Content warning: pregnancy loss/miscarriage, no explicit details given
Having children played an instrumental role in my awareness of autism. Many parents discover that they’re Autistic after a child or children are diagnosed, but in my case, the reverse was true. It was brought to my attention and I suspected it of myself before my child was diagnosed. However, my children brought me to the point where someone realized the possibility that I could be Autistic and mentioned it to me.
I married very young, after a couple of excruciating years at college. Only a few months after we got married, and very soon after my 21st birthday, we discovered that I was about 5 weeks pregnant. I was ecstatic!
Immediately I began reading everything I could get my hands on about pregnancy and childbirth. The first book I read was a book about water birth and the midwife author made excellent points about the benefits. It didn’t take long to do even more reading and research. I was convinced – I wanted to have a home water birth.
Not only would the water be lovely during labor, but by birthing at home I could avoid all those strangers, artificial lights, needles, and cold hospital rooms.
We moved to a different state during this time on the offer of free rent from my in-laws if we lived in their extra house. Once in our new home, I found and made an appointment with a licensed homebirth midwife who attended water births. Sadly, she was unable to find a heartbeat when I went in. She double-checked my dates and gently informed me that by 14 weeks along my uterus should’ve been much larger than it was. I started spotting not long after and miscarried a few days later.
Over the next few months, I was a complete wreck. I didn’t know how to deal with the hormonal changes post-miscarriage or with my feelings of grief. Complicating matters was that my in-laws had suddenly decided to charge us an exorbitant amount of rent, which meant that I needed to go out and find a full-time job immediately in order to supplement my husband’s income.
I began working full-time and found myself tired all the time – exhausted from wearing uncomfortable clothes in an uncomfortable office where I had to interact with other people all day long. I spent all my lunchtimes out in the woods, which helped some, but as soon as I arrived home I would disappear into my books and read for hours.
Finally, my energy levels became so ridiculously low that I took a pregnancy test. It was positive!
I began to disappear into my computer every evening instead of my books, researching for hours on end about everything having to do with pregnancy, birth, and parenting. I was relieved to discover that the insurance through my job covered the midwife I had seen previously and began to see her regularly for prenatal care.
Our oldest was born at home, in the water, and it was a lovely birth. Just under two years later, our second baby was born with the same midwife and under similar circumstances.
I got involved with the local La Leche League group and did pretty much all the alternative attachment parenting things with my babies. They slept with us, breastfed on demand, and were worn nearly constantly when we took them places. They were both completely different, but I listened carefully to them from the moment they were born and met their needs.
Once again we moved to a different state and two years later I had my third baby with a different midwife. This midwife became one of my closest friends and eventually she offered me a position as her assistant.
I loved assisting at births. It was always the same with the setup and procedures, but always different and interesting with what happened at the births and how they ended up going so I could both have sameness and not get bored.
I even enjoyed the thrill of being on-call although needing to have on-call childcare for my children for unknown amount of time caused a great deal of stress and anxiety for me. We never knew whether we’d be at a birth for 4 hours or 4 days. The uncertainty of it all was exciting, but also challenging to handle.
I was also good at assisting. Entire books have been written about body language and emotional states during pregnancy, labor, and postpartum. I studied those books with great single-mindedness because I wanted to be excellent at what I did.
I got that job because of my children and my research into the processes of pregnancy, labor, and birth. My interest in childbirth only came to be when I first discovered that I was pregnant. I wouldn’t have been hanging out with a midwife in the first place had we not met at a La Leche League meeting and had our children not been friends too.
I truly believe that it was the unique situation of being with my friend so constantly at these long births that caused her to start noticing that I was different. I can mask and pretend for some time, yes, but eventually it falls apart and I mess up.
That day, with the incident that started it all, I messed up badly. But it was the best kind of messing up. The kind that led to more knowledge than I even knew was possible.