Since learning of my autism, I have been told on several occasions that it is unusual for people with this disorder to have a desire for marriage and children. It is just another phrase said by NT’s that tells me again how abnormal I am – not just in their world, but also in their opinion on how people with autism ought to act and feel.
From my perspective, however, there are three autistic traits that have fed into this desire in my life.
The first is that as an undiagnosed autistic female, I have spent most, if not all of my life until this point, trying to conform to other peoples view of “normal.” For me, as a female, this meant getting married, having children, and being a homemaker. That may seem a limiting view in these times, but it was what I aspired to. It is what the women in my life did – and to me, I found peace and calm in the order of things.
As a teenager, however, that peace was shattered as others (especially teachers, guidance counselors, and my boyfriend’s mothers – despite the fact that is what they did themselves) fought this dream of mine as an unworthy goal.
When, in my late teens, my obsession with having children became noticeably strong, many more people came in the fight – not only against me being a homemaker, but even against my desire for children to begin with. At that point I not only felt attacked over my lifestyle choice, but also my character as a woman.
This was the cause of many choices and challenges in my life, one of the most being my resolve to prove them all wrong. Therefore I not only had my son much too young – though if I had my choice, it would have been younger – but also made children my life goal. I took my Early Childhood Education through college, ran a daycare, tried to adopt a sibling group of three, and prayed continuously for another pregnancy – possibly all against what was the best option for myself, as well as the children.
The second reason was that I had such trouble forming connections with people. No matter how I tried to fit in, it seemed that everyone older than a preteen saw through the facade, and knew… knew despite my very best efforts that not only was I not one of them, but that I never could be.
Children on the other hand had always accepted me. This knowledge, especially as I grew older and realized I could never be like other people, confirmed to me that the only way I could have the connections and friendships that I sought was to raise them myself.
While this actually was the case with my son, many of the children in my daycare, and my foster children before they were removed the first time, I begin to see that beyond the age of four or five, my continuous presence was perhaps not the best choice for them.
The third quality that moved me towards the desire of being married and having children, which I believe comes from being autistic, are my fixations. There are at least three of my strongest fixations throughout my life which fed this passion. I can’t even say which came first, as they were all present by the age of five.
My love of dolls, I have spoken of in previous posts. This is not an abnormal trait in young girls, however my fixation went beyond normal childhood play, as I talked to, and personified my dolls long beyond the childhood years, and in fact still do today. I loved how they smelled. I loved dressing them, and carrying them. I loved talking to them, and playing with them – and all of these carried forward into my desire for babies in my own life (though did not prepare me for the noise, sleepless nights, and unpredictability that children bring.)
I have also always had a fixation on boys. Perhaps it is because I spent a lot of my childhood following my brother, or that I come from a predominantly male family. Perhaps it is because boys are easier to get along with than girls, and are very often kinder, and more accepting as well.
I am not the kind of person who likes change in relationships. I do not, nor ever did I, want to move from one boyfriend to the next – or to have multiple love interests at a time. However, I have been fixated – even obsessed – over many boys over my lifetime. For the most part, it is more of a childlike, or preteen type of obsession, where the most I want from them is a tiny bit of attention – to say hello, to tease me a little, to sit beside me for a short time… anything more would terrify me, and has rarely been what I wanted.
All of my boyfriends, and my husband as well, were friends first. I couldn’t have dated them any other way. I haven’t had a lot of friends in my life. I haven’t had a lot of boyfriends, either – but boys, for the most part, were the only people who seemed to accept me for who I am. They seemed to like my silence, rather than fear it. They seemed to like how shy I was, and how hard it was for me to talk. A few… a very few, on their own initiative, were able to get close enough for me to call them “friend.” Even fewer got close enough to date, and then only one was during an age where I was old enough to get married.
My third fixation is on names. Whenever I thought of having children, dolls, pets… my first inclination was to name them. It has only been in the last couple of months – since I have been given my autism diagnosis, and am further analyzing my motivations in life – that I have realized this might very well have been the top driving factor in my obsession with having so many children.
You see, I have noticed that I am pretty much incapable of looking at every side of a decision at once (or sometimes at all.) There have always been, therefore, multiple reasons for every choice I have made, which build up little by little, with one reason at a time.
However, in all of the time I have thought about how many children I would like, or how I would envision raising them, the very first, and the very strongest desire, was to give them names. It isn’t a reason to have children – to give them a name – this I know. If someone had asked me in the past if this was the reason I wanted to have children, I would have thought them ridiculous. I am not so sure anymore.
Yes I wanted to follow what I considered to be “normal” and this involved having children (but didn’t require so many.) Yes, I ached for the closeness of having people in my life, and believed I could only achieve such a relationship with my own children. Yes, I wanted to feed them, clothe them, hold them, teach them, and watch them grow (though I could not envision how overwhelming that might be at times) but as I now look at all of my reasons for this desire in my life, and match that up with who I know myself to be, I now believe the top, and most ridiculous reason of all, for me to want children is so that I could name them.
And so my desire to be married and have children, when pulled apart and analyzed from multiple sides, can – in my opinion – be directly correlated to my autistic traits, though initially, they don’t appear that way.