As a young, single mother, Kelly has always been well-equipped at handling difficult situations.
At 18, she gave birth to her son Kaleb and continued pursing her degree in journalism.
At first her concerns weren’t unlike any other mother’s — diapers and sleepless nights. But when Kaleb approached his school years without having yet said a full sentenced, Kelly realized he was having difficulties and the biggest challenge of her life began.
“When he was four, he went to a head start program and they did an early intervention screening. They said he had a speech delay, learning delay and that I needed to get him checked out. I was still in college and didn’t know where to go to get him properly diagnosed at this time. I counted on the school to do that.”
Kelly was looking for answers, but she found the school wasn’t equipped to give Kaleb what he needed. Instead of support, they labeled him as an ‘emotional disturbance.’
After a long week of comprehensive testing, a Christian hospital diagnosed Kaleb with “oppositional defiance disorder.” Kelly did her research and learned it was a title the medical community typically used when diagnosing young Black boys. She then took Kaleb to a psychiatrist who diagnosed him with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism. It was the first official confirmation of what Kelly had begun to suspect.
Kelly initially tried medication for Kaleb, but she hated how withdrawn he became. She read every book, blog and resource to become an advocate of Kaleb.
“Over the course of the last six or seven years since his diagnosis, he has done social groups, behavior therapy and most significantly, inclusive activities with his peers and other kids that are on the spectrum. Now he’s doing extremely well in school.”
Then something big happened to Kelly and Kaleb. Kelly reconnected with a friend who would later become her husband. The three of them moved in together.
During the honeymoon phase, things were great. The couple wanted to conceive right away. But after some initial difficulty, Kelly was diagnosed with endometriosis. The pain Kelly had been having since her teen years finally had a name. Kelly had surgery to remove the endometriosis to increase her chances of conceiving. The surgery was successful and she was pregnant within two months.
For years, it had just been Kelly and Kaleb. While Kaleb’s father had always played an active role in his son’s life, Kelly and Kaleb had lived on their own. But now, there was a new man and a new baby in the household. After giving birth, Kelly’s endometriosis returned and she was diagnosed with postpartum. And after 10 years of being an only child, Kaleb was also having a hard time adjusting.
“I was diagnosed with postpartum at the same time Kaleb was going through puberty and he needed me to help him understand. Just as it always is, I had to put myself to the side. I was coping with endo-pain, taking care of the baby, making sure Kaleb was good and pretending everything was fine.”
Sadly Kelly’s battle with postpartum and a difference in parenting styles drove a wedge in between her and her husband and they are currently separated.
Kaleb, thankfully, is growing and thriving. After spending most of his schooling years in smaller, concentrated classrooms, he has recently joined the general science classes with his seventh grade class.
And as for Kelly’s personal experience, she says she is finally getting back to herself. She has moved into her own place and co-parenting with children’s fathers is going well. For her, the balance between parenting and her own personal self-care is the goal. Having survived chronic, debilitating pain and postpartum, she knows she’s strong enough to be the mother and woman she needs to be.