April 04, 2016

Advisory and Anthologies - I've Been Busy

Late last year, I joined the advisory committee at Autism Canada. It's really great of them to include #ActuallyAutistic people, but also it's been great making connections across the country. We're in the process of planning a conference - there will be three: one in the Maritimes, one central and one in BC. I'm on the planning committee for the central one, which will take place in Hamilton, ON in August.
I'll get you more details closer to the date.

I have to decide soon if I'm going to speak at it. I'm feeling a little nervous and haven't written anything yet.

The other exciting thing that is happening is the anthology I contributed to, All the Weight of Our Dreams, should be coming out at the end of the month. You can check the site for updates. Also, please buy a copy! :)

I've also been asked to write for another anthology, so I better get cracking on that one because the deadline is also in August.

It feels good to be doing things I hope will make the future easier for autistic people, as well as building community. There are few things better than finding your tribe. 

April 03, 2016

What April Does to #ActuallyAutistic People

We're only a few days into the month of April but already Autistic people are running for the hills. It starts with the dread during the final weeks of March. We know what is going to happen.

April is Autism Awareness Month, with April 2nd being the official UN Autism Acceptance Day. Or Awareness. I'm no longer even sure myself. Depending on who you talk to, you're supposed to either accept or be aware (beware?) of Autistics.

Of course, added to all this is Autism $peaks and their Light It Up Blue. Because blue is for boys and females are never autistic!

In response, a lot of Actually Autistic people started #RedInstead. There's also Light It Up Gold, by the Autistic Union (Au, for gold, get it!?)

So there's just a whole lot of posts and memes going around (oops, I'm in the mix as well!), a lot of opinions on which colours should be lit up, a lot of arguing, a lot of blatant ableism, a lot of hurt feelings, friendships lost, energy wasted and on and on and on.

It seems my Actually Autistic friends fall into one of two categories: 1) they either post CONSTANTLY about which side you should be on and if you wear the wrong colour, they'll hate you forever; or 2) go into hiding for the month of April to preserve their sanity.

There's no right or wrong way. Everyone has to do what is best for them, but it does kinda suck for me because I want my friends back - both types, the vocal ones and the quiet ones. Both are hurting. Some express it outwardly and some keep it inside, but April is a tough month. Either way, we're getting hurt because we know there is so much work to do to change attitudes and we are bombarded by messages.

Please understand while many of us are proud of our neurology, proud to be Autistic, and even proud to have your support, this month can be overwhelming and we might be tired of hearing any more about it. Some of us are also without the friendship of the people who understand us best during this time, and that's not always easy to handle either.

Hoping for a day where this month does more to help us than harm us. 

March 08, 2016

Adoption Is A Feminist Issue

For International Women's Day, I'd like to focus on women and adoption, since it's close to my heart.

For obvious biological reasons, adoption tends to affect women more than men. Working from the understanding that feminism is about equality and inclusive (including transgender people), I am not saying it does not affect men, but physically the work is done by women. In the end, the choices before and after are often left to women alone.

To understand why adoption itself is a feminist issue, let's look at everything that leads up to that act.

A woman needs to have education about how her body works. She needs education about contraception and health issues, if she chooses. She needs education about sexual consent. She needs access to contraception and health care. If something happens, she needs access to unbiased education, health care, emergency contraceptives or abortion. If none of that happens, she needs access to health care and resources to help her learn and be supported caring for her baby.

If none of that happens, we, as a society, have failed her.

In Canada, we're failing huge parts of the population. There are not enough accessible health clinics or abortion clinics. Some provinces have none at all.
Let me repeat that. Some provinces have no abortion clinics. None. Not one. 

If you live in PEI, you would have to take time off work, make up some sort of excuse for your family/friends, have the available funds and travel to New Brunswick and stay in a hotel until you can get your abortion there, then travel back. You'd also most likely have to go through it all alone.

Adoption is not a solution. It's an option, but it's a bandaid solution for all the other ways we have failed women as a society. 

How can I say that when I've adopted a child? Don't get me wrong, I love my baby. I feel so very lucky to have had this option to expand my family. We are all very happy to have him with us. But I can acknowledge that and acknowledge the fact he should be with his first mother. I can acknowledge and accept that he would have not made the choice to be separated from her, and she would probably not have made the choice to be separated from him if other options had been available.

