Autism and maternal self-blame


I’m currently reading a widely praised book on raising children who are very different from their parents. The book is Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon. It’s about one of the most challenging aspects of parenting, recognizing that your child is not you and that’s okay. The task is made far more difficult when the child differs from you in major ways: children who are deaf, autistic, transgender, etc.

One aspect common to parenting children with major differences is self-blame, at least in the early stages.

Solomon writes:

…The attribution of responsibility to parents is often a function of ignorance, but it also reflects our anxious belief that we control our own destinies. Unfortunately, it does not save anyone’s children; it only destroys some people’s parents, who either crumble under the strain of undue censure or rush to blame themselves before anyone else has time to accuse them… Many parents … organize their guilt around some fictitious misstep. I had lunch one afternoon with a highly educated activist whose son suffers from severe autism. “It’s because I went skiing while I was pregnant,” she said to me. “The altitude isn’t good for the developing child.” I felt so sad hearing this. The roots of autism are confusing, and there are questions as to what may dispose children toward the condition, but altitude is not on the list. This intelligent woman had so assimilated a narrative of self-blame that she didn’t know that it had come out of her imagination.

It is quite startlingly how desperately parents, particularly mothers, try to blame themselves for their child’s autism. How I Gave My Son Autism is a horrifying example of this narrative of maternal self blame.

I am admitting here for all the world to see: I gave my son Autism. I did it. Me. And no one can ever take that away.

So . . . how did I give my son autism? I wish I could say it was one thing – one thing that I could take back that would make things neat and easy, but it wasn’t. It was mistake after mistake, assault after assault. The following are the biggest mistakes I made to which I attribute my son’s descent into autism…

The list of the mother’s supposed transgressions is mind boggling:

  • Ultrasound
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Tylenol
  • Pitocin
  • C-section
  • Antibiotics
  • Vaccines
  • Flouride

For example:

I had at least five while I was pregnant. I was assured that they were completely safe. Heck, you can get them in malls, so I assumed they were pretty benign. Wrong! While I didn’t get ultrasounds in malls, I didn’t research them either. Ultrasounds have, in fact, been implicated in autism among other neurological disorders…

No it hasn’t. There is no scientific evidence for ANY of the supposed transgressions on this list as a cause of autism, but then there is no evidence that altitude is a cause of autism, either, yet that didn’t stop the mother in Solomon’s example from invoking it.

The mother declares:

I am already anticipating three different responses to this post:

Response 1) There will be people who read this and think, “Good grief, woman. How stupid can you be? What you did borders on child abuse. OF COURSE your child has Autism.” And to that, I have no argument. You are absolutely right. And good for you for knowing better than I did.

Response 2) Some of you will read this and know exactly how I feel because your story is very similar. To all of you, you have my deepest, heartfelt sympathy. While we will always have our mistakes to live with, the best thing we can do now is to share our truth and our story to help others.

Response 3) There will be people who feel pity for me because I have not been able to make peace with myself for my role in my son’s health crisis. You will feel compelled to reach out to me with kind messages imploring me to forgive myself. Please . . . don’t. It won’t do any good. I am not fishing for forgiveness, and while I know you mean well, it won’t help me… No child should have to endure what mine has endured. No mother should ever have to experience the kind of torturous guilt I live with every day.

This is the flip side of magical thinking so integral to natural childbirth, attachment parenting and vaccine rejection. If what you think and do has the power to keep your child safe, it follows that if your child has an affliction, it must be your fault. Indeed it is easier for mothers to blame themselves than to acknowledge the frightening reality; autism is basically random, due to genetics and can’t be prevented.

Apparently it is better to be powerful and wrong than to be utterly powerless in controlling our children’s destinies.

