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At the weekend, we had another children’s party to go to. My eldest claimed she had a good time, and I hope she enjoyed every single minute. I was ready to cry before we’d got half way.

A children’s party is one of those occasions where it’s really obvious that my child and I take a different approach to socialising than, ooh, say…EVERYBODY ELSE. All the parents were mingling, standing around in pairs or threes or fours. All the children were running around in similar groups. All except for me, my husband, and our daughter. Our baby slept, I wasn’t worried about her, but watching our 5-year-old sitting by herself colouring made me wonder…when will she perceive the gap, and how will she feel about it when she notices?

This gap is one problem I cannot fix. I cannot make her fit in with the other children. I can only do my best to bolster her confidence and support the friendships she has made. Now I feel what my own mother must have felt. A kind of hopeless sorrow, driving me to encourage all sorts of pursuits for my daughter in the hope that her life will be easier than mine was.

I still believe my daughter is not as afflicted as I am when it comes to self-confidence and social skills, but I can see the echoes of my own behaviour in her now. The tendency to be quiet and shy is still with her, and I know I make a sucky example of how to make friends and interact with the world.

Maybe the lack of sleep is making me feel worse about my Asperger’s. Maybe it’s a touch of PND. This week I am stuck with the fact that there is no escape, for me or my family.

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For any woman with a small(ish) baby, or toddler, you’ll know it’s sometimes hard to find time to be yourself, or anything other than a mum. It can happen to dads too, but it’s less likely as they tend to go back to work much sooner. They often don’t take more than a few weeks out of their usual life, and of course, they don’t have the 9 months of pregnancy to adjust their lives around. As an Aspie, the thought of having a baby ‘glued’ to me was horrifying when I was a child, and I’m still finding it stressful the second time around.

But it’s not just having babies that’s consumed my identity. I’ve found through many stages of my life that I get fixated on issues or people and I forget to be me. I subsume my own needs and desires to fit with someone else, or to obsess over something I’m not or can’t do. Is this an Aspie feature? Or just something I’m stuck with that could also happen to anyone?

Why am I thinking about this today? It’s because I recently decided to do more things that I want. For example, on Sunday (Mothers’ Day), I went jogging. I’d wanted to go jogging again for weeks, but I always felt too guilty to take time out from being mum at the weekend. I still feel obliged to try and do most of the childcare, even when my husband is having a day off. He’s quite a hands on dad, but I know he finds the baby stressful and he’s always tired after a week at work. It was so nice to go out though – in the fresh air, nice and early.

Today I’ve got babysitters and I’m doing some work while listening to a podcast. I’ve wanted to listen to some podcasts for months, but it’s taken me a long time to take the plunge and get some headphones. After I got the headphones, it took another month for me to actually take the time to use them! Now that I have, I’m really enjoying the experience!

What else…

Ah yes, I have a book club meeting this week, and a yoga class. It’s taken a while, but I’m starting to feel more like a real person, rather than ‘just’ someone who does the laundry, or produces milk.

Yes, being a mother is wonderful and very important, but there is always more to life.

I’m a bit late to wish you all happy new year. That’s because my new daughter arrived on new year’s eve and it’s taken me this long to feel like I’m getting back to normality. Having said that, I can hear her crying now so hold that thought…

And here I am a day later. So yes, everything has changed, but I’m still the same woman with the same social problems. I now have the same worries I had for my older daughter, but also for my younger daughter. Once again I’m in charge of a little person, with a blank but enquiring mind. Once again, I’ll be worrying about setting a good example – how much of my daughter’s social skills will she learn, or inherit from me?

My eldest is currently giving no cause for concern – largely thanks to outside influences. I still have the headache of arranging play dates and attending children’s parties. In fact we had her 5th birthday just a few weeks ago. I spent most of the party hiding in the kitchen (we had an entertainer) thinking I should be mingling. I greeted people, but I didn’t really manage to mingle. A room full of people and noise, plus my husband was busy setting up for the disco, and no beer or wine, what option did I have?

