On Tuesday, May 14, Michelle had a doctor’s appointment with her obstetrician. We only had two days left before she was due and everything was normal. After we got to the exam room, the doctor started an ultrasound to hear baby Jayce’s heart. I was sitting there watching what he was doing because I find most technology very interesting. I was lost in my technological imagination thinking about how ultrasound works when my mind snapped back to the external present moment. I thought, “It’s been an awful long time and he seems to be looking harder”. His back was to me, so I really didn’t see everything he was doing. It must have been ten minutes or more before he put down the ultrasound emitter and said, “I think there’s a problem and I’m going to need another doctor in here to confirm it.” The doc left and Michelle said, “He thinks the baby’s dead. He was getting panicky.” “Oh, really?”, I said. Then, the doc shows up with another doctor and she took a look at the ultrasound too.
After a few minutes of watching her watch the screen, I realized that I didn’t see a heartbeat at all. I also realized I didn’t hear one either. I thought, “This doesn’t seem normal.” The lady doctor finally said to Michelle’s doctor, “No, I think you’re right. I don’t see one either.” Then she politely excused herself from the room.
The exchange that then occurred between Michelle and the doctor was one where an Aspie is definitely on the outside looking in. You know those conversations where no sentence has a specific subject, the wording is vague, the tension has increased and you can tell people are talking but there seems to be no explicit message being communicated. That was one of those conversations.
So, after some moments of this conversation, I finally raised my voice a little, partly out of frustration because I was clearly lost outside this conversation and to get the doctor’s attention. “So, are you saying the baby’s dead?” “Yes, he is dead”, the doctor said.
There are times in everyone’s life that the present circumstances change so dramatically that you are sure that you’ve been shifted into another dimension. Things change so instantaneously that you can ‘feel’ the shift from one reality to another. It is literally a reorientation to your new present. As soon as the doctor told me that Jayce was dead, I could feel the push of the reality change. Me, the chair I was sitting in and my own infinite consciousness, were pushed into an alignment of a reality I had not expected or hoped for. But, there I was right in the fucking middle of it. My first thought: Poor little guy, he didn’t get a chance. My next thought: Damn, I didn’t get a chance.
My particular version of autism has turned down the intensity of my emotions to about 1/3 or more of an NT’s (a person who doesn’t have autism). To some people, they might think that would be a wonderful state to be in. In some cases, it is. In cases of loss, I do think it is an advantage. I don’t feel the loss at the same level as neurotypicals. I don’t really miss loved ones or other people I have known because I’m just not able to form an emotional attachment that I would remember and then feel the lack of at a later time.
However, there is a flip side to this lack of attachment and inability to sense my own weak emotions. It was the guilt I felt for being me, the autistic me. I knew that I wasn’t going to miss my own son enough. To me, it felt as though I wasn’t going to be able to give him the respect and love that he deserved. I felt ashamed because I wasn’t going to be able to do it right. The very reason that I didn’t understand the world and how to live well and work well in it was the same reason I wasn’t going to miss my son. Realizing that the very core of who I was was keeping me from loving someone else the way they needed to be loved just to survive was very heartbreaking. I realized that in this social and emotional world, I wasn’t going to be adequate enough to love those who needed to be loved especially my own son.
Well, then, it’s a good thing I don’t have to love.
The happy ending to all of this, though, is, I am here for those people who can’t feel love. For those people who can’t tell when someone likes them. For those people who need a translator from NT to Autie and vice versa. For those people who can’t understand when they are being subtly bullied or manipulated. For those people who can’t understand when they are being loved.
It seems to me that we don’t need emotions of love more than we need demonstrations of it. Then we can all be sure we are loved.