New Mothers With Asperger’s Syndrome – What to Expect
What A Normal Postpartum Looks Like? What to expect from you and your baby?
MothersCare Doula Services of CT was given the privilege of being referred to a new mom who has Asperger’s Syndrome. We’ve been learning what the needs of a new mom are for one who has this added challenge. My sister works with children with Asperger’s Syndrome and she sent me a link for a new Mom with Asperger’s. It’s quite a touching and emotional article. After reading the article* I was teary and of course, “pulling for her”. And then I thought about it. Nothing she wrote about was really out of the ordinary. Her fears, her doubts, her painful nursing problems are the same as those of every new mom. Her challenge is that she may not know if what she is feeling is normal for a first-time mother or part of the emotions and limitations of one with Asperger’s Syndrome.
So here are some of her experiences and see how she is in many ways like every new mom. If you are currently expecting and are not sure what to expect you may find this helpful.
“I run through the constant cycle of diaper change, feed, burp, sleep and I wait to feel that “bond.” Weeks pass and it never comes. I am in a constant state of pain and exhaustion, and I try not to let it distract me but it does.”
There will be times when you will feel absolutely exhausted. What do you do about it? Recognize that you need physical support. Try to set up postpartum help either through family, friends or a professional Postpartum Doula. You are not designed to deliver a baby, breastfeed, go without sleep and “run a marathon” ie: do all the normal activities in your life right after your baby’s birth! Every new mom needs at the minimum 2 weeks where she can rest from all her physical household demands to heal from delivery, learn to breastfeed and to sleep. Many new moms do not feel the “bond” right away. This is normal.
“Breastfeeding is a terrible, painful struggle for us both, and my daughter never latches properly, despite numerous experts’ help.”
Breastfeeding is a learned behavior. Getting off to a good start in the hospital is a big part of the reason why some moms have problems early on**. Read everything you can about breastfeeding and what to do and expect in the first day, days and weeks after your baby’s birth. Talk to moms who have had a successful nursing experience. But understand that sometimes breastfeeding just does not go well. Many problems can be avoided and seeing a lactation specialist early on can help but it’s not your fault if it doesn’t go well. Nursing is a dual-partnership and sometimes the little partner is tongue-tied or too early to suckle well or numerous other issues that have nothing to do with your commitment. Do the best you can and remember the most important thing is to FEED THE BABY. Those early weeks will become a blur and in the big picture it’s just a small part of mothering your baby.
“I am defective, I decide. I should never have become a mother because I am not feeling what I should feel for my beautiful daughter. Surely she deserves better than me. I am angry a lot and numb the rest of the time. And I am afraid. Afraid of how I feel when I’m stressed, afraid of her and her piercing cry. I don’t want to soothe her when she is screaming in the nursery because it causes me such intense anxiety that I want to run far, far away while my heart pounds in my ears. I grit my teeth, and I go in. I try to cradle her tense little body, but rocking her doesn’t help; she keeps screaming. I put her back down in her rocking swing. She eventually stops. I feel like I couldn’t calm her because I couldn’t remain calm.”
These feelings must be intensified for an Asperger’s mom. But can you see how normal it would be for any new mother to feel these same feelings? Most first-time moms feel so unprepared for the 24 hour/7 days a week demands of a newborn. No one can really prepare you for the reality -both positive and negative- of having a new baby because unless you experience it you won’t understand it. If you have a crying, inconsolable baby it is normal to feel especially overwhelmed at times. Finding a support group for new moms, reaching out to sister, friend or even an online group can go a long way to see that you are normal. Fear, lack of confidence, and feeling stressed are normal for new mom. Ask for help. Ask your partner or friend to help find resources. Get a break if needed to go out without the baby. Again, postpartum support from a family member or professional Doula can really be the solution for getting through the early weeks of postpartum when a first-time mother feels the most unsettled and unsure of her own ability to mother her baby.
“I can’t handle the intensity of my emotions, which run to extremes multiple times a day. I lie awake one day daydreaming about sitting in my running car with the tailpipe blocked — and then I know this is something more than the “baby blues.” I’m eventually prescribed an antidepressant for postpartum depression. I was already naturally prone to depression as well as anxiety, which I was treating before I was even pregnant.”
Be realistic if you are having thoughts that feel “wrong”, “scary” or “desperate”, DO NOT SUFFER IN SILENCE. It is common for moms to have “baby blues” – to feel less than joyful and to cry easily the first couple of weeks. This is often linked to the hormonal shifts that are happening as your body reverts back to a non-pregnant state. But if you find you have increased anxiety about the baby, or your thoughts are similar to those of the mom quoted above, there is help readily available. Most postpartum depression lifts eventually and any medication needed to help you through it will be able, in many cases, to be lessened and discontinued going forward. Mothers who have anxiety and depression issues prior to pregnancy can have them during postpartum as well.
“Just days later, I start to feel a difference. Then for the first time, I feel like a mother. My wee one looks at me and smiles, and I catch my breath and my eyes tear up with joy. I didn’t know I could feel this way. She is mine.”
It will get easier! You will fall in love with your baby if you don’t right away. Skin-to-skin contact, eye contact, talking, and soothing your baby will help your attachment to your baby grow. The first few weeks of postpartum are usually the most challenging. But in a short time you will know your baby better than anyone – better than your mother, your friends, even your doctor because you will know him/her intimately as you care for his/her every need. Enjoy it! It goes by so fast!
About Susan Shepard Keeney
I am the owner/partner of MothersCare Doula Services in CT. I am a Postpartum doula and my business partner, Sheila Marley is a Labor doula. MothersCare places both Labor and Postpartum doulas with CT Families. I am the mom of five beautiful children, one set of twins. The best quote for me as a young mother and the catalyst for MothersCare is “It’s not weakness to know you need help, it’s wisdom.”