We have a tendency, as a society, to judge these women who "give up their babies" and demonize them - maybe that assuages people's guilt that they didn't do more to help. Maybe it makes them feel better somehow. But we can't fix problems we chose to ignore. It's not just a feminist issue, it's a class issue. It's an accessibility issue, it's a financial issue, it's a political issue. It's a fairness issue.

The fact is, she made the best choice she could with the limited options and services available to her. She simply wasn't given the same deck of cards to play with as others do. If there's anyone that should be demonized, it's the government and politics that lead to things being that way; the haves and havenots and that inequality. Because when it affects women and children, it affects us all. 

March 05, 2016

The Wait Is Not Over

Since my last adoption update, our birth mother gave birth a little early. I got the call while I was at work on a Monday morning that she gave birth. Because it was so close to Christmas holidays, I chose to keep working. There wasn't much I could do while waiting for the baby to be released from the hospital and I felt like I should keep my mind distracted. Let me tell you, it's a truly bizarre feeling to know "your" child is born, but you are not there to hear his cries or comfort him.

The social worker told me to expect to receive the baby sometime in the afternoon the next day, so I went into work that morning. My co-workers were truly amazing and surprised me with a gift card and a deluxe baby bath. It was really heart-warming how they came together on such short notice to support me. I left work that afternoon with them wishing me well and hoping everything goes smoothly.

I went home for lunch and got a call from the social worker. "There's been a delay...and some changes...."
There are always curve balls in adoption, I think. You just have to roll with it. Originally, our social worker was going to deliver him to our house. That changed and they asked us to go to the hospital.

My sister had arrived by then (she lives in another province), and I knew there was potential to wait more at the hospital, so I decided it was best if Hubby and the Little Man wait at home, and I drove to the hospital with my sister.

We got there and waited. And waited. And waited. We browsed in the gift shop. And wandered. And sat. And waited. Finally the social worker told us to wait outside the elevators, they were coming down. So we waited in the hospital hall. Very anti-climatic. Very odd. To think this is THE MOMENT you get to see your child and we're standing in the middle of a hospital.

So with that, three social workers come out, mine carrying our baby and in the middle of the hall, they hand him to me. But just like when I gave birth, when you set your eyes on your baby, for a few minutes the world stops turning and no one else exists. You have no pain, no fears, no worries. You feel love and protection. It doesn't matter if you're lying in a hospital bed or standing in a hospital hall, you see your baby and it's wonderful.

And with that, we pile into the car - me, my sister, our social worker and the Tiny Man - and we drive home. We walk in the door and present the new baby to Hubby and the Little Man. The Little Man is so proud and declares we're, "a real family now." The social worker stays with us for the first hour to make sure we're settled in and with that, our new family is formed.

From there, we had to get past the 30-day wait period - the time that the biological family can request the baby back. This was not as nerve-racking as I thought it would be. I did not guard my heart just in case. As far as I was concerned, this was my child for however long I have him and I will love him because that's what he needs.

We have had him two months now and it feels like he was always supposed to be with us. The Little Man tells everyone he can about his baby brother. He is so happy.

But the waiting is not over.

We have to wait for our day in court for the Order of Placement, which transfers guardianship of the Tiny Man from child protective services to us. Then after that, we have to wait for the finalized adoption. Again, like every other aspect of adoption we've experienced so far, there's no clue how long we'll wait. So the wait is not over!

In the meantime, we just keep living and enjoying our little family.

~ To Be Continued ~

December 18, 2015

Driving While Autistic

There are a lot of Autistic people who can't or don't drive. Then there are people like me, who just love it. For me, driving represents absolute freedom. Often when I'm driving all by myself, I think about the scene in Rain Man where he keeps repeating, "I'm an excellent driver."

I enjoy the sensation of speed when I'm in control of it. So while I don't like most rides or roller coasters, I am happy to drive myself. I also sometimes get car sick as a passenger, but not as a driver, so I much prefer driving myself. 

I practised a lot before getting my license and I really think my attitude and motivation had a lot to do with it. I convinced myself I was capable and I really wanted that sense of freedom. I firmly believe each autistic knows themselves and their limits, and if they feel like they can do it, they should give it a try (barring other possible health issues like epilepsy that could make it dangerous).

I also think driving actually benefits me in a few interesting ways:

I suffer from meralgia paresthetica in my left leg. I recently started driving a manual transmission car, so this is my clutch leg. One of the ways to prevent meralgia pain is to change positions or move frequently, so driving and using the clutch actually helps prevent my pain. 