  • dave0781

    The incidence of autism appears to be increasing at an alarming rate, yet it’s etiology remains uncertain.
    Genetic? That would be convenient as then you would not have to ascribe blame. However, if it were genetic there would be 100 percent concordance with identical twins, and alas, there is no where near. It would also not arise in two short generations, HELLO!
    A toxin? That would be helpful as it might be linked to a deep pockets that could help foot the ever exploding bill. However, in spite of an exhaustive ,and sometimes harmful (i.e.vaccine blame) search there appears to be no such corporate culprit in site.
    Parenting style? It is un pc to say it, but environmental influences like parenting style are the only thing that could explain the rapid rise in the incidence of this disease.
    We are the first generation to have the ability and the will to provide our infants and children with a perfect, stress free environment . However, as we rush to coddle our babies at the first sign of the slightest irritation, risking injury as we trip over our own feet to quiet the child with cuddling, toys, food or nourishment , might we be robing him from an opportunity to develop normally? As we shield our offspring from all even the slightest discomfort , perhaps we are not allowing them to develop normally as they have no opportunity to experience ,and try to escape, discomfort and stress. Putting babies and children at the top of the social food chain might be unwise , as they may be more perceptive , and manipulative , than we think. Tantrum anyone ?
    A dog can sense if it’s owner is afraid of him, and they act accordingly. Children are at least as perceptive, probably more.
    Animals raised in a zoo cannot survive in the wild, as they are handed food and don’t have a chance to learn how to get it, and don’t learn how to fight.. Could there be an analog with human infants as we now shield them so neurotically from the slightest stress and they have no chance to develop normal neurologically? Back in the day when the whole world was not suppose to stop at the first sign of a babies stress , an infant had to try to make eye contact, try to reach for things, try to hug a parent to get attention, before all this was slathered on him instantly.
    Instead of screaming “please don’t smoke” at strangers perhaps we should have taken a good long look in the mirror at what might be causing harm to our kids. Sometimes, when you look into the eyes of the enemy, the enemy is………..

    • Young CC Prof

      And if it was parenting style, the correspondence rate between identical and fraternal twins would be the same. Instead, identical twins are far more likely to share a diagnosis than fraternal, a clear sign that genetics are playing a big role.

      The answer? Autism probably isn’t on the rise at all. When modern diagnostic criteria are applied to the entire population, it becomes clear that the autism rate among previous generations is the same as today’s rate.

      • dave0781

        All complex types of human behavior are a combination of genes and environment- criminal behavior, addiction,sexual preference , and yes autism all have genetics as a component. However, it is clear that autism is not entirely genetic. I disagree that the incidence of autism is the same in prior generations and the difference is due to it going undiagnosed before.
        There are far more kids today getting home schooled, special ed, on medication, and living with diagnosis of some sort of psych problem than before. The inability of these kids to function is apparent, with the number of kids living at home and not working or going to school into their 30s has sky rocketed.
        This is the problem, spoiling a kid may result in a perfect childhood, but results in them becoming dysfunctional adults.
        People with a diagnosis of autism are a heterogeneous population with a variety of symptoms and probably etiologies, so parenting style may not play a role in every case. However, the high functioning patients, so called asperger’s, have symptoms that look suspiciously like what we used to call a spoiled brat, so perhaps thats what they are.
        When I studied under Dr. Llovas in the 70s it was said that autism was most common in white anglo saxon rich kids, a fact that seems to have been lost in the recent coverage of the disease. As the poor imitate the rich in the over indulgence of kids perhaps we will have a future that it is evenly seen in all populations, but I don’t think that has yet occurred.
        When Andersen Cooper asked about peanut allergies in starving Africa, the Dr. said “we don’t have peanut allergies”. I wonder how much Autism they have in say, Uganda? An asperger’s may refuse to get out of bed in this country, but starvation can be an incredible motivator.
        The problems caused by too much stress are well documented, could it be that a total lack of it can be similarly bad?

        • Gatita

          There are far more kids today getting home schooled, special ed, on medication, and living with diagnosis of some sort of psych problem than before. The inability of these kids to function is apparent, with the number of kids living at home and not working or going to school into their 30s has sky rocketed.