Now that that hideous experience is behind us (it went well but I wanted the ground to swallow me up), I am free to worry about daughter number 2.

This means keeping up with the ladies in my antenatal group (a bit easier with us all on WhatsApp) and talking to other new mums at Buggyfit. By my standards, I’m doing ok. I find it easier to socialise when I’m sleep-deprived, but it’s still early days.

I just wanted to say, for all the Aspie-mums out there, we’re doing a good job and it’s ok to be ourselves.

 

Although I normally consider myself to be level-headed and even-tempered, I am also very quick to panic about certain things. For example, now that I’m heavily pregnant, a simple bout of indigestion has me worrying about premature labour. If my daughter has a problem with one of her school friends, I immediately conclude that she’ll be doomed to a lonely, sad, childhood, and that it will be all my fault because I couldn’t model proper social interactions for her.

These reactions are extreme. They are also quite unhelpful, but although I can rein them in a bit, I cannot stop them from coming.

A few days ago, my daughter told me her best friend had said she didn’t want to be her best friend anymore. The sad look on her face convinced me immediately that this was a real crisis and I, as her mother, must be able to provide a solution. But what could I say? Maybe your friend was grumpy or tired today? Why not play with someone else (as if it’s exactly that easy)? Talk to a teacher!?

I was out of my depth, and it was a shock because it happened so suddenly.

With her next breath, my daughter told me that her friend had then changed her mind and said “OK, I’ll be your best friend forever”. Phew! I have no idea what caused this hiatus. I have no idea how long the separation lasted, or if my daughter had time to cry over it at school. She didn’t offer any more details, and I was so relieved I didn’t like to press for more information.

And when I look back, I remember all the reassuring details that hadn’t occurred to me at the moment of her announcement. The fact that she came out of school that day happy, just like every other day. The fact that she had waited two hours before even mentioning it, during which time she’d done the same things she does every other day after school. My daughter was already back on an even keel before she saw me in the playground. The sadness she’d felt was not a big deal to her anymore.

But that moment of panic, for me… I never want to feel like that again. It’s ridiculous how fast our minds can spiral through fear, and a strong imagination suddenly doesn’t feel like much of a blessing. And now that I know just how tenuous a friendship is for 4- and 5-year olds, I have the worry of it recurring.

The day after she made this announcement, I was still thinking about it. ‘Is she definitely OK?’, ‘Will her best friend play with her today?’, ‘Should I mention it to their teacher, just so I know she’ll keep an eye on them?’, ‘Is it my fault if the friendship fails and my daughter finds she can’t move on?’, ‘What will happen if she loses her friend?’, ‘What can I say to make things better if the next break is more permanent?’

I think Aspie brains are pretty good at overthinking things and worrying too much. But this blog is meant to be a positive look at Asperger’s – so where’s the happy take-away?

Well, I suppose it’s a good thing that I recognised my feelings and thoughts for the complete overreaction that they are. I am trying to extricate them from my life and not let them change my behaviour. And I am taking positive steps to support their friendship by arranging another playdate.

When your fear is spiralling out of control, you must cling to reality.

Last night I had some good news at my first ever parents’ evening. I heard that, since starting school a few months ago, my daughter’s social skills and confidence have really picked up and accelerated. Her teacher explained that she’d been able to help Eve by showing her how to approach children and interact with them to initiate playing and build friendship.

For anyone on the autism spectrum with children, I’m sure you can imagine my pride and elation! Given the right encouragement and support, my daughter is now learning to socialise with competence. Something I’m still working on! And if my daughter can do it, that’s enough to make me happy. I don’t care if I never really get the hang of it myself. If she’s OK, I’m OK.

But I’m not giving up, either. This week I’ve had a few social challenges, and I have another big one coming up this afternoon. On Tuesday I met up with some mums from my antenatal group. A few years ago this type of meeting would have had me running for the toilet and cancelling. Now, I still felt nervous, and I still struggled when the group exceeded 4 adults, but I got through it and they’re all still talking to me on WhatsApp. More meetings have been planned!

