Thursday, February 21, 2013

I Didn't Give My Son Autism

Someone sent me a blog yesterday.  It was from a website where women who consider themselves thinkers write about their personal journey with Autism.  I want to start by saying I have absolutely no problem with people of like minds getting together to share their struggles.  And anyone who knows me will tell you I am incredibly opened minded and I am willing (and usually do) look at all topics from varying points of view.  But this blog, and this website, frustrated me.

First off, I will take to task any parenting group that asserts that if you do not agree with them on all counts, that you are somehow a Negative Nellie who is unwilling (you could also switch unwilling out for uneducated or unenlightened) to see the truth.  I will take to task any parenting group that states in their "Rules" that if you don't agree with them that you need to leave and take your "negative juju" elsewhere.  And I will most certainly take to task any parenting group that pushes their beliefs in such a way that causes someone who is struggling to be made to feel unwarranted guilt, or that they somehow failed their child.     

Let me be clear.  You are welcome to have your beliefs, just as I have mine.  But do not use those beliefs as weapons.  Do not use shame, guilt, or fear.  Do not play on emotions.  And do not attack the core of who a mother is and her role in the life and molding of her child.

I want to say this too.  I am a thinker.  I am educated.  I am well rounded.  I have walked around the block many many times.  I have been to hell and back.  That doesn't make me an expert.  It just means I've lived.

I'm not going to link back to the blog, because I don't want to give it any more attention.  But I will give a synopsis of what the author posted.  This mom has a child with Autism.  And it is her belief that her choices during pregnancy and in the early stages of child rearing, gave her child Autism.  She references getting ultrasounds.  She references drinking soda while pregnant.  She references having a c-section.  She references giving her child Tylenol.  And yes, she references vaccines.  She asserts that all of these things (and a few others) created an invariable s**tstorm called Autism.

Here is what I think.  Could she have given her son Autism?  Sure.  If she carries the gene.

Now I will share this.

 My first child:
I took anti-nausea medication and drank alcohol during the first two weeks of my pregnancy because I was on a cruise ship and had no idea I was pregnant.  While pregnant I ate a quart of sherbert every night in a hot tub of water.  I ate tuna, because at that point it was still an ok food.  I was given a shot to speed up the development of my son's lungs so he could survive if born early.  I had pitocin.  I had an epidural.  I actually had a double epidural because the first one fell out.  My son was fed a bottle while in the hospital.  He was jaundice, and I let them put him in an incubator under lights, even after we had already been allowed to take him home.  I stopped breastfeeding after a few months.  He was allowed to cry it out after about 5 months of age.  My son got all of his vaccines, and when we found out a few years later that one of them didn't take, he got a broader spectrum version.  He got the flu shot, every year.  He was given flouride.  I even gave him processed foods.  He is Autistic.  But not because of the choices I made.  All of the choices I made for him were made in good faith, and with an understanding that I was doing the best for my son given the information and knowledge I had at the time.

My second child:
I got pregnant 4 months postpartum. She was high risk, and I had many many ultrasounds.  I even had level 3 ultrasounds.  I ate a ton of MSG laden Chinese food, mainly crab rangoons, almost every day.  I drank cookie and cream milkshakes like they were water.  I took hot baths.  I endured a lot of stress, including moving North.  I'm fairly certain she got the shot to speed up lung development as well.  She was born in the hospital.  She ended up in the hospital a few months after birth, and I let them treat her with steroids and oxygen.  When she was only a few months old, she fell out of my arms and down the stairs.  I breastfed her for only about 6 months.  And then she had formula.  She had all of her vaccines, and the flu shot.  She cried it out, although she was older than my son and the method was different.  She didn't get as much face time as my son did.  She liked to watch tv, and I let her.  She was given fluoride, and ate processed foods.  She's not Autistic.  She is gifted, and very well rounded.  All of the choices I made for her were made in good faith, and with an understanding that I was doing the best for my daughter given the information and knowledge I had at the time.

My third child:
I didn't birth her.  She didn't grace me with her presence until she was already 6 weeks old.  Her birth mom made a lot of actual poor choices, ones that involve heroine and large amounts of alcohol.  She lacked prenatal care, and she didn't pay attention to anything that was put into her body.  After my daughter was born she was neglected, and moved from one home to another until she landed with us.  She was malnourished, withdrawn, a shell.  Once with me she was cared for much like my first two children, albeit with more input from her biological parents and the state.  Their choices for her included sleeping alone (we didn't, we co-slept with each of our children), formula, and processed foods.  She had all of her vaccinations, and her flu shots.  She took field trips to prison.  She was in the hospital several times, she even had a cat-scan and a sedated MRI.  She is not Autistic.  She has struggles as they relate to being born drug addicted, and experiencing trauma.  All of the choices I made for her were made in good faith, and with an understanding that I was doing the best for my daughter given the information and knowledge I had at the time.

