there's an article floating around the interwebs right now written by a mom who blames herself for her son's autism. she lists all the things she did wrong that she believed contributed to his diagnosis, and says she'll never forgive herself for what she's done to her kid.
the article makes me angry. i'm not even going to link to it here because i don't want any of my young mama friends or soon-to-be mama friends to read it. if you run across it, i advise against reading it, especially if you are in either of those two categories.
i understand the reason she wrote the article. she believes she's educating people, or perhaps that by sharing her story, she will prevent another mom from making those mistakes and possibly save future kids from having autism. i think she wrote it out of guilt, and a little bit out of self-pity. i totally get that. and i think educating others is a really great thing to do. but the article doesn't promote education. it promotes fear and guilt. and fear and guilt are the last thing pregnant women and moms need in their lives.
because i remember being pregnant. it was terrifying. the moment i found out i was carrying a child, i was in a hot bath, which isn't surprising, considering i spend any free time i have soaking in a hot bath. i immediately jumped out of the tub for fear that the hot water was cooking my baby. i began to agonize over the one margarita i had a few days before while celebrating a friend's birthday on a houseboat on lake shasta. had i given my baby permanent brain damage from that one glass of alcohol? once i had a salad with blue cheese dressing and called my midwife in a panic, certain that the single salad would result in a miscarriage or stillbirth. and let's not talk about the devastation i felt when i discovered i had gestational diabetes. because of my stupid genetics, if my baby even survived the pregnancy, she'd probably develop diabetes or become obese later in life. and it was all my fault.
if you're a mom and you have a pulse, you've probably experienced some sort of anxiety, either during pregnancy or after your baby was born. you've probably also experienced some form of guilt or fear that you aren't doing everything completely right for your child. being given the responsibility of another life is overwhelming. i know that i have to be my daughter's advocate when it comes to her well-being and medical care because she's too little to do it herself.
so i tried to stay active during pregnancy. i was forced to eat right. i did all i could to keep my blood sugar under control. and then i was induced for two days before finally having a c-section. (by the way, the article points out pitocin and c-sections as major causes for autism, which also infuriated me.) i mentioned in ellery's birth story, here and here, that i wanted a drug-free, natural birth, but because of my diabetes, i ended up having a c-section. and i'm sorry to disappoint all of you who believe doctors are evil and try to make people have c-sections, but my doctor actually tried to avoid it. when sam and i approached her about it, she wanted to try one more day of pitocin and give my body one more chance to respond and go into labor. she only agreed to it because of my diabetes, and the fact that the longer ellery was in the womb, the more dangerous it was for her. once ellery was out and it was revealed how huge she was, my doctor and midwife and all the nurses agreed that the c-section was the right choice. she was literally too big to drop into the birth canal, which was why my body didn't know it was supposed to go into labor. if i'd tried it naturally, it would've either resulted in an emergency c-section, or worse. this is also why i believe God had His hand on the entire situation. he softened my heart toward having the surgery and allowed sam to be my advocate and fight for it, because that's what needed to happen.
here's what i've realized: people want to blame modern medicine. and i get that. the article mentions things like immunizations and antibiotics and acetaminophen being the cause of autism, and though these things can be potentially harmful, they have also been very beneficial. we have to take the good along with the bad. maybe our modern medicine is causing certain problems and conditions, but it has also saved lots of lives. the rates of mortality for infants and laboring mothers have gone way down since 1950, as have diseases such as polio and smallpox. i sincerely believe my c-section saved me and ellery from danger and possibly death.
and i'm speaking as someone who leans toward alternative medicine. i go to a doctor's office that practices holistic, naturopathic medicine and acupuncture. i use essential oils in place of medicine to cure ellery's issues. i went to an office of midwives when i was pregnant, who only offer a single ultrasound during pregnancy, which is done no earlier than twenty weeks to check healthy anatomy. (and yes, i tried to get it done before twenty weeks so we'd know the sex before christmas, but they were adamant about it being twenty weeks or later.)
i'm doing everything in my power to do what i believe is best for my daughter. but guess what? she might still get sick. or she might get into a horrible accident. there is only so much i can do to protect her, and i have to accept that. i can make all the right decisions, which, according to the article includes avoiding modern medicine, and still, it may not be enough. but that's because i'm human and imperfect and ellery isn't really mine anyway. she's God's child, and i've simply been entrusted with her care. God gave her to me and sam because He believed we would make the best parents for her. it means i have to let go of that control, since i don't really have it anyway, and simply pray and pray and pray over my daughter. it means i can slather sunscreen on her every moment of every day, and she may get skin cancer anyway, while girls who go to tanning booths every day remain cancer free. and God may decide he wants her home sooner than i'm ready for. though i pray that doesn't happen, and it's a fear i carry with me every day, i would simply go mad if i allowed articles like this one about autism to make me feel more scared or guilty than i already do.
so moms - keep doing what you're doing. just do your best. if you're the praying type (which i highly recommend being), pray over every decision you make regarding your child's care. if you're pregnant, praise God for the life growing inside you. praise Him for the miracle of conception, of birth, and that you're lucky enough to be a woman able to carry a child. do not let fear or guilt spoil this special time, and recognize that God is the one in control anyway - not you. and everyone, avoid passing judgment on parents who choose to do things differently than you. perhaps that child is getting immunized because she will be traveling internationally, and it's the safest choice. perhaps that other child is not getting immunized because he already has a weak immune system and the shots would be more of a risk than a benefit. perhaps that mom did everything she could to breastfeed and it just didn't work. perhaps that other mom is breastfeeding her two year-old because it's what that child needs.
and if you are a parent of a child with autism, i am in awe of you. i had the wonderful opportunity to work with children with severe autism, and it remains one of the favorite jobs i've had. those children were so special, so fun, and involved so much care. i only spent part of my day with them, and i know it can be exhausting and overwhelming if your child has special needs of any kind. do not feel guilty, or feel that you are to blame for your child's condition. you are doing your best, as we all are.
*disclaimer: i think it's very important to educate yourself on the care of your child, especially involving big decisions that can affect his or her health. what i dislike are sensational articles based mostly on a few studies, and not based on actual scientific fact. we know for a fact that lots of exposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer. we don't know for a fact that getting an ultrasound can lead to autism.