The Road from Infertility to Autism

 

Since having our daughter, I don’t think much about having a baby anymore. Do I wish we had more children? Sure. We are also very open to adoption. But I just don’t spend time thinking about it the way I once did. It’s no longer a priority in my life.

For years I remained fearful of having children. I married my husband when I was twenty years old, and I had no intention of inviting tiny people into that world before I turned thirty. I wondered how we would manage having a family on our schedule. We often went to bed after the sun came up, and setting our alarm for noon was not uncommon.

Things changed once I got a day job. Suddenly I was getting up at eight and going to bed before three… Having children seemed (a little) less intimidating. This was good, because we did want to have children. And thirty was getting closer and closer. Around the age of twenty-eight, I began thinking that it might not be so easy for me to get pregnant. So we decided to discard all birth control a little earlier than planned.

And wow how that did not make a difference.

If you have never experienced infertility, congratulations. If you have, you may be aware of the ways it can take over your mind. After three years, you are pretty sure it won’t happen. You come to this conclusion partly out of plain common sense, and partly from the ten million pregnancies you encounter over that time period. You begin to believe that you may even possess the power to make other people more fertile simply by standing in your presence.

Women are funny about this topic. During my years of trying to conceive, I was surrounded by two very distinct groups. Those who were popping out kids without effort, and those who were still clinging to their birth control. The former made my life miserable, and the latter were completely terrified of me.

It’s not that I wasn’t happy for anyone who was pregnant. That had nothing to do with it. It’s just that every time another friend or relative announced their pregnancy, it was more evidence that it wasn’t difficult to conceive. It reminded me that I was definitely broken in some way. It was evidence that it probably wasn’t ever going to happen for me. It chipped away at what little hope I had. That’s all.

For the friends who were not quite ready for family life, my experience had most of them convinced that they, too, would not be able to conceive when the time came. The same thing happens with autism. My child having autism strikes fear in the hearts of many pregnant women and young mothers. People convince themselves the worst will happen to them every time they get reminded of the possibilities. We are all a little guilty of it, I suppose. Some of us find it paralyzing.

I had given up the idea of pregnancy for quite some time when I first realized I must be pregnant. I didn’t believe I was pregnant, but infertility had turned me into an expert on the female reproductive cycle. The only pregnancy test I ever took while trying to conceive was the positive one (well, if you don’t count the ones I took after that, just to be triple sure). Our cycles, even when they are messed up, somehow maintain the ability to follow very precise rules anyway. It’s fascinating.

But just to prove to myself that I had no hope in spite of scientific knowledge, I went ahead and bought a pair of jeans that day that were a little snug. Then I stopped and bought a pregnancy test.

Later that night we met a group of friends downtown. We were celebrating Dave’s last weekend with all his brain intact. Wednesday he was going to have surgery for his epilepsy, and he would be out of commission for a while (I would like to thank Matt and Sarah Shane for helping me carry Dave to our car that night).

Sunday morning I took the test, and informed a still intoxicated Dave that we were actually going to have a baby. It was an exciting and weird time for us. We would spend the next few weeks in the hospital. Dave’s parents were in town, of course. We didn’t want to tell anyone for a while, including our parents. We told our friends Jeff and Heather first. Dave told the entire hospital staff. Most of our friends and family would find out after the first trimester.

I turned thirty-one while Dave was still in the hospital. Dave’s mom bought sparkling grape juice and tiny cups of ice cream for everyone on my birthday.

 

2007 was a good year for us. I don’t think about it too often anymore. Sometimes I look at Teghan and I can’t believe she is really here. The other night I pulled up to our house after work, and saw her watching from the front window. I waved at her, and she just stared back at me. I knew when I got inside, there would be no hugs or kisses- but she would be all smiles, and would maybe jump up and down a bit. I knew she was excited for me to get home. She had been waiting for me. I thought about how lucky I was. In spite of a few quirks, it all felt pretty normal to me. And wasn’t it crazy that she even existed?

I can’t explain it, but sometimes I am so aware of how different our parenting experience is that I forget that we are still experiencing it. Those feelings I once had about infertility are long gone, even if the reality is that almost five additional years have now passed without more children. I only feel mild annoyance with being asked (for the billionth time) if I plan on having any more. But I have never been able to fully shake that feeling that everyone else is experiencing a basic thing that I never will.

