When I was a preteen at one of my dad’s friend’s party a woman asked me a question. My mom had to translate because my Spanish was bad. She asked, how many kids did I want when I grow up? And I said four. And my mom said, Aye, no that’s too many. Both women laughed at my answer. I didn’t see what was so funny. I really wanted 4, the plan was for 2 boys and 2 girls.
Why was it so funny, most of the women at that party came from large families. Granted most of them had significantly less children than their parents did. My own mother was one of 13 children, the youngest girl and only two of her brothers were younger. A couple years later she had confided in me that she wanted a third child but my father didn’t want one. After my parents split up my mom eventually had her third child another girl with her boyfriend. And she’s been a much better mom to my half sister than when my sister and I were growing up. It turns out being a teen mom just wasn’t meant for her but being a mom as an adult was something she’s capable of. I found out on my own that it doesn’t matter what your age is when you have kids, parenting is just hard. Though it does help to be an adult when you have children!
I always wanted a big family of my own. I was going to create the family I always wanted. One without the family drama and no drunk father. I was going to be an understanding parent and my partner would be equally understanding.
I worked with children since I was 16 years old in daycare and classroom settings. Working with kids was fun and kids don’t judge you like adults do. There were some downsides to working with kids as an autistic adult. If I got along with a co-worker it was all good but then I would be emotionally drained by the end of the shift. I needed to act like everything was good for the kids and that took a lot of energy. Or occasionally a parent would be difficult, like one time a parent got mad at me for telling them every time their kid bit someone. They told the director I was talking negatively about their child. Reporting a child physically harming another child was protocol, what was I supposed to do?
At the end of the day whether it was good or bad I was exhausted. I didn’t know I was autistic at the time. The reason I was exhausted was because of the noise levels, the kids grabbing at me and interacting with co-workers and parents. I loved the kids but at the end of the day I just wanted to be left alone. And my body was so exhausted I could hardly move when I got home.
So when I had my daughter part of me wondered how I was going to manage work and being a mother. I quit work while I was pregnant because I had a meltdown over something my boss said. Sometimes I regret quitting that job. If I had known that a year later that the director was going to stop working there I would’ve toughen it out. I went back to work when my daughter was 6 months old at an early education center. And it was hard. I was glad to work but I was so tired when I got home and I was sad to miss some of my daughter’s milestones.
And not only was parenting hard while I worked but so was being a wife. There was no energy leftover for my husband. We were getting along slightly better than when our daughter was a newborn. But there was still a lot of fighting when we interacted. At the time we didn’t know that we were both neurodivergent, raising an autistic daughter.
Raising our daughter took a lot of energy so there was a lot of disagreement as to when we would have a second child. It kept getting pushed back and then my health took a turn for the worse in 2018. Once this health problem or that health problem got solved then we could try for another baby. Then it became clear that my illnesses weren’t going away. So the new goal was to get my chronic illnesses under control. Well while I was trying to do that, an autoimmune disease I didn’t know I had was flaring up. So during the pandemic I got diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. And of course a heart problem started around the same time I had the huge AS flare. But it didn’t get diagnosed until June of this year. The specialized cardiologist I saw said I had autonomic dysfunction.
Before I got diagnosed with autonomic dysfunction my husband and I were contemplating if we should try for another child or adopt. My husband was anxious about me getting pregnant and didn’t like that my ob-gyn said I would be considered high risk pregnancy. He liked the idea of adoption better. I couldn’t decide which I wanted to do. But after the visit to the cardiologist I told my husband, having another child is probably not a good idea? And he responded probably not. And I got upset because I knew at the end of the day he wouldn’t be devastated if we didn’t have another child. When we were dating he said he always wanted one child (he too is the oldest of 3 children). I wanted 4 and he wanted 1 so our compromise was 2 children.
Was it wise of me to marry my partner knowing he didn’t want more than one kid? Was this something we could really compromise on? We had a honest discussion and he knows I resent him for waiting to have a second child. We waited so long it is no longer safe for me to get pregnant. And now with my heart issue I don’t know that we would be allowed to adopt. So for now the most logical thing is to not have a 2nd child. I know I should be grateful that I have a beautiful, healthy girl and I am. But my heart aches for what could have been. My daughter will never have a sibling to grow up with, to confide in when we get on her nerves, or reminisce with when my husband and I are gone.
And who do I blame for this unfortunate turn of events? My husband, my poor health or my late autism diagnosis? Honestly it was probably a combination of all three things. But it’s frustrating that my late autism diagnosis took away another thing. I think if I had been diagnosed sooner I could have managed my health better. Then I could have prevented my health from getting so bad that pregnancy would become unsafe for me. And maybe if my husband wasn’t so hesitant about having another child we could’ve had one before my health got so bad. The most frustrating thing is knowing that being autistic and chronically ill would have people view me as an unfit candidate for being an adoptive mother.