAST TENDERNESS. I'm going to blame this one on my sensory issues, too. This is one of the most consistently unpleasant parts of pregnancy for me. Far worse and more present than most pregnant women claim.
CONSTIPATION. This condition sucks, not matter what. I'm just as prone to it as any other pregnant woman. Thanks to my special interests (in alternative health and natural living) I am not suffering through this problem, so far, this pregnancy. =D I'll definitely offer up a post on this one, because it deserves it! 
CRAVINGS / AVERSIONS. It is often referred to as a symptom of autism, as well as pregnancy. Cravings and aversions certainly have an effect on my eating habits when I'm not pregnant. They actually became less common with my previous pregnancies. They're so intense and constant that they are practically my sole consideration when eating, this time around! I think the autism and pregnancy food issues have multiplied each other.
EMOTIONAL SHARING. I'm not great at this to begin with. Pregnancy brain has made it almost impossible. People are feeling left out. I'm feeling guilty. I want to include them, but I really have no idea how to do so. It's a big thing right now. =/
FATIGUE. My inclination toward habitual behavior is making this worse on me than it has to be. I keep just doing things I normally do. I don't realize until I've already pushed too far that I probably should have just delegated or done things a different way. Like walking to the lab for my blood work. I was in bed for like 2 days after that stunt!
INTERPRETING IMPLICATIONS. Man, do people say a lot of WEIRD stuff to pregnant ladies. I'm an having a really hard time knowing when they're serious, when they're joking, and often what the heck the point of the statement was in the first place! Taken literally, most of it is either really insulting, or downright threatening. I certainly hope they don't mean what they say.
JOINT PAIN. This one is driving me nuts. I retain an unusual amount of fluid when pregnant, mostly in my joints it seems. It starts early, isn't a symptom of anything other than my body's desire to retain a lot of water. I have tricks, but this post is going to be long enough with just summaries. I do think my sensory issues are making me less tolerant of this one, though.
MOOD SWINGS. Holy cow! Think swing, like those really fast spinning ones they have at fairs, not the cute little kid things at the park. As I've gotten older, my mood has been more and more sensitive to my progesterone levels. Do you know how much progesterone is in a pregnant women???? I'm a basket case.
NAUSEA. This is not something I've had a lot of in life at all. Generally, it is only caused by extremely nasty illnesses, or forcing myself to eat things I have aversions to. Admittedly, I spent a lot of my childhood nauseous because my family didn't understand aversions. As an adult, I have full control over my food choices, though, so even pregnant it's really rare that I make myself nauseous. 
NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION. This takes a lot of processing power, for me. The worse the pregnant brain gets, the worse I am at it. My light at the end of the tunnel is the hope that I get so bad I can't even tell when people are using it. Right now, the mood swings just about putting me into tears that I can't interpret whatever communication it is they are clearly sending at me. This includes vocal tones, so I'm even avoiding the phone. *eyeroll*
ROCKING/FLAPPING. Oddly, I'm very still and calm when pregnant. If I want to move, I want to walk or do some other socially acceptable thing. Clean, cook, decorate??? Mostly, I'm just still.
SENSORY ISSUES. Other than amplifying sensory related pregnancy symptoms, these are much reduced. I can even stand to tuck ice packs down my shirt during the little heat wave we have going on right now! That'd usually have me screaming in pain. 
SLEEP ISSUES. This is also much reduced. I have had trouble sleeping, especially on any kind of set pattern, for as long as I can remember. Now, I fall asleep quickly and easily at roughly the same time every night. I wake at roughly the same time every morning. I wake less often, and am back to sleep in seconds instead of hours. 
SOCIAL ANXIETY. This is really amping up. It's not just instinctual, like normal. It went away almost entirely at first. The absolutely constant awkward conversations, miscommunications, and undecipherable language and behavior of others is getting to be too much though. 
URINATION. This is a complicated subject, actually. My sensory issues, and my coping techniques for dealing with them, made this a real struggle when I was younger. The lessening of withholding ability and control that are normal with pregnancy turn this into something that take more thought and planning than anyone without some kind of bladder disorder is likely to understand. =/
VERBALIZATION. I have to admit, I'm having trouble understanding this method of communication. There is soooooooo much more to it than just the words. And, even the words sound different out of every single person. It's like living in Babylon. No two people actually speak the same language as each other...or me! Ya, I have a translation key that applies to almost every word in almost every English language. Pregnant brain keeps forgetting how to read the key though. I just stand there, making people feel unwelcome with my lack of communication, when they talk to me. *sigh*

My husband. Well, frankly, he's so busy lately that he isn't even aware of most of this. So, it doesn't bug him at all. He just kind of rolls with whatever is going on.
The kids. The kids are on the spectrum too. I do have to explain some of the more pregnancy related issues to them a bit repetitively. The autism stuff is just how people work, to them. My going nonverbal or something is about as much of an issue to them as being a hugger would be to an NT. lol 

Here's the really controversial stuff for you. It's the truth that I hear autistic parents say to each other, in private, but that we are all so careful not to say in public. You wouldn't want an NT thinking that we might judge them as cruelly as they judge us. And they would surely assume our emotions mirror theirs if they heard this kind of thing. --- My one real fear is that this kid might not be on the spectrum. It is so rare for me to see an NT in this world that I wouldn't feel like a total failure for having raised to be the person they are. I wonder how much of that is caused by their having NT parents (which my children don't suffer from), and how much is caused by them being NTs. Do NTs just naturally lack depth of personality, and the ability to empathize with people or creatures that are unlike them? Is there some kind of natural deficit that makes logic and reason impossible for most of them? Nature or nurture? If they are raised in a less melodramatic and more honest environment, can they overcome these common NT struggles? Even if they can, do I have the patience to bare with weaknesses in these areas (weaknesses I don't understand any better than they understand common ASD weaknesses) and teach them the coping techniques it takes to interact with the world at large with compassion and respect? Honestly, I hope and pray that I never have the opportunity to find out. The thought of trying to raise an NT absolutely terrifies me. As offensive as I find the idea, part of me wishes they had any kind of accurate way to test for ASD in utero. It would be a huge relief to get a positive....but it would also give me time to prepare myself emotionally if it was negative. I had enough trouble bonding with my ASD daughter because she had very typically NT social and emotional development until toddlerhood. How on earth will I connect with a kid that only every has typical NT thoughts and emotions???? 

OK. Emotions shared. Real and not sanitized for easy public digestion. Disagreements are fine, if presented in a respectful manner. Flamers will be simply cease to exist. Poof! It does feel good to just get it out there, though!