How It Starts
Being a mother to a child brings so many challenges and is always accompanied by a big ole heaping side of mom guilt. Being a mother to a child with special needs also comes with those same challenges plus an additional set of specific challenges.
Those challenges begin the moment we get our child’s diagnosis. It starts with the agonizing feeling of what did I do wrong and continues growing from there. My pregnancy with my son was not an easy road. I went into preterm labor at twenty-six weeks. I was precisely that far along with my previous pregnancy when the same thing happened. My husband and I lost our twin boys at that time.
My doctor not only ordered strict bedrest but I had to lie flat on my back at a thirty-degree incline with my feet elevated above my head for six weeks. My husband searched three different construction sites to find bricks we could put under the feet of our bed-frame to achieve the incline. I also had to get weekly progesterone shots to stop the preterm labor. It was a terrifying experience that led me down a rabbit hole of mom guilt.
Did The Stress I Was Under Cause His Autism?
I constantly question if the choices I made were the cause of his diagnosis. Was it the Tylenol I had to take while feeling contractions from the preterm labor? Or the weekly progesterone shots I had to get? All questions I burden myself with, to this day. Even though those were all unlikely the cause. Who has time to deal with logic when you have mom guilt on the brain.
There are a lot of things I feel guilty or responsible for when it comes to my son’s autism and its severity. Like most autistic children, my son was beyond a picky eater. In fact, for the first 6 years of his life, he only ate 3 things. Mashed potatoes, yogurt, and farina, which is a type of hot cereal. The mom guilt kicks into high gear with this one for me.
Mom Guilt Can Be Completely Debilitating At Times
Losing children brings a certain type of paranoia to your soul. Fear of losing your child constantly looms over your head, albeit irrational thinking. When Ethan was transitioning from baby food to regular food my husband and I were terrified he would choke. So terrified that we put off giving him certain foods. Was it my fault he was such a picky eater?
Mom guilt can be completely debilitating at times and I’m here to tell my mom guilt that you cannot have me, for I do not surrender to you. Despite the mistakes I feel I’ve made I’ve done amazing things for my son. I am a fierce advocate for him. I’m literally his voice and I fight for him every single day. I’m writing this letter to remind myself and every autistic mama out there that we are amazing and dedicated mothers.
Mom guilt has a relentless grip that, at times, feels like we can’t escape. Because our autistic children need so much from us, that feeling of ‘am I doing enough’ always seems to be at the forefront. Every day mothers are burdened with this unwarranted guilt. We then become our own worst critics. Let’s make a commitment to stop beating ourselves up over our circumstances or choices.
It Takes Strength To Put Our Autistic Child’s Needs First
It takes a certain kind of strength to put our autistic child’s needs first EVERY single time without a second thought. To deal with the meltdowns, schools, lawyers, IEP meetings, and the countless other aspects that come with having an autistic child honestly, we all deserve the mom guilt to simply disappear. Today I feel empowered by my son and my ability to take care of him.
I’m writing this because tomorrow my mom guilt will creep back in and tell me what a terrible mother I was for raising my voice at my son, because it was a particularly hard day, and I lost my cool for a moment. The stressors we face are tremendous and unless you live in our shoes you can never fully know or understand. As a special needs mom everything is a fight. We fight for services, we fight the DOE. We fight for the acceptance of our children, for support and understanding not only from society but from our own families at times. It’s exhausting and we constantly question whether or not we are doing a good enough job.
If We’re Not Careful, Mom Guilt Can Rob Us Of Motherhood Joys
We deserve to be kind to ourselves. More importantly, we deserve to cut ourselves some slack. If we are not careful, mom guilt will rob us of the joy of motherhood. Let’s stop holding this unrealistic ideal of a ‘perfect mother’ over our heads and focus on what really matters. Being the best mom we can be. Let’s stop assuming everyone else has it all together while we’re struggling to keep our heads above water.
At some point, we need to believe our fierce advocacy for our children, our endless patience, and our unwavering love is enough for our child. The reality of it is that we want to provide our children with the best opportunities possible. The fact we feel guilt is confirmation we are good mothers, not incapable ones. So, to all the autism mamas out there who are kicking butt, just know you are an amazing mother. You are enough, and you have the strength of an army inside of you.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Toni Williams. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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