From here to maternity: Pregnancy and motherhood on the Autism Spectrum

From here to maternity by Lana Grant
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When I was growing up, I was very afraid that I would never have children. I wanted them, lots of them (although my dreams stopped at 3 😉 ) but was often told I was non maternal, and shouldn’t do it.

Perhaps it’s that I’m not gooey over babies. They’re just a necessary stage on the way to children, in my mind, who are quite frankly, fascinating. My own babies I found increasingly more interesting, as I realised that actually they are people from day one (it’s easy to miss that in passing if you’ve not spent a lot of time with newborns). I’m in the peculiar phase now of knowing that I am physically too old to go through the unpleasant (to me) physical process of pregnancy and birth, yet unable to let go of that yearning for the moment when you first hold a new life in your arms, a new life created and born from your own body. It’s an incredible, irreplaceable sensation.

Lana Grant, the author of ‘From here to maternity: Pregnancy and motherhood on the Autism Spectrum’ understands so much of this I think. Her books starts with describing autism in girls clearly from her own personal experience as a fellow late diagnosed autistic female. However, she’s also worked with a wide range of autistic people, so her views are informed by that too.

Throughout my career I have worked with many people who have met one person with autism so they think they know what autism is. They don’t. They only know how that one person’s autism affects them. Human beings are all individuals; this doesnt cease to be the case because someone has autism. We are still individuals with our own unique combination of genetic make-up, upbringing and cultural variations.

(pg 19)

Her focus on pregnancy and motherhood came about post diagnosis, when she realised how few (read no) resources there are for autism during pregnancy. (And following a discussion on instagram, she isn’t the only person who has been looking. This book meets a real need.) She is also an advocate for an overhaul of the diagnostic process to recognise how autism presents differently in girls and women, which I totally agree with. When I look back over my own life at all the missed chances for diagnosiss, I could sit down and cry. I dealt with so many professionals who should have seen what I was going through, but I don’t ‘look’ or ‘behave’ autistic so it wasn’t spotted. Actually, shyness, anxiety, depression are all indicators. As Lana says “quiet, introverted nature may be a social communication difficulty”.

The book goes through Lana’s life experiences in pregnancy – she has 6 children, 5 of whom were born before diagnosis. There are hints sprinkled throughout the text of how to deal with various issues that may be particularly pertinent for autistic females. Advice to consider taking and advocate to appointments, having a doula during birth. (I recognise her need for information and control. During my second pregnancy, my planned home birth was threatened due to my iron levels. I became more informed on iron levels and diet during pregnancy than the majority of midwives I met. Haemodilution anyone? ) There are also a number of highly informative appendices with everything from first trimester top tips, to a description of “How my Autism may look”.

This last is really really informative. Obviously, as stated above, autism is different in every individual, but these bullet points cover so much that I wish *I’d* understood about myself over the past few years, let along medical professionals I’ve dealt with, many of whom are terribly uninformed on autism. For example:

I may appear quiet, shy and compliant, and not interested in asking questions; or I may say that everything is ‘fine’. What is actually happening is that you need an answer quickly but I am taking time to process what you have said. I am also very anxious, which affects my ability to understand what you have said.

I’m tempted to print that out on a card, and take it with me to appointments. And social gatherings. Swimming lessons. Pretty much everywhere.

This book has a focus on pregnancy, as Lana describes it as her special interest. I’d be interested in a follow up on parenting, but really, there is so much in here which is relevant to day to day life as an adult female on the autistic spectrum, that I think many people would benefit from reading it. Particularly health professionals and teachers. This is not academic research, as the blurb says:

Exploring the challenges of becoming a mother with autism, Lana Grant draws on her experience of pregnancy and motherhood before and after diagnosis to offer advice to other women and the professionals working with them. Her stories, humour and personal reactions to her experiences offer real insight into this aspect of life on the spectrum.

this is based on one woman’s experiences. Having said that, there was so much here that I identified with, that I think other people I know will, that I highly recommend this for people interested in how autism affects women.

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