I wrote this back in October. Then I decided not to post it. Why? Because I feared judgement.
When it happened I blamed myself. I should have been watching every second. I should have been better. I had run a risk assessment of the field: I’d noted no heights to fall from, no water to fall in, no animals to fear. There were brambles to scratch and stones to bump, the usual risks. I knew there were poisonous plants (it’s the countryside, there are wildflowers, there are always poisonous plants), but they were not in bloom and would have died back, I also knew that they were horribly bitter, and had never heard of anyone being poisoned by them. I categorised them as a potential threat but not a realistic one. The older children knew not to eat things. The two year old was playing with them whilst my husband and I kept a vague eye on them nearby.
The reason for my pause before posting was that whilst it had all been judged a terrible accident that no one could predict, I was pre-diagnosis at that point. I was in the middle of the lengthy task of getting an NHS Autism diagnosis. I couldn’t help but wonder if my reception might change from “You did so well” to “It wouldn’t have happened to a neurotypical mother” once people knew I was autistic.
People’s incorrect preconceptions could get in the way.
But that was selling my autism short. So here it is. The story of the day that my autism saved my daughter’s life. Please leave any preconceptions at the door.
I usually like the rain. The sound it makes as it tumbles through the sky, each drop pounding its own drumbeat on whatever is highest.
I usually like how much it holds my notice, how other people walk through it hurriedly, whilst I look up and smile as the coldness taps its fingertips on my face.
I usually like the things my autism gives me. Not all of them, no one ever likes everything about anything. But mostly I can separate the bad bits off, the problems interacting, the difficulties building friendships, the exhaustion when I do interact, but today it feels like the world is pointing out all my edges.
That shouldn’t be the case. Not today. Today of all days I should be looking at the positives, but I’m not.
You see a year ago today my autistic brain saved my daughter’s life. Writing that sounds odd, but it’s true.
A year ago today, on a day of autumnal sunshine my daughter found a poisonous foxglove leaf in a field and ate it. We didn’t see it happen, her dad and I. She was playing happily with her older siblings.
Such a quick, small act. Such a meaningless moment.
When she started getting ill an hour later, it was my brain that took over. Within minutes of finding plant in her vomit, it had catalogued which plants were present, what could have caused it, what we needed to do in the worst case scenario.
My autistic brain had overridden my panic to gently ask the other children to describe the leaves, it had cross-referenced them against the ridiculous amount of usually unnecessary knowledge I have in my head, and it had come up with the right answer and a course of action.
In the time it took me to walk to the front door I had worked out what had happened, what we would do, how we would do it, and given everyone instructions.
Many people have said to me since, “I never would have thought of that. It never would have crossed my mind.” My husband had all the same data from the day as me, but his brain didn’t come to those conclusions. Pattern-searching, problem-solving did that.
One hospital led to another, three hours away from home, with a specialist unit. She was in intensive care for days, hooked up to machines, my bionic baby. All her noise silenced. I sat by her bed for a week just waiting to jump on the scales if they tipped the wrong way. Everything stopped when she went silent. Every strand led back to her.
Thankfully she is fine. She is better than fine, she is lively and irritating and joyful and mischievous and my constant companion on every adventure. It took months for her heart to fully recover, but it has.
It’s hard not to think of the “What if..?”
What if I’d thought it was just a stomach bug and put her to bed? No one would have seen her heart all a-flutter.
Today I am irritated by my autism. I want to be out there fighting for my rights and arguing the cause, but I know that excessive contact drains me. I know my current limits. I know I need that energy for me and my family, and that there’s only so much more I can do. I know that that gives other voices advantages over mine. I know that’s unfair.
On today of all days I should be eternally grateful that I think the way I do, but I guess I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t find aspects of myself frustrating at times.
I know in my heart that my brain has already done my life more good than I could ever express. If I didn’t think the way I do, I would not have put the pieces together. Autism isn’t a puzzle piece, it’s a completed jigsaw, put together by an autistic. It makes perfect sense.