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My Mother didn't sleep for years

Uncategorized Apr 07, 2020

This would have been 1979/80.

Mum bouncing me on her knee, you'll notice a familiar expression for many autistic bubbies on my face.

We're taking in so much information all of the time, all that sensory goodness and badness, along with voices, faces, all of it.

It's a lot and can leave us feeling extremely overwhelmed.

I remember a lot about my childhood, that autistic memory is absolutely brilliant for long term stuff, whilst not so great in the short term.

Yesterday's breakfast? No idea.

Laying in my cot, being passed a bottle of milk, not able to yet speak?

I'm there. I can even taste the milk.

Tonight on the phone with Mum, I was laughing about my eldest and my youngest girls being the same..

Constant interruptions, unable to wait, even at almost 22.

And I get it.

Mum and I laughed.

She remarked that I was like my girls, and as much as I was full on, chatty, asking a million questions, coming across as perhaps confident, I was anxious.

I know I was anxious. I can reflect on the behaviours as clues.

Did you know that many of our anxious little people will ask us to do things like help clean them up after a loo visit until they're a bit older than their peers?

Many parents, particularly of children with a PDA profile often report assisting their children with toileting up until the age of ten or beyond.

I check that box.

"MUUUUUUUUUM?!".. I'd scream down the hallway, I can still hear the echo of my shouting off the bathroom walls..


I must have been at least seven or eight at that stage.

Until I was around twelve, I yelled for a drink several times a night, every single night.

I'd wake from my sleep (and I never slept well), and yell for Mum to get me a drink.

"Muuuuum?!.." until I heard her feet moving along the squeaky floors..

"Can I please have a drink?"

And she'd get it and bring it in to me.

When I would stay with my grandparents, I'd sleep on a single bed in Nan and Pop's room.

Nan learnt very quickly to bring a packed lunch to bed and having it sitting on the bedside table.

Sandwiches, cordial, milk and biscuits.

I'd ask for milk, she'd bring me milk and I'd say I wanted cordial.

I'd wake and say I was hungry and wanted a sandwich please.

She'd make me a corned beef sandwich with relish and I'd say I wanted biscuits please.

The anxiety.

I remember being in hospital at six years old with a virus..

I woke in the night and called for Mum

"Muuuuuuum?!...." before realising she wasn't there.

It was anxiety.

Needing my backside wiped, calling out for drinks, asking for food..

What I really wanted was reassurance, connection, to know that an adult was present and attentive.

Otherwise I felt disconnected and terrified.

Little autistic minds wander into scary places when we're alone, dreams can be scary and it's quite common for us to have night terrors.

Tonight on the phone, I told Mum I did those things because I was anxious and was checking to see that she was still there.

"Well where in the bloody hell else would I be, Kristy?" she said and we laughed.

She told me she averaged about four hours sleep a night and I realised I had never really thought about that.

I consult with families every week around raising our incredible children and how to care for ourselves amongst it all, and I had never really considered my own Mother's lack of sleep and space.

I was glued to her.

I still remember what her voice sounded like through her chest as I slept on her lap.

I slept in her bed.

I remember how painful it was to have to begin sleeping in my own bed and my own room at around 12 and there were many nights I snuck in with my blankets and slept at the foot of her bed well into my teens.

Don't even get me started on showers and teeth brushing..

But that's a story for another time.

We were that family.

I was the little person in that family.

Just like yours and mine today.

And hey, we turn out okay. We turn into adults that tell the world on social media that our Mums wiped our bums well into our primary years.
Kristy Forbes
inTune Pathways


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