MOTHERHOOD UNTOLD: PARENTING & AUTISM
Originally posted on the Fit4Mom blog
Written by: Eileen Lamb
*You are not alone. Our blog series, Motherhood Untold, tells the stories of real moms navigating the real challenges and struggles of motherhood. This month we're talking to Eileen Lamb about her family's experience with autism.
Hi Eileen! Thank you so much for chatting with us. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? We want to know about you, your family, your career. What makes you uniquely YOU?
Hi! I’m Eileen Lamb, I was born and raised in France. I came to Texas to be an au pair, in 2011, met my husband, and never left. I fell in love with the USA, and how much nicer people are here. I finally felt like I could be myself without fear of being mocked. I’m the mother of two sons, Charlie, and Jude, who are both on opposite ends of the autism spectrum and I’m also expecting a baby girl in October 2022. I’m a published author—I have written two books, All Across The Spectrum, and Be The One. I’m also a podcast host, blogger, photographer, and Senior Social Media Manager at Autism Speaks. Phew, that’s a lot!
That IS a lot! Let's focus on your most important title: Mama. How did your motherhood journey begin? Was it scary? Exciting? Stressful?
My oldest son, Charlie, was born in 2013. It was both exciting and scary. I was pretty young, 23, and had just moved across the world from my family. Despite the circumstances, I felt good about being a mom, it just felt right. My pregnancy wasn’t easy, and there were some bumps (no pun intended) along the way but Charlie was born healthy at 40 weeks, weighing 6lbs and with an extra finger on his right hand!
How is your motherhood journey different or unique?
My motherhood journey took a turn when Charlie was 18 months old and stopped talking. He stopped interacting with us and had daily violent meltdowns (if you're curious, here’s a post with all the signs of autism we saw in him before 2y/o and what to look for in toddlers and babies: https://theautismcafe.com/checklist-signs-symptoms-autism-babies-toddlers/).
A few months later, he was diagnosed with Level 3 (severe) autism. He’s now 9 and still nonverbal. He can now communicate some needs and wants through an app on his iPad. There are a lot of challenges still but we’re making slow progress. When my youngest son, Jude, was 5, he was diagnosed with Level 1 (mild) autism. We knew in the back of our minds that it was a possibility. Jude’s struggles are a lot less severe than Charlie’s. He’s a VERY verbal, and social kiddo.
What has been the biggest challenge for you? Your spouse?
Did I mention I was also diagnosed with autism? A year after Charlie’s diagnosis, I was myself diagnosed with Level 1 Autism. It’s difficult at times because some of my challenges include noise sensitivity and a need to isolate myself, which are not easy to handle as a mother. It’s also difficult for me to see Charlie struggle so much, without being able to help him. On top of autism, Charlie’s also diagnosed with intellectual disability and ADHD. He requires 24/7 care and attention. He can’t even tell us if/when he’s in pain. He ended up in the ICU a few months ago, and no one could figure out why his blood pressure and heart rate were so dangerously low. Charlie isn’t able to point to if he’s pain. It’s all a guessing game.
What do you wish other mothers/parents knew about your situation? How can other mothers find support if they are facing similar challenges?
I want to say “social media” but it’s a double-edged sword. There is so much controversy in the autism community that it can be extremely overwhelming for newly diagnosed individuals and/or their parents. Find your tribe, and connect with people who are not judgmental and who understand that autistic individuals are unique. It’s okay to have hard days, it’s okay to cry. I wish people understood that you can be sad about your child being severely disabled and still love them with every fiber of your being.
Most importantly, you are not alone!
About Eileen (from her blog, The Autism Cafe):
Eileen Lamb, author of "All Across The Spectrum" and “Be The One,” is the founder of The Autism Cafe. She’s also a writer, photographer, and podcast host. Born in France, Eileen now lives in Austin, Texas, with her two sons, Charlie (9) and Jude (6), and their soon to be little sister. On her blog, she shares the ups and downs of raising a severely autistic child while being on the autism spectrum herself.