Guilt

Here in New York, next weekend, Developmental Delay Resources is sponsoring a three-day course on “Having Healthy Babies: Outsmarting Developmental Delays”—i.e., autism prevention. According to the event’s publicity page, the course will be devoted to pre-conception health, carrying and birthing healthy babies, and post-partum health.

It sounds provocative, and I think that some members of Team Martin (therapists, nutritionist, &c.) are planning to attend.

I can’t go, though. No way. From an emotional perspective, learning at this point about autism prevention would overwhelm me.

Martin’s cranio-sacral therapist is some sort of intuitive healer. She knows things. On Martin’s first visit to her, she was laying her hands on him, concentrating, murmuring about what seemed to be going on inside his gut. Suddenly she called to me to join them. I knelt beside where they were working on the carpet. The therapist had one hand resting on Martin’s head. She pressed the other hand against my breastbone.

“There’s a void here, something missing,” she said. “You’re not connecting completely with Martin.”

Excuse me?

She continued, “You’ve got to get rid of the guilt you’re carrying about his birth. You’ve just got to let that go and tune into the here and now.”

I was stunned. I had described to her how Martin was born, but I hadn’t used the word guilt. Not about his birth, or anything else. Yet she knew, and knew that it was getting in the way.

Martin’s birth was a series of decisions I did not want. Martin came late to the party; in the 42nd week of pregnancy, against my better instinct, I gave in and let the doctors induce labor. From there, it spiraled. On pitocin, my confused body produced increasingly long, unproductive contractions, until finally it barely unclenched between them. The doctor decided we needed to relax me artificially and ordered an epidural analgesia, which I also did not want. After nearly 16 hours of artificially induced labor, Martin got stuck, sideways, and his heart rate fell. By the time they wheeled me into the operating room and cut him out, I was (unsurprisingly) running a fever, meaning that Martin, who was healthy and alert with an APGAR of 9, was whisked away to the NICU.

So those were Martin’s first days in this world. Instead of coming to us naturally and snuggling into the loving arms of his parents, he met a surgeon’s scalpel and then slept with strangers under the offensive, blazing halogen of a noisy NICU.

I know that environmental factors play a role in autism. I wear the guilt of Martin’s traumatic birth, of my decision to allow pitocin. I wear it like a heavy jacket, pounds and pounds weighing me down.

Was birth trauma related to autism? What is related to autism?

I never should have got caught up in the H1N1 hype and given Martin that unnecessary vaccine. Or most of the other vaccines, either.

We had our kitchen rebuilt while I was pregnant. I breathed that dust daily. Mistake.

I used my Blackberry. All the time.

If there is such a thing as autism prevention, then there’s something I should have done differently. It will be a long time before I’m recovered enough to discuss that topic.

14 thoughts on “Guilt

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  3. I’m with you on this one. I had a csection at 36 weeks for twins and gave them the H1N1 shots too. Wish I knew then what I know now.

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  13. Hugs. I don’t know why your son is autistic but I don’t believe the things you mentioned cause it. I had my first son at 17, my second at 20, and my third at 26. They’re all perfectly healthy and average young men. I had a spinal tap with my first son, nothing with my second, and an epidural with my third. All my kids got their vaccines. With my first child, I was living in and old home in Mississippi where I fell through the floor. With my second I was living in low-income apartments. Only with my third was I upper middle class. With all of my kids I took my vitamins and went to my check-ups, but my diet was was primarily meat, starchy carbs, and processed foods, with fruit thrown in every now and again. Everybody in my neighborhood was the same. I don’t know anyone who’s child is autistic. I’m working with women who received no prenatal care and did hard drugs – cocaine, heroin, meth, etc – throughout their pregnancies and their children are not autistic (they do have other issues aside from autism though). If any of what you listed was the cause of your son’s autism, especially vaccines, the rate of autism would have to be much higher than what it is now. Momma guilt is unavoidable but that doesn’t mean its based on facts. I think it just taps into feelings we’ve always had – the feeling of not being good enough, perfect enough, worthy enough and our fear of making a mistake and being rejected or not loved – and uses what we love most, what we fear losing most, to really drive the knife into our spirts – the love we have for our kids.

    • Thanks for reading my blog, and for sharing your own experiences. To be honest, one of the most painful things for a parent in the autism-recovery community is to hear, “My kids did that and they are fine, so how could it have hurt your child?” Maybe this analogy will help explain: I grew up riding in the back of pick-up trucks and open station wagons. Transporting children in the back of a pick-up truck is dangerous. If I encountered a parent whose child was grievously injured bouncing from the bed of a pick-up truck, would I say, “Nah, I rode that way all the time, and I’m fine. How could it have hurt your child?” Or if a child reacts to eating a peanut, would I say, “My son eats peanuts without any problem! It couldn’t have been the peanut that hurt your child!” Or when a vaccine causes a child to seize and perish (as has happened), would I say, “Impossible! My child survived that vaccine.”

      I believe that your comments probably come from a loving place, and that you truly don’t want another parent to feel guilt for something that, in your experience, has not happened. But I am deep in the study of what causes the immune dysfunction that underlies “autism.” I know what I’ve read, I know what other parents have experienced, and I know what I’ve witnessed in my own family.

      I feel guilty, of course. But it’s no longer guilt for guilt’s sake. As I uncover more of what made Martin sick in the first place, I use that guilt to fuel his recovery. And he is recovering. Thus, along with the guilt comes a dose of gratitude that I understand that autism is a health condition, that it has triggers, and that there is a lot I can go back and fix.

      Best of luck to you and your children!

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