To the parents of vaccinated children

To the parents who chose not to vaccinate your children, I get it.  I am not being sarcastic, I legitimately get it.  Autism is scary. I have been a teacher for sixteen years, and I will tell you having a student on the spectrum makes class more difficult.  As the mother of a daughter with the syndrome formally known as aspergers, it makes family more difficult.

I am not Miss Polly Anna.  I am not here to blow sunshine up your bum and tell you everything is rosy. I am not one of those moms who will blog, saying what a blessing autism has been to a family because it made us stronger.  In fact I will tell you that AUTISM SUCKS.  It sucks your energy, it sucks the passion from your marriage, it sucks the dedication to your career, it sucks!  If given the chance, I would have chosen to remain weak and have a child not on the spectrum.

However, nobody offered me that choice.  We have had many battles, and her disorder has taken its toll on every member of our family.  It is not fun to be screamed at by your daughter, to physically fear her, to resent her.  It is agonizing. It hurts when she bites me and brings real blood.  It hurts to see her baby sister cry because she is screaming so loudly it hurts the younger’s ears.  Mostly it shakes me to my foundation to know the emotional pain my daughter must endure.  To see her thrashing, wailing, or harming herself because she cannot handle what is happening is torture.

So, yes, I was afraid of vaccines.  I know that they have been proven safe, but as a friend once told me “Your doctor will tell you what the FDA tells him.  The FDA is run by the government, and our government has no problem not being truthful to its citizens.”  Stew on that one for a while….

So I did research.  I refused to get the flu shot that had thymerisal.  I also did research that told me that if I had a severe case of the flu, I could miscarry.  So I took it upon myself to call clinics all around me to find a flu shot that was thymerisal free.  Each time I called a doctors office to see if they had a thymerisal free vaccine a nurse or secretary would say to me “You know, thymerisal has been approved to give to pregnant women”  I replied, “Yeah, so was thalidomide”.  I never got a response to that.

I was willing to do extra work to make sure myself and my daughter were protected. I was not going to make her pay for my choices.

We have continued with the recommended vaccine schedule.  A friend of mine has elected to have some of her daughter’s shots un-bundled.   This is how she is able to feel as if she is protecting her daughter from Autism as well as protecting her preventable diseases. I respect that decision.

It is OK to be scared, it is OK to not go by the black and white book.  However, it is not OK to make your child victim of perfectly preventable diseases.

To make a short story long, measles can kid a child.  Kill, not coming back, gone.  No matter how much my oldest can drive me to the edge, she is my reason for breathing. I love her more than I thought I could every love anybody else. If given the choice between giving her a vaccine that could cause autism or allowing her to catch a disease that could kill her, I will choose the former every time.  She is a delightful, smart, beautiful, wonderful girl. She and her sister are the two greatest blessings God has given to me.  Each day, I feel unworthy to be their mom, because they are so special.

So, I understand your fear. Autism is not fun, it is painful, but not remotely close to the pain you would feel if you were to lose your child, or the remorse you would feel if your child caused the death of another.  Think about it.

I love Jesus, suck on that, you atheist

Earlier I saw a post from a Christian friend that basically boiled down to “Here is why I am right, here is why you are wrong, na na na boo boo” Or my title suggests “I love Jesus, suck on that, you heathen”.
I am a Christian, and I have good friends who are of different faiths, agnostic and atheist. (The only problem I have with  atheism is that it doesn’t follow the i before e rule. I have a hard enough time spelling, but a word that completely ignores all rules, preposterous!)
When I was at the lowest points in my life, some of people who were my most loyal confidants were atheist. The showed me compassion and no judgement. The never criticized me, the only thing they did do was listen. If I’d ask them to say a prayer for me, they would simply smile and say “I’ll send you some good thoughts, how about that?”. I know, the nerve, right?

So to atheists everywhere, those whom I love, and those whom just happened upon this post, I say this: I love Jesus. Jesus loves me. Jesus loves you. I love you. I would love to talk to you about God’s love, but I won’t push it upon you. We can talk about all the awesome pithy one-liners you post on my wall that make me belly laugh. We can talk about music, weather, our kids, our kids’ music and weather. We can be friends. I will smile at your happiness and share in your tears. I also promise you I will never say “Here is why my beliefs are correct and yours are wrong”.

My Frozen Daughter

As I sat at the Alamo, with an overly excited 4 year old who was watching “Frozen” for the third time,( it was my second), I loved every minute of the off key sing along, until that fateful song.

