Today, I am joined by Leah Behrens who is the author of the blog The Behrens Den and an amazing wife and mother to three children, two of which have autism. Leah shares her journey into motherhood, dealing with an autism diagnosis for both of her children, how to make your marriage work, experiencing a miscarriage, and advice for anyone who is thinking about having another child after a diagnosis.
Becoming a Young Mother
Leah found out that she was pregnant when she was nineteen. Because she became pregnant so young, her friends were in a completely different stage of life, so she felt very disconnected from them and it was an isolating time for her. She began to realize that she was experiencing postpartum depression and she talks in depth about how she was able to work through it.
How To Reach Acceptance With an Autism Diagnosis
It took Leah awhile to accept the first child’s diagnosis. To cope, she dove into everything involving autism. Leah began to realize that she was only putting a band-aid on the real issue.
“There is a unique grieving process you must go through when you get the diagnosis. You are in denial, you may blame yourself, question if it is something you did wrong or are being punished for and feel guilty for all of these emotions. You have to let yourself feel these things, because it is the only way you can eventually reach acceptance.”
The first diagnosis was scary because she didn’t know what to expect or what her life would be like. After Leah received her daughter’s diagnosis, it was easier for her because it was the second time around and she had already accepted it. It allowed her to view her daughter differently and to have more patience with her. As a result, she began to experience a deeper connection with her kids because she finally began to understand them.
How To Strengthen Your Marriage After a Diagnosis
There is such a high divorce rate of parents who have kids with autism. Leah and her husband struggled because they were dealing with accepting their children’s new future on their own. Leah needed a partner to go to and talk about the anxieties she felt. When she finally vocalized that, the diagnosis strengthened their marriage. It connected them in a way she didn’t think they would be otherwise.
The Struggle Of Experiencing a Miscarriage
Leah experienced a miscarriage when she tried to have a third child. Going through this felt like the joy of pregnancy went away for her and she was sad because her fear of miscarrying again took away any possible excitement. She felt similar feelings as she did towards an autism diagnosis. She had to grieve the loss of her child and the realization that she couldn’t feel the joy of being pregnant. Leah learned that you can be sad that you are missing out on something, but also enjoy what you do have.
Why It’s Okay To Have More Children
So many people are scared to have more kids if they already have a child with special needs. Having a third child didn’t alter Leah’s life, because she was already there with her other two children. Her third child was a unique and wonderful experience because she didn’t have any expectations for her and just allowed her to be who she is.
“For anyone considering having another baby and feeling terrified, just do it! There will be things that adults won’t be able to teach your children that younger siblings can. That baby will bring so much joy to your family because you have already gone through so much trauma and now you will get to just enjoy your child.”
“A final and important thing to remember is that your child is the same kid that they were before they received the label. They were already going to do or not do the same things as before. Your son or daughter is still the most amazing human being and it is okay to feel sad about it and also enjoy your life with them!”
- Everyone grieves when they go through an autism diagnosis. You have to grieve the dreams you had for your kid. They can still do those things, but it will look differently for them. You have to accept that what their future will be is not as easy as it once looked, but they are strong enough to face anything.
- Allow yourself to feel everything. It is important to give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling. It is key to acceptance and there is no way around it. You have to let yourself work through all the stages of what normal grief is. When you do this, a weight will be lifted off your shoulders. Because it is so heavy to carry all the anger and regret. But when you let your child be the way they are, you will see that life becomes easier.
- If you don’t go through it together, you don’t make it out together. So many people are not struggling together, grieving together or praying together. Both you and your spouse are grieving and are not giving each other your best. It can become easy for arguing to become a natural reflex to deflect and express the frustration you are feeling about something else.
- It is okay to stop mid argument and breakdown what you are actually upset about. Your argument with your spouse could be because of something else going on. Its okay to just be done arguing, you don’t have to over talk things. You don’t have to wait for the argument to end to come to that conclusion. Sometimes it’s helpful to just stop and really think about why you are reacting.
- Remember that your child is the same kid that they were before they got that label. They already were going to do the same things or not do the same things as before. Your son or daughter is still the most amazing human being as always. It’s okay to be sad about it and also enjoy your life with them. It is much more rewarding and beautiful and so much less stressful to give your child permission to be who they are.