After Ben was born, I took a long hard look at my educational experience and decided rather than a future where I asked people if they would prefer fries or a salad with that, I’d change my career path entirely. To a field I knew I didn’t like, but would provide me with a real income: nursing.

Nursing school, for those not in the know, requires a schedule that between the hospital hours and the classroom hours, you barely have a chance to wipe your own ass. Both living 45 minutes away from school and any hospital I might be stationed in meant that I was out of the house for an additional hour and a half (at the very least).

Ben’s father also lost his job around this time, and refusing to get another one in his field, he waited for over a year to find a new job. Which meant that insurance for Baby Ben needed to be purchased. So I went back to work as a waitress (where I did ask if people would like fries with that) for the few remaining hours left once nursing school took it’s share.

I’d moved Ben and I back in with my parents once I realized that my future with Nat was going to be measured in the minutes rather than years category, and I relied heavily on my mother to help me out with taking care of Ben.

It was an ideal arrangement in many regards: it was free, easy, and didn’t involve being verbally abused most days. But in terms of drawbacks, there were many. First and foremost, my parents didn’t seem to believe that I had the capacity to take care of a baby myself, and questioned most of the decisions I made by issuing massive ultimatums.

To give you an example for contexts sake, I’ll tell you of how at about 2 months of age, I took Ben to the doctor to get his shots. Typical, right? Well, that evening, I decided to take Ben (who had kept me up most of the night thanks to the reversal of his days and nights) to Nat’s parents house, where I could get some rest alone. My mother, telling me how selfish and horrid I was for taking Ben out when his immune system was “delicate,” (apparently, in her world, shots = immunosuppression) informed me that if I did this, she would not watch him for me for a week.

Not exactly the sort of decisions I would expect to lose me babysitting privileges or anything. It wasn’t like I was deciding which bar to take him to or which bong hit to blow in his face. I may have been young, but I wasn’t stupid.

But I learned pretty quickly that in order to both keep the peace and prevent my mother from having a breakdown of sorts and thus losing my only babysitting option (I was broke as a joke after buying diapers, formula, and insurance for Ben), I kept my mouth shut. It seemed easier that way.

When I was feeling especially bad about the whole situation, I’d imagine a time when I would no longer live with them and I could parent as freely as I chose.

Being gone approximately 23 hours a day had the unfortunate side effect of not being able to spend much time with my bizarre young son. He wasn’t diagnosed as autistic until he was 2, so I spent those two years feeling pretty miserable about myself each and every time I was ignored or screamed at by him when I’d go in for a hug. Even as a baby, he preferred to play alone on the floor rather than be held by me.

Time marched on and his eccentricities grew. And in addition, something I’d never really expected to happen occurred: he formed his only attachment to my mother. It made sense, I mean, I was gone all the time, I couldn’t exactly imagine how dropping out of school to be his full time caregiver would help us in the long run, so I comforted myself by remembering how plenty of kids went to daycare every day. And they still (presumably) loved their parents.

I graduated school a year after Ben’s autistic diagnosis, and a couple months after that, I married Dave. We moved out together officially after school was done, and I was finally able to parent my strange child without someone critiquing my every move.

I hoped that with each passing day, with each thoughtful art project he screamed at, with every plate of food he wept into, with all of the things I did for him, that his attachment to my mother would lessen somewhat. I didn’t want to replace her, and even in my anger and disgust with her, I never would have taken Ben away from her (or vice versa) for good, but I wanted to be okay, too. I wanted him to care for me, too.

It’s been 3 and a half years since then, and I wish I had some glowing report, like “and now he loves me, too!” but I don’t. Or if I did, it would be a lie. It’s like he’s a Siamese cat or something and can only bond to one person, and one person only. It doesn’t seem to matter what I do, how much I try, how terrible and guilty I feel, I can’t even compare to her in his mind.

I try my best to imagine any sort of scenario in which he doesn’t break down into tears when she leaves or when he’s forced to do something with his parents, I try to come up with any solution that would not diminish who she is to him, but highlight the fact that I’m okay too, but I can’t. There’s no good way to rectify the damage that was done to him by my perpetual absence (no matter how necessary it was at the time) in those obviously critical months.