Driving, especially a manual car, keeps me focused and in the present moment. I have much less anxiety because my brain is kept busy with what I am doing. Driving is a great way for me to clear my head and relax. 

I know my limits and stick within them. I think since many of us can be very rigid or rule-based, I would guess that those of us who do drive are very cautious drivers who stick to the rules. 

I don't want Autistic people to rule themselves out right off the bat, and certainly not after trying just a few times. Everything takes practise, so if it's really something you want to do, you should see it as a long term exercise that will get better with time and practise. 

December 16, 2015

Head Lice Prevention

Last school year started with an epic breakout of head lice at the school. I guess all the kids who went to summer camp brought it with them? Nevertheless, I went out and started arming myself just in case. I got head lice twice as a child, so I know what that itching and trouble is like. I really didn't want to see it come into our home, so I started looking into how I could possibly prevent it.

In addition to going to the pharmacy and getting a medical treatment shampoo and lice comb to have on hand just in case, I also found some products that might deter lice from ever setting up home.

eco.kid lice prevention shampoo and Fairy Tales Rosemary Repellent Conditioning Spray picture by OneQuarterMama.ca.
First I found Fairy Tales Repel Conditioning Spray. I had made my own essential oil blend originally, but it smelled kinda funky. I'm happy I bought this one because it smells really nice. I sprayed the boy's head every day before he left for school, as well as all his hats and hoods.

I use it on my own hair as well, and I like the level of conditioning. It makes my hair very soft (and I have course, frizzy hair).

I then switched all of us to Eco.Kid Prevent Shampoo. It smells like lemons, yet still seems very mild.
I like the fact both products are made with essential oils and not strong chemicals.

Do they work?

Well, we didn't get lice, so whether that was just luck or the products, I can't say, but it did give me peace of mind. I think for that it was worth it, as well as the fact they both smell really nice and the boy didn't have any problems with them.

December 13, 2015

Waiting to Adopt

This is a post I keep drafting and stopping and trying to write. If you follow me on Instagram, you know we finally got the call for a potential adoption. The mother is not due to give birth for another couple of weeks, and she can change her mind at any time. The waiting has been awful! We were told it would be tough, but it's hard to put into words what it actually feels like until you're dropped into it.

Getting the call was like being handed a positive pregnancy test, except I hadn't peed in a cup. It's like, "wha? huh?" Maybe this is how men feel?

A million thoughts ran through my head - about the present and the future.  Once I got over the "is this really happening?" feeling, I couldn't help but start to plan and wonder. One minute everything is the same as always and the next you know huge changes will be coming along, you just don't know when or for sure.

Picture of three sets of feet and an empty pair of shoes with orange text across saying, "our family is growing by two feet" by OneQuarterMama.ca

I started going into nesting mode - cleaning and organizing clutter in the house. Luckily, my friends did with me as well, and started to bring me baby things we may need.

The feelings I have now are mixed with excitement and fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of heartbreak. Adoption takes an incredible amount of trust and bravery on both sides.

Because of all the emotions I am going through, I started looking online for ways others can help us through this time. I could not find very much info, so I'm starting a list I hope can help us and others also going through The Wait:

I know you have questions, but you're not the only one asking me questions. On top of that, we're asking ourselves questions. So maybe try to keep your own questions to a minimum? Some answers will be apparent to everyone in time.

Please also understand that I can't or won't answer certain things. Some things I honestly don't know and others are just no one else's business. My child's story is theirs alone to tell and again, if it's important for you to know, you will have your answers in time.

I need you to know that as excited as I am, it is tempered by worry things won't work out and sadness for the loss my child and his mother will experience.

I need you to help me prepare my home and mind, the same way I would if I were pregnant. At the same time, we can enjoy our last moments of "freedom" before my life gets taken over by bottles and diapers. Invite me out for coffee, take me for a spa day - distract and pamper me like any mother-to-be.
I may not be able to hold a baby shower like a pregnant woman would, but you can still help me feel special, or maybe offer to babysit the Little Man, so Hubby and I can process alone a bit.

Understand it is very stressful to live under this amount of uncertainty - I might not always be in the best mood or want to talk about it.

Please tell me you will be there for me no matter what happens. I will need you in good times and bad. I am scared of the unknown and whether or not I will have anyone by my side if everything doesn't go as planned.