It’s always going to be hard trying to keep a strong healthy relationship going once you introduce children into the equation. It’s a hell of a lot harder if your child is diagnosed with autism. The extra stress and strain that it puts on a couple, even those with the strongest relationships, can be their undoing.
But what if your relationship wasn’t even strong or established to start with? Imagine taking the plunge with somebody you barely know. Someone for all intents and purposes, is a complete stranger. This is what happened with my partner Kerry and I. We had known each other for a matter of months before I fell pregnant with Jesse. I was told growing up that I would have a lot of trouble conceiving or may not ever fall pregnant due to a medical condition called endometriosis. But regardless of this and even though we were taking precautions, I still ended up pregnant in record speed. Don’t get me wrong, we had fallen head over heels in love with each other and were having the time of our lives. But, this didn’t change the fact that we knew next to nothing about each other and had never contemplated into a serious relationship in which we became parents.
The decision to keep Jesse and make a go of it not only came from the fact that Kerry and I believed we had found our soul mate but also that it may have been my only chance to be a mother. It was scary as hell and a massive risk but we were prepared to take it and we trusted each other enough to give it a red-hot crack. Whilst both experiencing the joys pregnancy brings, Kerry and I weathered a lot of storms early on in that ‘getting to know you period’. At a time when you are still supposed to be going on dates and taking things slowly, we were setting up house in a shed on Kerry’s parent’s 50 acre property and preparing for an unexpected child that I didn’t know if I was ready to have. I am usually a very calculated and careful person that likes to weigh all the pros and cons of a situations but something told me to let go and trust.
Both of us had just left failed long-term relationships. Kerry had even been married and divorced already but somehow we managed to run an earth moving business and save enough money for a deposit on some land. Nurturing a new relationship, becoming a parent, running a new business and building a house all in one go, have tested us to our breaking points as a couple. There were and still are moments I want to kill Kerry but then there are other moments when I know in my heart, I couldn’t do this with anybody else. Let’s face it, women are emotional creatures and men automatically try to fix everything. Having a child with autism in not something you can fix, but you will certainly encounter a ton of emotion. We are still working at understanding us, compromising and finding that happy medium. A place that does not come without battle scars. There have been some really great moments in my relationship and some really scary times where I thought there was no way we would make it. The one consistent thing that pulls us through every time is the love and dedication we have for our family and our special little man.
Jesse brought us and kept us together early on and we have achieved and experienced so much. The least we can do is hold on to that initial trust we had in each other and work together to put our everything into raising our son in a supportive, loving environment. I’m not saying we stay together only for Jesse but I am saying that being a parent to child on the ASD spectrum can be all-consuming. Trusting yourself and your partner is so important. In the really dark times that you have with each other, when you think there is no way forward, remember what you have already been through and trust that you made the right decisions. Parenting a child with Autism is desperately hard but is so important to take the time to look after your relationship. Kerry and I try on most days to find 20 minutes to sit down over a glass of wine and chat about our days. We also use our support network and ship Jesse off to the grandparents for a sleepover at least a few times a month. For both of our sanity we need that time together, whether its going out to dinner and a movie or just relaxing on our deck to some tunes over a bottle of wine.
I don’t believe in any one faith or god, but I do believe that for the struggles and hardships you face head on, you are rewarded and you grow stronger. On the days that you think you might be better off going it alone, stop…. take a breath…. and trust in each other. Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations, you don’t want to arrive and have nobody to share it with.