What is my point in all of this?

Your choice to drink soda, to have necessary medical interventions, the way in which you gave birth, the decision to immunize... none of that caused your child to be Autistic.

Your child is Autistic because your child is Autistic.  Stop searching for reasons.  Stop blaming.

Just like my 2nd child has blond hair because her father does, and my 3rd child has blue eyes because her birth mother does.     

If you want to get angry, if you want to fight a battle, if you want to change the world, start with the moms who really do make choices that hurt and harm their children.  Work with teen moms, under serviced moms, drug addicted moms, moms in domestic violence, and moms who don't have a basic understanding of parenting and the needs of a child.

Stop attacking yourselves.

And please, stop asserting that your child can he "healed" from Autism.

The best thing you can do for your child, and for yourself, is to get to a place of acceptance.

Get to a place of loving yourself, so you can love your child.

Get to a place of understanding what the diagnosis of Autism means for your child.

And what it doesn't mean.

The moment you accept that your child is who they are, simply because they are who they are, is the moment YOU can be released from the task of fixing, and shift to the task of loving and supporting.

To a place where you are able to get them the resources and interventions they need to succeed.

Why does my son have Autism?  Because he does.

And I'm ok with that, because I am ok with who he is. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Perfect Mom

My heart is breaking for you. 

Yes you, the woman reading this who is convinced she screwed up in some way that will forever and irrevocably change the course of her child's life.  The mom who lost it today, who said the one thing she swore she would never say to her child, the mom who threatened, the mom who screamed so loud the dog barked.  To you, the mom whose child threw a tantrum in the store, the mom whose kid stole a pack of gum, the mom who got a note from the school that their child hit someone, to the mom who who got a call from the police.  To you, the mom who walked away from a crying child, the mom who didn't intervene fast enough, the mom who was just handed a pregnancy test, to you, the mom who was just handed a drug test.  To you, the mom who hid in the bathroom for 5 minutes peace, to the mom who just drank soda while pregnant, to you the mom whose child broke an arm on the trampoline, to the mom who didn't change a diaper fast enough.  To you, the mom sitting outside while her child throws a tantrum, and to you the mom who just gave in because you are just too tired, to you, the mom who didn't bring baked goods to the teachers.  To you, the mom who has done everything right, yet life still happened.  My heart breaks for you.

I want to say something that I want you to let take a minute to let sink in. 

You are not alone. 
There is no perfect mom.
You are not alone.

Say it.

I am not alone.
I am not alone.
I am not alone.

Now do me a favor.  Cut yourself some slack, and in the process cut your fellow moms some slack.  I've noticed something so interesting in the "mom culture".  We beat up on our own so much more than any other outside group possibly could.  We sit and judge.  We compare ourselves to everyone around us.  We set ourselves up for defeat.  We are so eager to outdo one another, to prove to anyone that will take notice that we are doing something right (and that they are doing something wrong).  We keep our fears, our battles, our struggles silent for fear that others will consider us not good enough.  The guilt blanket we place on ourselves and each other is so heavy that we are drowning.

I want to let you in on a not so secret secret.  And let it resonate with you.

I am not a perfect parent.
I am far from perfect.
I am a good enough parent.
My kids will make mistakes.
I want my kids to make mistakes.
I will love them through their mistakes.
It will be ok, because I allowed them to see my mistakes.
I apologize to my kids, because I am not perfect.
My kids are not perfect.
I don't want to be perfect.
I don't want my kids to be perfect.
I want to be human.
I want my kids to be human.
I am not a perfect parent.
I am far from perfect.
I am a good enough parent.
And that is ok.

There is something else I want to share with you too.

Things will happen that you can't control.  There will be a lot of things you can't predict, that you can't plan for, that you can't stop from happening.  Some of these things will be bad, and some others may see as bad but you will see as an amazing blessing.  Those things are all part of the journey your child is on.  And while there are moms out there who really do make choices that hurt and harm, the reality is that most of us aren't those moms.  Not even you.     

Grace.  Allow it to be extended to you today.

Take a deep breath.  Go find a quiet spot. And eat a cookie.

And when you are ready, go back into the chaos and smile, knowing you aren't alone.