The final post in the autistic motherhood series is posted at Autism Women’s Network: Autistic Motherhood: Honoring Our Personal Choices
It was a challenging one to write. My original thought was “I’ll write about the decision to have or not have children as an autistic woman.” Which turns out to be an incredibly personal and complex topic. You’d think I would have seen that coming, right?
Ultimately, what I concluded, is that each woman’s choice when it comes to parenthood is the best choice for her and each person’s situation is unique. There is no “decision” in the broad conceptual sense, just many individual decisions made for countless reasons and sometimes not for any particular reason at all. I hope that comes across in the article, because I very much want it to be respectful of our choices and of the circumstances that are unique to parenting as a disabled person.
A Postscript to the Series
There’s also something that I wanted to address at some point in this series–something that’s been on mind for months as I’ve been writing about motherhood–but I never found a way to say that I felt comfortable with. Since I’m among friends here, I’m going to just throw it out there as food for thought and hope for the best.
There are generations of women–my age, older, a bit younger–who grew up undiagnosed and came to motherhood without the knowledge that we are autistic. Being autistic and, for many but not all of us, being disabled didn’t enter into our choice. Thanks to an improved diagnostic process, there are now also generations of younger women and girls who make the decision to have children knowing that they are autistic. And that feels like a double edged sword. Yes, they have the advantage of knowing about how being autistic may affect their parenting ability. My concern is that they may also feel that being autistic somehow automatically disqualifies them from being a good parent or from being a parent at all.
I’d love to say that this is a theoretical concern, but a quick glance at the search terms that readers use to find my motherhood and marriage posts tells me that people are routinely wondering about things like “can I get married if I’m autistic?” and Alyssa at YesThatToo recently answered the (not very) mysterious question “Can Autistic People Get Pregnant?“
Why am I saying this? Because I feel like those of us who are autistic parents have a certain responsibility to share what we’ve learned with our younger sisters and brothers on the spectrum. To let them know that when the time comes, if they choose to become parents, there are many autistic adults who have been down that road and done a pretty damn good job of it and have learned a few lessons along the way. And if they choose not to have children, there are autistic adults who have made the same choice and as a community we’re here to support each other as we all do our best to navigate autistic adulthood.
I guess what I’m saying is, I know that a lot of autistic youngsters grow up hyperaware of the challenges they face and all of the (often negative) ways in which they’re different from their peers. I hope that as a community we can create not only more positive messages about the choices autistic people have in life but also a collective wisdom that the younger members of our community can draw on as they move into adulthood.
Updating this to add that Astrid wrote a great response post at Disability and Childlessness: It’s Complicated.