And there’s no way to rectify the damage that’s been done to me, either. I want nothing more than to have a normal relationship with Ben, but it just doesn’t seem to come to us, no matter what I do. I want to not care when he cries for her. I want to smile knowingly when he tells me how much he wishes he were with her. I want it to not feel like my heart is being cut out of my chest cavity and thrown onto the floor whenever I’m reminded of this.

But I can’t seem to make any of this happen, no matter how hard I try. And I don’t know what to do.

Comments = full of the awesome. Like gravy. I can haz an RSS RSS feed .

56 Responses to The Scars That Never Quite Heal

  • Heather P. says:

    I’m sorry.

  • Tina says:

    Me too :(

  • Kelley says:

    Oh babe. Autism is a strange and wonderful thing. Boo attached to me. His father did not exist. He would look right through him.

    Then my husband had a breakdown, he was home all the time. All of a sudden Boo started interacting with him. Was it because he saw more of him? Was it because he matured a little? Was it the therapy, lack of therapy, hormones, the fact that MPS would give in to his whims more than me? Who knows.

    I cried reading this. I so understand your pain.

    <3

  • Oh, B. You have such a way with words. My heart goes out to you. You did what you had to do at the time.

  • mumma boo says:

    I’m sorry, too, Becky. I can feel your frustration and heartbreak coming through the screen, my friend. Stop feeling guilty – you don’t need to – you were and are doing your best. I wish there was more I could do than just send these {{{{hugs}}}}. Hang in there.

  • kalakly says:

    You did the very best thing for the both of you under really shitty circumstances. I’ve told you about my friend who has two autistic boys, She raised them alone, but like you, relied heavily on her parents when her marriage fell apart. But both boys were raised the same way, in the same house, with the same set of circumstances. One of them would do anything for her and counts on her for his every breath, to the other, she could be pretty much anyone to him in his world. He just doesn’t attach to her the same way. They have good days and bad days, she is always there for him but there are days when she just isn’t what he wants and he makes that very clear to her. My point is that it is possible Ben would have had the same attachment to her, whether you were there or not, it may just be how he is wired. And he is only 3 so there is still lots of time for his brain to develop and his attachments to change as he grows.
    I can’t imagine how bad it must suck to have to deal with it but try not to beat yourself up too much about fault. There is so much we can blame ourselves for as parents, trying to make a better life for you and your baby by going to school and having your parents watch him is not one of them, not by a long mile.
    You’re a great mom, dude. Totally great:)
    xxoo

  • mrs.spit says:

    I think that’s absolutely the closest definition of unconditional love I have ever heard.

    I’m sorry Becky. I’m sorry that Ben’s love of you is one more thing that autism has taken from all of you, and I’m sorry that you have to live with this visible and painful reminder of it.

  • Betts says:

    Aww, don’t blame yourself. It’s was a bad situation and you handled it in a way that was best for you and your son. It’s still a heartbreaking story and one that I can’t truly related to, but I hope it gives you some comfort to know that I think you’re a strong and smart woman for surviving the way you did.

  • heather says:

    You did what you had to do. Period. You may not have been there to watch him stack blocks, but *you* were building a life for him — the family he has now is proof and you wouldn’t be where you are if you hadn’t pushed through like you did. If you can, stop by the blog of my good friend Lyndsey — she’s the last one listed on my blogroll. Okay?

    Thinking of you, Becky.

  • Em says:

    I don’t have any words of comfort, other than I’m thinking of you, and so trully sorry for your heartache.

    Em

  • Kristen says:

    Aw Becky, my heart is breaking for you. very hard.

  • Oh honey. I wish I could write something to make you feel better. Nothing seems enough. I haven’t cried in a week, but that story made me weep.

  • giggleblue says:

    i think you did the best with what you had at that time. you made a plan that would help you both have a happier future and afford you the fund to take care of your child.

    no one can fault you for that.

    at ben’s age, autism or not, he doesn’t understand those things quite yet – the things parents do for their children for their long term best interest. to be honest, he may not understand at age 18 – hell i didn’t.

    but one day he will. until then, love him as you continue to do and as time moves on, if you feel comfortable in doing so, you can explain to him the choices he made. he may not understand, but at least he will know.

    hugs.

