Shmoo Zissou (27 - they/them), Mars (2) Canute (1 week)
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
I have always had a negative image of my body, both because of pain/frequent illness/feeling like it fails me, and because of the unhealthy rhetoric in my home as a child surrounding mine and others bodies. After becoming pregnant the first time, I was sure my body would struggle to do what it was supposed to and I was constantly stressed about making it through without my body failing me and Mars. My body did make it through really well, and it made it through my pregnancy with Canute. I consequently I have a much greater appreciation for its successes and abilities. I also don't want my children to have remotely the same experiences with their bodies and self-image as I did, and so we have a very open, sex-positive, autonomous, consent-is-mandatory environment in our home. Because of this I feel like it forces me to change my perspective, not just my words, and this has also helped with my own acceptance for my body over time.
What was your postpartum experience?
I have sensory processing disorder and a lot of childhood trauma and don't handle pregnancy well. It feels like a buildup of physical and emotional struggles that come to a breaking point by the time I give birth, and that the relief I imagine the postpartum period to be takes a lot more actual effort and time to achieve. After having Mars I had PPD and PPA and learned that I needed a lot more support and had to work a lot harder on loving, improving, and forgiving myself than expected. When I found out I was pregnant with Canute I was initially very excited, and then became very depressed and scared of going through with the pregnancy and postpartum period and decided to get an abortion. My partner was very supportive of whatever I chose and with that support, along with therapy and a med change, I eventually decided that I wanted to go through with the pregnancy. Even though I didn't end up getting an abortion, I am very grateful that it was an option and was ultimately my decision.
My pregnancy with Canute was difficult as expected. What I didn't expect was how traumatic their birth would be. I opted for a hospital water birth with midwives, but they came within 30 minutes of active labor and 2 minutes of pushing and there wasn't time to fill the tub or receive any pain management options. The sudden escalation and pain from back labor triggered my PTSD and it was honestly a horrible experience. The recovery so far has been much harder and more painful than with Mars as well. Despite all of that I am so grateful that they're here and that I made the decisions I did, even though not everything went well. Having supports and plans in place has been vital for me in starting my second postpartum journey.
What is your truth?
That everyone is deserving of love and support, and to make an effort to give both to yourself and others and to seek it out if you need it.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
I came here today as an openly autistic and disabled parent, to show up for other autistic parents who may not feel comfortable or aren't able to do so, and to speak towards the validity and value of autistic parenthood. We exist, we struggle sometimes like all parents, we often do parenthood a little differently, and are just as diverse as neurotypical parents in our abilities and how we feel about parenthood. It can be extra difficult for neurodivergent parents to feel community and connection in parenthood, and I feel that neurotypicals should educate themselves with resources provided by autistic and other neurodivergent individuals on the realities of our existences and make efforts to not be ableist and exclusionary.
I also came to show my children that I am proud of who I am as a neurodivergent human, and proud and grateful for my disabled body even though there's both physical and emotional struggles that come with it. That it's okay to struggle and it's okay to be different.