This afternoon, we have a playdate. My daughter’s first ever best friend is coming over with her mum (who I don’t really know), and possibly her baby sister. The mum seems nice, and I’m beyond thrilled that my little one has a best friend, but it’s still a scary prospect. This woman has seen me in the playground – that place where I feel like a rabbit in the headlights twice every week day. Now I must convince her that I’m a nice, friendly person who would be good to spend time with.

I’m fully expecting to get hot and sweaty despite the cold weather. My mouth will probably go dry and I’ll be sipping water a lot just to give myself extra thinking time or to fill pauses in the conversation. Maybe I should make a list of topics like I used to before I called friends?

My antenatal group experience is telling me to be confident. History is telling me I should be feeling sick in a few hours.

Can practice really make perfect, even for people like me?

I knew it had been a while since I posted but – crumbs – over a month!? I think life is like that for everyone, regardless of where you fall on or off the autism spectrum, but what’s been going on?

Well, I’m still adjusting to life with my daughter at school. The schedule changes; the frequent demands for cake sale or fair contributions; the need to prepare for and attend children’s birthday parties; organising playdates… it’s enough to make me miss wine, and beer, and cocktails.

Also, I’ve been on an antenatal refresher course, which was great, but now I have another group of people to get to know with even more social demands.

And let’s not forget the friends I had before, who I’m also mindful of neglecting.

O, and trying to get work done, and attend all my medical appointments, and the volunteering, and housework, and trying to decorate my daughter’s new room, and think about what we need to prepare before the baby comes…

OK, you get it. I’m stressed. My ebb and flow has ebbed off and there is no sign of a return. I’m writing this with one eye on the clock because it’s nearly school pick up time.

With no access to alcohol for at least another couple of months, and thereafter very restricted access due to (hopefully) breastfeeding, it’s time to turn to healthier ways to unwind.

Step one will be to actually listen to the hypnobirthing audio tracks I’ve downloaded. Step two will be to get a massage (booked for next Monday – hooray!). Step three, which should probably be called Step 0.5 because it’s actually going to happen before Step 1, will be to chat with my husband and enjoy my yoga class this evening.

And breathe…

Feel free to post your own relaxation tips in the comments, or just vent if you’re stressed too!

Following my recent smugness, today I am celebrating a new achievement. Or rather, a series of small achievements.

I wonder if any of my fellow Aspies have been watching the new detective drama, Strike? I’ve really enjoyed it,┬ábut in the last episode, Strike and Robin went to a very formal party, and Strike used two words that send fear into the heart of anyone like me, “Let’s mingle”.

If someone took me to a party and said that, I’d head straight for the bar or the toilet to hide. Because Robin is nothing like me (glamorous, confidant, socially secure), she was fine. She subtly managed to attract the one man in the room they most wanted to talk to, and easily, casually, led him back to Strike.

I know this will never be me,┬ábut there are thousands like me and probably not so many as self-assured as Robin. So no, I haven’t been going down a storm at any parties, but I have been making small talk and getting to know new people.

At yoga class, I have for the last few weeks been gradually talking more and more to the woman next to me. And today, I spoke to a woman I’d never met while dropping my daughter off at school. Perhaps the baby bump makes me appear more accessible? It certainly provides an obvious topic of conversation.

It’s a strange feeling to leave the house for something almost every day of the week, and know that there will be an expectation for you to talk to someone, even if it’s only for five minutes while collecting my daughter. I feel more competent, and more like a ‘real mum’, whatever that means.

Even writing this down feels weird. I suppose most people do expect to have conversations with other adults every day. Acquaintances, colleagues, friends, etc. But I’m an Aspie and I work from home. I don’t even need to use the phone for my job, normally. I communicate with most people online, and nowhere else.

So you see, these fragments of humanity are a big deal.