  • Lola says:

    I don’t really have any advice at all, so I’ll just relay to you my one and only experience with autism. My cousin has three children with autism, two incredibly gorgeous girls and the most handsome boy you have ever seen. His saint of a wife stayed home every single day since the first one was born, did everything under the sun possible for her children with early intervention and specialists, and yet one girl only wants her dad (who was always away working to support the family). The other girl only relates to her grandfather for some reason, and the boy has no connection to any human being.

    So, from what I’ve seen, my sweet friend, it has nothing to do with whether you were with him 24/7. It is a cruel, cruel thing, this autism, and my cousin’s wife has bawled to me countless times about the exact same feelings you’re having. She desperately wants them to light up for her just once, but it never happens.

    I’m so sorry for you, just as I’m sorry for her, but I am sure that it has nothing to do with you going to do what you had to do to make a life for your family. These special kids attach to certain people for unknown reasons, if they ever attach to people at all. Hugs to you.

  • I believe the Autism has more to do with this than you or your child.

  • Natalie says:

    Oh I am so very sorry…. I get all weepy reading this. Just because…. it sucks for you. :(

  • lindz says:

    Oh my god Becky that is so heartbreaking. I feel that way too, I think my son prefers his grandma, who he conveniently calls “mama” to me, or the times he says mommy, and I answer him and he says “no mama”

    as if I didn’t feel like a shitty as hell mother, and being told I was so from my own mom, I gotta compete for my sons love and affection.

    it is a very messed up and sorry situation I know, and I am sorry you’re in it too.

  • pamajama says:

    Damn, if there was ever the perfect storm to make you feel like shit, this is it. And I’m guessing it’s got to affect every area of your life, even when great things are happening with your family. I’d probably allow him to spend as much time with her as works for everone . . . but does that make it worse then when he comes home? The most important piece is to lay any blame to the side and never pick it up again . . . cause it doesn’t help in the least.

    Augh. Mommy/kid pain is the worst kind. XO

    p.s. I practically stuck my head up my own ass to be with my son as much as possible and quite often I’m still convinced he hates me. Maybe he’d like me more if I’d been home less!

  • Painted Maypole says:

    oof. are you doing any autism support groups or anything?

  • Lannie says:

    *big hug*

  • KT says:

    Oh my. I have no advice. Just some *hugs* for you. You did what you had to do, school and work. You had to for him. Do not for one minute beat yourself up. But I know, it hurts. I wish it did not.

  • Ms. Moon says:

    This is just a heartbreaking situation. You cannot go back and undo what is done and if you had to do it all over again, you would probably have to do it all exactly as you did.
    So. Go from here.
    Just hang in there and continue to be Ben’s mom and I swear to you, eventually, he will “get it.” I like the advice someone gave about an autism support group. That might help. At least you could vent in an environment where others truly understand.
    Becky- you are a good mother and you are Ben’s mother. No child is ever the fantasy child we carry in our wombs. They come out with their own agendas, blessings and disabilities. And we learn how to love them as we live with them, each in the way they need.

  • Badass Geek says:

    That’s it.

    I’m coming over right now to give you a hug.

  • apathetic bliss says:

    I am sorry that you have this to deal with. You sound like a loving good mother and Ben loves you even if he does not show you in the ways you expect.

    I did not immunize my children afetr much research and consultation with my grandparents, all of whom are doctors, who told me to wait until they were older (you get the same dose despite being a baby or twelve years old). I breastfed my children for over two years to ensure my immunities would be passed through to them during their young years. Have you looked into the correlation between immunizations and autism?

    I also feel compelled to comment on your occasional slags against waitstaff. I make more serving than my friend who is a nurse. It is that ignorant attitude that lends itself to condescension. At least I don’t have to clean up after sick people because of my pride!

  • electriclady says:

    I’m so sorry.

  • Deb says:

    Oh honey, I am so sorry for your obvious pain. I wish I had a magic cure for you. And I surely don’t want to make you feel any worse, but as you said, she was his primary care giver for so long. There is really no surprise that he has such a strong bond with her. That truly breaks my heart for you. {{HUGS}}

  • guilty noodles says:

    I had no idea… it’s really difficult to understand how an autistic mind works.

    My autistic stepson, who I’ve helped raised for 10 years, used to long for his mother. I’m talking about the same mother who heartlessly abandoned him at the age of 5, moved to Israel and had her own children without informing him. When he went to visit her, he was in absolute shock meeting his three half siblings. To this day, no matter how much trauma she has caused him, he still paints her as an angel.

