PEPS mom, Colleen, works part time in her career in marketing now that her two kids are both in school. She shared a story with us about the importance of community, when she joined a PEPS Group in the North Bend, Snoqualmie and Issaquah region.
My husband and I live in North Bend with our two sons, who are ages 6 and 7. We moved here in 2007 from Atlanta. When I was pregnant with our first child, my neighbors told me about their PEPS group and I personally saw them getting together with their small children and was impressed that being a mom could also be so fun. Many of my friends in other parts of the country had described motherhood as lonely—so this really caught my attention. One of those neighbors has a younger sister who had a due date close to mine. She encouraged us to look into PEPS and we ended up in the same group—a really large group of ladies from North Bend, Snoqualmie and Issaquah. We first met on May 5, 2010.
I really enjoyed those weekly meetings and we continued to get together socially after PEPS officially ended. My first child was a “perfect” infant—we didn’t experience the issues other group members had with nursing, sleeping, developmental milestones, etc.
I knew these were families where I could safely work with my son to bring him into the fold—isolating him forever would have been the worst thing for him.
I soon became pregnant with my second child and, in my third trimester, started seeing troubling signs from our toddler. Using information my PEPS leader had shared about a local organization, I had my son evaluated and within weeks we had an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis (Asperger’s) at age 2. But even before that, I had started pulling away from invitations from the group because my “perfect” toddler was having constant meltdowns—especially at playdates—and I was embarrassed that I no longer had it all together and that I was so emotionally drained that I no longer wanted to socialize. Once we had the diagnosis, I didn’t want to see anyone—I was extremely depressed. I was very overwhelmed with a newborn and navigating the world of autism. To their credit, many of those ladies didn’t let me fade away. They are still in my life and I see quite a few of them regularly. Many of the husbands have become friends, too, in the last 8 years.
This group of ladies taught me a lot—about parenthood and friendship even when things don’t look pretty and you have no idea what your next step is. Over time in PEPS, I learned being a mom isn’t about knowing everything, it’s more about having a place to ask questions, listen, or just talk and know you’re not the only one to have tough days. Honestly, I don’t know that I would have recognized signs of autism if not for my PEPS group talking about it and me regularly observing how my son interacted relative to other kids his age.
It also was a group of people that probably didn’t even know they were holding me accountable for my actions. I really wanted to isolate myself and my autistic child so we could avoid how hard social interactions are—but I knew these were families where I could safely work with my son to bring him into the fold—isolating him forever would have been the worst thing for him.
Today, most folks do not realize he is diagnosed with Asperger’s (as well as a few other autism spectrum disorders). He has lots of friends and functions just fine in a regular classroom and he does great at playdates and sleepovers—teachers and other parents describe him as extraordinarily polite and kind—and I think that has something to do with being accepted by those first friends in his life.
I’d like to think his PEPS Peeps also benefit from knowing a child with special needs. Although we don’t see these ladies every week, like we used to when we were actively in PEPS, I always enjoy my time with them, whether it’s a planned get together or running into each other in the community. No matter how lives diverge, the people in your PEPS group were present during an unforgettable time and they always have a place in my life.