My blog is about the scenic, stressful, spectacular life (and everything screwy in between) of a
California girl turned expat transplanted to the land down under: North Queensland, Australia.

October 01, 2010

Day 3.

I think I’m still a day behind my “30 Days of Truth” posts, but I can’t shake off my blues this week. My husband finally called the doctor for me, and I have an appointment Tuesday to get an evaluation and hopefully can get referred to a “talking doctor”. I hate talking doctors (shrinks) because they either just listen to you vent (that’s what my blogs are for!), or they try and help you change your way of thinking, which involves lots of discipline. Last night I made the family Pasta Fagoli soup ala Olive Garden and other than the fact that it turned out more stew-like than soup-like, it was something I made and it was something that tasted homey to me. We have so much left over, I don’t think I can finish it all! (we froze it.) Because I’ve been feeling so low I’ve been wary to post anything that can be construed as sad, but I just ate a cupcake so I feel a little better. Day 3 is:

Day 3: Something you have to forgive yourself for.

I’d like to make a disclaimer that just because I have to forgive myself doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to. I feel I am responsible for my son’s autism. “What? Hed, you have a kid? You’ve never mentioned him!” This is the classic response I have gotten when I have ever told anyone that I have a child. There are a lot of reasons he’s rarely mentioned, but the main one is he was never really mine to begin with. What I mean is I’ve never really been a mom. Let me try and make a long story short.

When I was 17 I got pregnant by my high school sweetheart. He was THE ONE, so of course we were going to get married and have a baby and live happily ever after. Two months into my pregnancy I realized he was never going to grow up (he was acting like…well, like an 18 year old guy acts), so I broke up with him. The whole time I was pregnant I was in shock. It’s like it wasn’t me. Like I was in a movie. I never talked to my belly. I never really did the “pregnancy” things at all. The whole time I was pregnant I was unbelievably depressed. I cried every day. I would be driving and imagine driving off a cliff or taking my hands off the wheel. I didn’t even name him until he was three days old. My ex did support me during my pregnancy (even if we didn’t get along). He would go to some of my doctor appointments, he would rub and talk to my belly, he bought children’s books and pregnancy books. When T was born, the first thing I said to him was, “hi, my name’s Hed, and I’m your mom”.

Because I was the baby of my family and I was so young, I had a lot of support and help from my mom and the rest of my family. A lot. It seemed like T was never in his bed because everyone wanted to hold him all of the time. When T was four days old, he had a seizure and had to be admitted into the NICU for five days. They were able to locate the seizure activity in his brain and after the three he had that day, he never had one again.

When he got home, everyone in my family got more overprotective and I started shutting myself off from everyone, like I always had prior to being pregnant. I was always the one who would come downstairs on holidays, say hi to my family, eat and open presents, and go right back upstairs and shut the door. It’s not like I hate my family or anything; I’ve just always been a loner. I was kidding myself if I ever thought I would just up and become a model parent and get up at 3am feedings and become this lovey dovey person. I was a kid. A Bipolar kid, at that. I didn’t know what to do.

T was the model kid, though. He wasn’t fussy, he rarely cried and overall was just a happy smiling baby. Because of his seizures, a home health nurse came over every three months to check on him and his development. Around 18 months we started to get worried because he stopped talking, would push away when we tried to hold him, and stopped being the happy, social baby he used to be. We got him an appointment with a child psychologist who confirmed the autism diagnosis.

We got lucky that he was diagnosed so early-back in early 2000, the average age of autism diagnosis was seven. He was able to get into a special needs daycare, and after a while he became more social and loving again. During this whole period (pretty much from birth to now), my mom was his mom. She did everything for him-took him to school and all of his doctor appointments, spent tons of time with him, she pretty much was the perfect mom. I looked at him as like a little brother-of course I loved him, but it wasn’t that bonding mother love that you would expect. It never was.

T is twelve now. Over the years with his illness and my illness, we grew further and further apart. I was always happy to hear about his funny stories, or hear him say “hi momma” over the phone. When T was three he moved in with his father full-time because my depression was overwhelming. I didn’t work or leave my house for a year because of it. Before I left for Australia my ex and his girlfriend of about seven years had a baby of their own and got married. She was a saint, by the way-she was the mom to T I never could be. She fixed him three different kinds of food in his lunch on the days he only liked one particular item; she took him to the bus stop every morning and picked him up every day; she took him under her wing and loved him as if he was her own. I had been contemplating giving up my rights to T for a long time-I was never his mother. It didn’t seem right to me that I was even considered a “mom”. I finally gave him and his new wife the opportunity to adopt T and be a whole unit, if you will. I’m lucky that my ex turned out to be such a good man, and I’m lucky that he still lets my family spend time with T as well.

I’ll never have kids, no matter how bad my husband wants them. The chances of me having another special needs child is too high, and my bipolar is so random that some days I can barely take care of myself. And I am convinced that my son is autistic because of me. Yes, yes I know-there has been no solid evidence of why children have autism. But reading so much about it and hearing what parents of autistic children have to say I’m pretty much convinced that if I wasn’t so screwed up, my son wouldn’t be either. A study has shown that prenatal stress has been linked to autism. A 2005 report examined the family psychiatric history of 58 subjects with Asperger syndrome. 60% had a family history of depression. Another study shows that autism in children is linked to the parents’ mental state. So until I hear the cold hard facts of what causes autism, I’ll always be sure that I’m to blame. And until then I’ll never forgive myself.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing! Your son is lucky to have so many people in his life that care for him.


  2. are probably one of the bravest people I know to have said all this and to admit that the father and his now wife should have custody of him. Being bi-polar is nothing to sneeze at. It's serious and if this is how you feel then it warrants people to listen. I had a child without a father. I know how hard that is in itself. I was lucky enough to meet my husband when he was a year old and he adopted him but that first year was rough. I can't imagine being bi-polar and having post-partum depression (which you probably had as well). You went through your own hell and your son was lucky to have had your family surrounding him. What about the bi-polar moms out there that are in denial and raise and abuse their kids? He'll understand one day. If you don't forgive yourself I'll forgive you!!! Hugs.

  3. You may see it as a negative, but you had a lot of strength, love and compassion to give up your baby so he could have a better life than you felt you could give him. You should be proud of that, even if you feel bad about his disability.

  4. I thought this was a very brave and touching post. You did a very difficult thing which appears to have had a positive outcome. Unfortunately in my line of work I come across too many parents who, like Barb said are in denial and raise their kids to support THEM. The consequences for the kids are tragic as they are forced to grow up so quickly with no stability what so ever. I am sure that T will understand all of this when he is older. Thanks for sharing this.

    <3 FF xo