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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?

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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, but 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, but 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.

Here’s a question for you: Is losing sleep always a bad thing, or can it be a good thing?

Normally, having missed many hours throughout my life thanks to anxiety-related insomnia and then having a child, I wouldn’t even think about it. There was no doubt in my mind that losing sleep was one of the worst things that could happen to me. Yes, I know, I could be horribly injured under a bus or my country might declare war and there are countless other things that really are worse…

But to me, because my sleep is so often disrupted, I felt that losing sleep was the absolute nadir of my existence. I go to bed early every night in a desperate attempt to get enough hours. Yet I often wake up feeling sluggish and slow, wondering why my daughter got me up three times or why my husband chose that night to snore so loud. Last night I lay awake for three hours worrying about a possible new client project.

And yet…

Today, well, I still felt a bit slow in the morning. And I did accidentally pour gone off milk into my husband’s tea before I realised. But I’ve also got a lot done and I feel happier and more competent than I have for ages. I’ve been to medical appointments (don’t worry – just routine), I’ve got work done, I’ve emailed that possible new client who I’m still a bit scared of, and I’ve even mowed the lawn. (This may not seem a big deal to you but it was my first time – I was too scared to try).

Consequently, I am starting to wonder, is it really worth going to bed so early? If my body has the energy to keep awake for three hours between 2 and 5am and I still manage to perform better than average, maybe I didn’t actually need those hours at all? Maybe my body wakes more because it knows it can and should be doing more in the day and it’s just getting annoyed with my brain for making it shut down early? Maybe, sleep is not the answer I am looking for?

How do you feel when you lose sleep?

Yesterday I was forced to open up to a stranger, in a way that I found painful and embarrassing. I went to my local hospital to take a look at their birthing unit, and as I sat in one of their birthing rooms, listening to the joyful stories of people who’d given birth there, I started to cry. Once I’d started, I couldn’t stop. I was reliving the birth of my daughter, and the trauma, and feeling of having let her down came washing over me.

Consequently, the nice midwife who was showing everyone around, took me aside for a private chat. It reminded me of my counselling sessions when I was a teenager. The midwife was so lovely and helpful, but I just felt weak and awful. I didn’t want to talk about my pain. I didn’t want to dwell on those memories. She offered to give me some numbers of people to call and talk to, but I didn’t want those either.

Today, the sadness is still fresh, and I find myself deliberating about who I could talk to. How do you reach out to people when you hate reaching out?

My husband is busy at work. My best friend has her own problems to deal with now. My other friend wouldn’t understand. My mother, father and sister… just no. I never could open up to them. Every option I have feels wrong and alien. And yet the thought of calling a stranger at a charity is even worse.

And so, I’m sending this into the ether. A letter to anyone and no-one, with apologies because this is meant to be an upbeat blog.

After last week’s optimism, this week has thrown me a curve ball. My diary is pulling me in different directions and that’s a lot for my brain to handle. On Monday I had two appointments, two more today, a playdate tomorrow, and I don’t yet know if I’m needed for volunteering on Thursday.

I realise my schedule still makes for light reading, especially compared with many others. I know my husband’s days are often filled with meetings, phone calls and other distractions that get in the way of ‘actual work’. But for me, even my relatively easy schedule is hampering my thought process and productivity. My question is this:

How am I supposed to get stuff done when I have all this stuff to do?

People on the autism spectrum are generally known for preferring a steady routine. Chopping and changing, making ‘casual’ ad-hoc arrangements, and attending unusual or awkwardly timed appointments do not put us in our happy place. Each little alteration to the schedule creates worry and stress. It’s like putting a brick wall in the way, while we were enjoying our walk, thank you very much!

So – for the foreseeable future – my stress levels are continuing. My brain is doing its best to keep up with all the important stuff I have to do, as well as the distractions, but I know I’m not functioning at my best and that is so frustrating.

It’s times like these that I envy my husband. He has a career, and while his job may be annoying at times, at least he is working in an office with a single overarching focus. My own time has been split into what feels like hundreds of strands of focus, ever since I first quit full time employment to become a mother.

But I can’t blame motherhood for all the fragmentation. It was my choice to study accountancy. It was my choice to take two voluntary positions. It was my choice to take on work as a freelance editor, and it was also my choice to write a blog and enter short story competitions. As for the cooking, shopping, housework, and child-care arrangements, well I’m just kind of stuck with those. It didn’t make sense for my husband to be the stay-at-home parent.

So, as you can see, there’s no real cure for this fragmentation. It is merely a busy period that I have to get through, before the next one hits. If I weren’t pregnant, I would certainly treat myself to a glass of wine to help my brain switch off. But I am, so… any tips?

As I face another sleep deprived day, I am thinking about the little crutches I rely on to get me through. First, there was coffee.

I grew up watching my Dad drink it, enjoying the rich smell that seemed to fill the room when he added hot water to that brown powder, or, in later years, when he switched on the machine.

It became part of a lifestyle I aspired to: the busy person who needed a little caffeine to cope with all the stuff they have to do. And why did I want to be busy? Maybe just because that’s what Daddy did. Maybe, as a small and Asperger’s-crippled child, I just really wanted to be that useful to everyone. My Dad is sociable, confident, and he was in charge of projects that spanned continents. Who wouldn’t want to be that capable?

Now, as my daughter has decided that every night has to be interrupted between 2 and 6 times, I am relying on coffee even more. And I have added another crutch to my arsenal. Sugar. This morning, I realised my husband and I had taken only 2 days to clear a whole tub of millionaire’s shortbread bites. Each tiny bite (and they are small enough even for my mouth, which the dentist said was small) contains 89 calories and is 46% sugar. I have also been eating rhubarb crumble with salted caramel sauce and ice cream most evenings this week. Yikes.

My husband is no stranger to this particular form of diabetes-chasing. He gets through late night work sessions with half a family size bar of Cadbury’s and reruns of boxsets. As I am ‘on call’ I go to bed early, safe in the knowledge I will have more coffee in the morning. And now – a biscuit, too!

Knowing how reliant I am on coffee makes me think I should kick this sugar thing in the head before it gets just as ingrained in my life. But if I’ve been awake so much in the night I feel I deserve a treat.

So, I’m happy to keep the coffee. It was always in my life plan. I like the ritual of pouring out the frothed milk and watching the cocoa fall like a delicious snowdrift. I like the way it says “Now you can do this!” It’s my friend, my cheerleader, my cattle-prod. It punctuates my day like roses blossoming in a garden.Yes, I will be keeping the coffee. But can I step away from the sugar again without feeling deprived?

Maybe my daughter will start sleeping again and I will laugh at how I nearly emptied the patisserie section at my local supermarket. Maybe. But I think I need a more likely solution.

What gets you through the day?