The second “For the First Time in Forever” is a duet between the sisters Anna and Elsa. Anna is pleading for Elsa to not shut her out, while Elsa is to afraid to allow anybody in.  She knows that she is capable of unintentionally hurting, permanently damaging the one person whom she loves most in the world.  She cannot control her demons, her “freezing” hands. She cannot control the storm inside of her, and thus cannot be sure she will not cause her sister permanent damage.  Disney and the amazing voice of Idina Mendez so poignantly and painfully show Elsa’s torment.  My heart broke and tears sprung to my eyes.  I was watching my own daughters on screen.

When we were navigating the diagnosis of atypical autism with Lilly, things got bad.  Very, very bad.  Lilly could not handle when things didn’t fit into her view of what should happen.  She would do anything, to gain control of a situation, to stop the feeling of floundering out of control. Often this lead to violence and self injury.

The “fits” would begin with screaming, but that was short lived.  Verbal “abuse” quickly turned physical.  It would start with hitting, then scratching.  Lilly would look directly into your eyes as she would dig her nails into you.  She was waiting for a response, something to show she was getting to you.  Soon if the hitting, and scratching didn’t get the response that she wanted, the biting began.  (This is usually where I broke).  Lilly knew exactly how to bite, turn her head, and pull back so she could rip the flesh from your body.  There was no way to ignore it.  At least three nights a week Brian and I would be bruised, bloody, and in tears.  I still bear the scars of these attacks.

However, we learned how to protect ourselves physically, and when violence toward us didn’t garner the desired response, the injurious behavior turned inward.  Lilly would beat her head against the floor, leaving “goose eggs” on her forehead.  Then looking at me she would whimper, with tears screaming down her face “Mommy, I hurt myself”.  As soon as I was close enough to comfort her, she would begin biting, scratching, and hitting me.  The behaviorist with whom we were working, told us no matter how hard it was, try to ignore the behavior.  She wouldn’t cause herself any serious harm.  Once there were goose eggs all over her head, and banging her head was too painful for her, she began biting herself.  She would bite up both arms, leaving bruises.  (Thank God she was honest with her daycare and they had seen the behavior, or else CPS would have been on our doorstep).

Finally, if hurting us, hurting herself, urinating, destroying our home didn’t get enough of a reaction, she knew what to do.  Go after her baby sister.  Lexi was about three months old at this time, and was just helpless.  Twice she tried to hurt her sister. One time she was able to land a slap to the face before I could get there.

I knew that she loved her baby sister, and didn’t want to hurt her. When she wasn’t in one of her fits, she was very affectionate, kissing her, bringing her a blanket, telling her “I love you”.   She constantly told others “I love my baby sister”, adding occasionally “I would be very upset if anything ever happened to her”.

Fast forward to getting our pediatrician to actually believe something was wrong, meeting with a pediatric psychiatrist. and finding the miracle drug resperidol.   We met with a developmental specialist at UVA.    Once Lilly said to her “I love my baby sister, I would be very upset if anything ever happened to her”.

I asked the doctor “Why does she say that?”.

She replied “Because she knows that she is a danger to her baby sister”.  I felt like somebody had knocked the air out of my lungs.  “She knows she is a danger to her baby sister”, those words made my heart bleed.  Three years old, and knows that she is a danger to a baby.

Every mother has experienced being pushed to that point, where you understand why shaken baby syndrome occurs, where you just have to put the baby down and walk away because you cannot trust yourself anymore.  Even though you know it is normal, that you are human, that you would never injure your baby, the guilt of even having that emotion crushes you like a tsunami.   The guilt and self loathing of that dark emotion is so insidious and toxic.

Now imagine being three years old and knowing that.  Imagine what it must have felt like to be three years old and know you are dangerous.  I can only imagine what type emotional pain that could have caused such a delicate psychological system.  For a three year old to think, I am dangerous, I am bad, I am not lovable…thinking of that now still breaks my heart.

Elsa knew that her curse was not her fault, Lilly did not. Else knew that she could protect her sister, Lilly did not.

Those who have been with us through the past few years know that things are immeasurably better.   We found a wonderful child psychiatrist, great therapists, and miracle pharmaceutical.

I still cannot forget how it must have made Lilly feel to know she was dangerous.  I cannot shake the horror of what that damage that did to the fragile, malleable, mind of a three year old.  I make sure I tell Lilly now each day, you are good, you are a blessing, you are loved.