    As sad as it is that Ben can’t express his gratitude for you, you’ve done everything for him and you’re a fabulous mother for that. I know it’s our nature to need to bond with our children and it’s heartbreaking when we can’t. The fact is, you’re Ben’s mother, you’ve always been and will be there for him and that will never change. That’s all he needs, even if he can’t express it.

  • birdpress says:

    Aww, I’m so sorry, Becky. My nephew is about 2 and a half now and he completely ignores his mother (my sister) when “Nana” is around. Nana babysat him for the first year or so after mommy went back to work, and he totally bonded with her. Nana is around much less now but that matters not at all; he still chooses her whenever he can. My sister seems to just accept it now, although I’m sure it bothers her at least a little.

    Just saying you’re not alone; I’m sure MANY mothers have to work through this.

  • Anjali says:

    You are an amazing mother, and I’m sorry this has been so difficult for you.

  • Betty M says:

    I am so sorry.

  • Fancy says:

    I was a single mother from the time my son was born. I was very lucky that my mother and my sisters were there to help me. My son spent more time with Miss Anna at daycare than he spent with me. He would cry when I dropped him off because he didn’t want me to go, then cry when I picked him up because he didn’t want to leave. When he started talking, he called everyone Momma. Momma Aunty, Momma Anna, Momma Nana. Oddly enough, he called me Meema. I don’t know anything about autism, so I don’t have some golden nugget here for you. Hopefully time will make it better. Wish I could give you hug through monitor.

  • Cricket says:

    What is it with all the sad blogging today?

    Little by little, I am learning what you struggle through on a daily basis. I wish some Jenny McCarthy-like miracle for you in your own way.

  • CLC says:

    I’m sorry becky. That’s rough.

  • Edward says:

    I hear you…from another parent with an eccentric, strange kid..aka as autism….it sucks and it’s hard but your right…nothing you do is gonna change it. I’m sorry. No advice…just I hear you and I’m sorry.

    I too am the poo…he prefers Rick to me. I may have given him life and taken him to all his OT, therapy, school stuff but I’m just “that person.” He’s 16 now and it does nto matter as much but I remember when it did. I too had dreams of cuddling and being loved and loving. No such luck here. Now he’s just a damn pain in the ass at 16.

  • Meg says:

    I’m so sorry. HUG

  • Nissa says:

    Becky,
    I am so sorry. Ralphie does not have severe autism but the word has been thrown around many times. He is the same way with my sig other as your son is with your Mom. The most heartbreaking thing for me was when he had yet another mri and as he came out of anesthetic he screamed for his Dad and not me. I know that feeling all to well and it sucks. Sending you a virtual hug

  • baseballmom says:

    Aw, girl…you did what you had to do at the time, to get you and your baby away from a bad situation, period. You bettered yourself, and your babe was safe while you did it…that’s what you have to think about. I hope your relationship continues to improve with time.

  • Maria says:

    My son spends about 45 hours a week at my mom’s house. If a couple of days go by (say, the weekend) without him seeing her, he goes nuts wanting to be at Grammy’s house.

    I can’t pretend to be in the same situation you’re in at all, but I’ve felt a shred of that heartache and I’m so sorry.

  • Patty says:

    My son is not have autism but he has a stronger bond with my mother than he does with me. When he was born I had strong PPD. He bonded with my husband and they were like two peas in a pod. If he ever had a boo-boo he ran to Daddy. His whole world was his Daddy and I was the maid who happened to live in the house with them.

    Then my husband died last year and my son and I were forced to bond. Out of necessity he spends more time with my mom than he ever did and now all he wants is grandma. Every morning he asks to see her. Everytime I pick him up from her house he cries.

    It hurts. I have cried many tears over this. I am also scared. I know that my mom is older and may die before my son is grown. For him to lose her, like he lost his daddy will be devestating.

    The only thing I tell myself is that I am happy he loves someone, and that someone loves him unconditionally. If it can’t be me at least he has her. I refuse to taint their relationship with any hints of the jealousy and saddness that it brings me.

    I understand what you are feeling and it is okay to feel that way.