I have no idea what it’s like to have a conversation with my child. Most activities I see other parents doing with their children are off the table for us. It is almost the same feeling as I had with infertility, except not as empty. It’s a milder pain, because Teghan is here and we love her. She has forced us to redefine normal. We are still experiencing many aspects of traditional family life, and this experience comes with much more hope than what I felt before she came along.

But it’s always there.

I think it is just the feeling of missing out on something we wanted and thought we had found. That’s why we keep adoption (in our forties, maybe?) on the table. Not that Teghan is not enough for us. She is the best thing we have ever done. But maybe we could enjoy some of the more typical journeys we are all promised as parents. It would be nice for Teghan to have another close family member who would care about her; someone who would grow up to be a more compassionate person because of her, and who would make sure she was okay after we are gone. It would be great to have an independent child in our old age. Maybe grandchildren. But those are an awful lot of big maybes.

There are no guarantees in life. The road is never what we thought it would be. Sometimes we are forced to take detours and we never find our way back. There are plenty of other journeys to get lost on, and we often do get lost.

But I won’t take this road for granted. Things are good, and I don’t know what bad is. If I ever find out, I will beg for the worst of these days back. Which means that I am not complaining- I’m just over thinking things, the way I always do.

Today I was just remembering the years I spent believing we would never have children. Was that such a bad future? No. Maybe we would have been better suited for it, even. But finding out I was pregnant was better than winning the lottery. How did I forget that? I am not sure what choices we will make tomorrow, but I am feeling pretty lucky today.

When I think about it even now, I still can’t believe that test was positive.

 

9 thoughts on “The Road from Infertility to Autism

  1. Thanks for sharing this; your posts are always an excellent read.

    From the glimpses you’ve shared, I’m struck by the beauty of your family. I’m grateful to know there are people like the three of you in this world.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. It means a lot. I am grateful there are people in the world who still take time to encourage one another. Thank you for that 🙂

  2. I love reading your posts. I see so many parallels between our lives and it’s been very comforting for me. Even though my 4 year old Aspie is high functioning, it is a constant struggle for me to redefine our normal. We *tried* to go to a Halloween program at the local science museum this weekend and it was a complete disaster. I just wanted him to be able to have a fun time and enjoy himself like all the other kids. But, it was too much for him. I was so sad Saturday night for him, grieving that which is lost to him. I struggle with the perspective that even though these “normal” things may not work for him, there are still plenty of others that do. I guess I need to let go of that idea and just accept what we can do. But, it’s hard. I feel like the biggest part of this journey is accepting our kids for who they are and respecting their limitations. I guess I’m not quite there yet.

    • It’s hard to let go of the idea of how we thought things would be. I want Teghan to do things other kids do, or just have fun activity options like everyone else- but the truth is, a lot of it is for me. She has no expectations about these things. So I try to search out activities I know she would enjoy, but there just aren’t that many to choose from (now is the time for entrepreneurs to get on this obvious opportunity to offer anything for autism families). And redefining normal is hard when you are constantly surrounded by reminders of the old normal. Sometimes I just look at Teghan, see that she seems very happy, and call it good. Don’t worry that you aren’t quite there yet. You will be there on some days, and other days maybe not so much. Thank you for reading and sharing 🙂

  3. Thank you. My daughter (4) is also non-verbal and many of the normal activities people tell me we ‘should’ take part in just aren’t appropriate. I feel lucky to have her and lucky that she is a happy child.

  4. Ah yes, those years we spent trying to get pregnant seem. Million miles away, when we are now filled with the busyness of raisin 3 boys. But I am brought back to them when I read othr stories of infertility. Thanks for sharing Jenny.

    • Me, too, Suzanne. It’s all different now, but I do remember what it felt like. I don’t mind so much anymore, but it is obvious we are probably not having more children on our own. We aren’t sure what we will do next. We have thought about adopting older children, even. I think it will be a few years before we make any decisions. I think your family has a wonderful story 🙂

  5. Pingback: Expecting the Unexpected | DAYDREAMS FROM THE SPECTRUM

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