A question I have been asked about is, how I have managed having another child when my first has autism. Also how did we decide to have another knowing our first has autism.
This maybe a bit of a long post so I apologise now. But here is my honest answer:
I fell pregnant with Jessica when Harry was 1 years old, shortly after his first birthday is when I found out I was expecting again.
We had tried for a while to conceive Harry, as I have Poly cystic ovaries. We started some fertility drugs in order to help my cycle, which in turn we were so lucky to fall pregnant with Harry. My consultant said that I may struggle to conceive again, and so with that we decided when Harry was around 6 months old to not put any pressure on it and to not take any precautions. And 6 months later we found out I was expecting again and we fell naturally ❤️.
So the answer to one of the questions is, I didn’t know Harry at that point was autistic when I was first pregnant with Jessica.
I had only just started to notice some of Harry’s quirks, and at this point Darren didn’t see what I did and this caused arguments between us. (Which is detailed in my first blog on our website). But I was worried, because Harry also still didn’t speak and I wondered what maybe going on with him. And the prospect of having a newborn added into the mix, made alot of late night thinking.
When Jessica was born, Harry was 21 months old. He didn’t adjust well to this new baby in his house. He wouldn’t go near her for a quite some time, eventually when he did he would touch her head and then run off. I was desperate for them both to have a bond, but right now that didn’t seem plausible. Couple months later is when Harry had his 2 year review and I mentioned his quirks & struggles, which was also picked up by my health visitor and an appointment would be sent out for him to be seen by a paediatrician.
When I saw a paediatrician, Jessica was roughly 6 months old. It was a locum paediatrician and he was quite rude to me. He said that Harry would need further assessments, and that I should be aware it will take time (lots of appointments) and it would deflect from my time spent being a mum to Jessica.
He also said “you maybe should of waited until you knew the severity of your son before having another.” Those words hit me hard, because I felt like maybe I wouldn’t be good enough mum to bring them both up.
The feelings I had following this appointment were so hard to deal with. The sheer panic & guilt I felt was a lot to take in. Maybe I should of waited? Maybe Jessica would resent me? Could I have an equal bond with both of them?
Harry had many appointments to attend, including a group every Tuesday and my parents babysat Jessica for us. So I could attend each one as darren was working to support us. I did feel worried that Jessica and my bond, wouldn’t be strong and I always felt guilty about leaving her. I was also still trying to figure out how to divide my time equally between them both. And ensure both of their needs are met. Because by this point Harrys struggles were more apparent and he needed a lot of support.
When Harry was 3, I put him into a pre-school for a couple a hours 3x a week. This allowed me to have some one to one with Jessica and at this point she was 14 months old. I would take her places we couldn’t go with Harry, because he found them to overwhelming such as zoo, soft play etc. But then I also felt guilty that I was doing these things without him. I felt guilty that I was having fun, and I felt sad for him because at this point he just didn’t like these places. I worried about pictures I took, because would others think I was mean for going and not taking him. Would the kids look at the pictures when they are older and judge me too.
A few months before Harry’s 4th birthday is when he was diagnosed with Autism. Jessica was 2 years old. By this point we were having issues with sharing, space invading and lashing out (pushing her out of his space). Because Harry still didn’t use his words, and he was so angry with the world for not understanding him and he had every right to be, because I can’t imagine how it must of felt to him.
But I had to be a referee a lot of the time, but Jessica never gave up on him. Her love for him was determined to shine through, and show him that she was the friend he needed. It’s something I really admire about her.
But seeing her desperate for friendship, I enrolled her into a pre-school. So she could understand friendships & enjoy that two way communication. I was also slightly worried that if I didn’t she would regress & fall behind socially, because she didn’t have the “typical” sister life at home. Again I felt people would judge me for this, because she was young and that I just wanted some free time. I would of loved some free time to be honest because I was overwhelmed, but Harry attended a school nursery by this point, and his and Jessica’s days were different so always one of them was with me. Because Harry couldn’t handle full days & was on a part time- timetable.
But this break from each other, helped them build a stronger bond at home. Jessica helped him, and started to learn when he needed space and Harry would also show Jessica when he was ready to play & when he was not. But they started to enjoy being together & Jessica never gave up on him. He use to hate her trying to hug him, but eventually he kinda just accepted that she wasn’t ever giving in. So he let her cuddle him in small doses, then he wound give me a look and I would always have to say “that’s enough Jessica thank you”. But I also got to enjoy time with them separately and build my connection with them both.
Now they are 6 & 4, completely inseparable and have a great bond. That being said I still have days where I am a referee, but also I have to assess a lot of the situation.
When something happens between them, I have to ask myself
Is it rational response? - Would I act differently if I didn’t know Harry’s struggles.
Am I helping her understand others needs? - am I showing her that we all have different needs and we should take it into account, or does it look like I’m just favouring Harrys needs to her?
Am I looking at it both ways? - if I took Harrys struggles away from context, would the incident still appear the same.
So many more questions but I have constant battles in my head, ensuring I try to parent both equally whilst taking both emotional needs into account. This is something that will take a long time to adjust too. We also enjoy days out separately, where Jessica & daddy will have a day out somewhere she loves to go. Then me and Harry will do something together too and then we swap over. Because somethings Harry still struggles with, but we don’t want Jessica to miss out. I use to feel guilty about this, but now I see it’s just how our family works. We still enjoy days out together too, but these are often more in our comfortable places.
So in answer to the other question, I don’t think I can say I’ve definitely managed with both, bringing them up. Because this chapter still isn’t finished and each year we get presented with new hurdles, but I’m sharing our journey with you all. In hope that it helps and gives you comfort on the hard days.
But one thing I can say is, I am thankful they are both mine ❤️🌈