  • Amy says:

    I’m so sorry Becky…thinking of you and sending (((hugs))) your way.

  • Parenting can hurt so much.

    I wish I could help. I think you did the very best that you could back then, and you are doing the very best that you can now.

    I don’t know what else you can do except to keep doing what you’re already doing.

    I really wish I could be more helpful.

  • Becky – the thing they don’t tell you is that no matter how good a mother or father you are sometimes you just can’t make it right. Or make it feel right.

    It is never more true than when you you have to make the hard choices when your child is very young and you are on your own.

    Be gentle with yourself.

  • Sarah says:

    Oh Becky. Wish I had a magic wand! :( Big HUGS.

  • heather says:

    My mother used to try to interfere with the way I raised my daughter too. If she hadn’t done that, I might have been able to finish college. Instead, I couldn’t bring myself to live with her so that it was affordable, and things worked out the way that they did, and I still work minimum wage jobs.

  • SciFi Dad says:

    Damn. Just, DAMN. I don’t know what I would do if I were in your shoes.

    (I mean, I sort of am, since my daughter prefers her mother over me, and will often cry for her even when it’s the two of us and I’m watching Dora in a tiara… hypothetically speaking, of course. But it’s not exactly the same, because she’s not my mom, so it’s sort of understandable.)

  • SCY says:

    I’m sorry Becky, my heart ached reading this post. I do know that you did what was best for him at the time and that one day you’ll forgive yourself for that time spent away from him.

    HUGS
    xxx

  • mandy says:

    Wow. I am so sorry.

  • stacey k says:

    I guess this is a double edged sword for you Becky….on one had you have an autistic that has bonded with someone….there are many that bond with NO ONE….but on the other hand….he hasn’t bonded to you his mom….that’s is heartbreaking for a mother not to be able to have that connection with her child.
    I agree that an autism support system for you will be critical in the future….and someday you will have that bond w/ Ben…when you least expect it.

  • Susan says:

    That was a beautifully written and heartbreaking post. Are there support groups maybe where Ben goes to school or gets his therapy? Even online perhaps? I’m sure there are parents who’ve experienced similar things.

    I am impressed with anyone who makes the difficult choices that you did. You could easily have chosen not to go to school or get out of a shitty marriage but you did the right and hard things. THAT’s what parenting is all about. You rock, Momma!

    By the way, can I slap your Mom?

  • kbrients says:

    Oh my goodness how terrible for you.

    Parenting is about making those hard choices. You did the best that you could. It is fine & Wonderful that he loves your mother…. but that does not tkae away the fact that YOU are his mom, and he loves you for that even if he does not know it yet.

  • Kymberli says:

    Parenting should never have to hurt, especially not like this. Hugs, Becky.

  • Oh Becky … what a heartfelt post. I can’t even imagine what must go through your mind. And I can so empathize with the guilt you feel … not to mention the pain when having to witness the attachment that Ben has to your mom. Just know that you’ve done the best thing that was possible in the situation you were in. And know that I’m thinking of you … HUGS!

  • Coco says:

    Oh, Baby. That’s a gobsmack if ever there was one.

    I wish I could say something profound and wise, but all I’ve got is I feel you, I’m here, I wish I could make it better and easier for you.

    You’re in my heart today.

  • ewe_are_here says:

    Heartbreaking, just heartbreaking.

    Have you asked your son’s pediatrician about a support group for you… ?

  • LilSass says:

    I don’t know if I have ever read such an emotionally wrenching post as this. I have zero input, zero words that haven’t already been said. I have no experience with this and thus, have nothing of value to say except I am sorry. And I wish I could fix it for you. And I sending you a hug and a glass (or bottle) of wine (once you deliver, of course!)

    *sigh*

  • Kristine says:

    Oh Becky, this sucks. I’ve been sitting on this post for a few days because I wanted to make sure I wrote the right thing.

    I’m sure from reading my blog you know that Noah wasn’t attached to us for a long time. In his case I think from the adoption more than the autism. Attachment therapy helped us so much!!

    I think Noah’s autism is not as severe on the spectrum as your son’s, but it might be worth checking in with an attachment therapist and see if it might be helpful.

    I didn’t realize quite how bad the attachment with his was until this past year when I had Kiel and could see what a normal child-parent relationship was.

    *hugs*

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