          That’s because services are available now. When I was growing up in the 70s there were plenty of kids with behavioral problems and learning disabilities but there were no services available and no mechanism to diagnose them. Kids were written off as mean, lazy or dumb.

          Re: not working or going to school into their 30s, we just got through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Many young people graduated from school and simply could not get a job (not to mention being saddled with obscene amounts of educational debt).

          However, the high functioning patients, so called asperger’s, have symptoms that look suspiciously like what we used to call a spoiled brat, so perhaps thats what they are.

          Bullshit. This is simply ignorant. Also, I doubt you studied under Lovaas given you can’t even spell his name properly.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            Thank you for saying this! So many kids that in the past would have been written off as stupid have been able to flourish in today’s world due to gentler intervention.

            Also being in the age group in question regarding being lazy late twenties to thirty year olds, you’re spot on.

            My husband get so depressed that he’s not a college graduate by now with a six figure job. He’s twenty seven. I have to remind him that we both graduated just before everything hit rock bottom. We both had to drop out of college due to lack of money. I was lucky enough to use my parents’ connections to always have a job to squirrel money away but when I moved away finding a job was ridiculously hard. I spent two years at a job that regularly drives people off in tears just trying to scrape by. I was let go through a perverse use of office politics that made it look like I resigned and then they lied through my entire unemployment case. But good riddance to them now.

            My husband had it worse as he was in Michigan. Because all the car factories closed their doors he couldn’t even get a job at McDonald’s because older men and women were also competing for those jobs and having a long job history won out. So he didn’t even get a chance to create a stable job history after having to drop out, something so many of us take for granted. At one point he was down to twenty dollars a month for food and he didn’t want to ask his parents for money. I still don’t know how he survived.

            We’re just barely getting back in the game and we’re luckier than most. I was able to buy a house because I jumped on a government program for young credit holders to move to the more rural parts of the city at the lowest point of the housing crash. My car is the same one I’ve driven since I was sixteen and its nearly twenty years old now. The last movie I saw in a theater was Avengers Age of Ultron because my bosses gave me two free movie tickets for taking the incentive and improving processes at work. I can’t remember the last movie I actually paid to see. I’ve worked while passing kidney stones because they weren’t that big and I needed every cent.

            But people like Dave can continue to call people like me a lazy spendthrift that doesn’t know the meaning of hard work. I’ll still continue to work and put money in the social security fund he’ll be able to use but I likely will never see.

          • Gatita

            Don’t give up on Social Security! There’s a campaign to convince people it’s on the verge of bankruptcy but it’s not. But if you can get young people convinced they’ll never see it, it’ll be easier for the one percenters to steal it away.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            I’m in this odd most optimistic cynic you’ll ever meet situation lol. Prepare for the worst but hope for the best I suppose.

            I’m preparing in case all of SS goes down the tubes but I won’t be letting anyone tell me to vote to get rid of it.

            If it can survive a little longer we may even see it recover a little. Larger families are going out of style at least compared to the families baby boomers come from. I guess if we can make it survive one more generation it might even out since there won’t be this huge imbalance of older SS collectors versus smaller families still working and putting in to SS.

            Bleh, I’m not an economist so I don’t know all the complexities that go into this stuff. Just hoping for a rebound.

          • demodocus

            I’m no longer a “young person” and I’ve never believed it’d be around for me.

          • dave0781

            And services drain money from school districts, as special ed spending has increased exponentially. I went to school in Torrance, where they now have no Buses. NO FREAKING BUSES. LOOK IT UP. So, if you have a doting parent that quit her job to wait on you hand and foot and drive you to school your OK, if you don’t you can just go have an auto-coital experience. Its just too darn bad if you live four miles from school you aint getting no bus.
            This causes many latently brilliant but average performing regular kids to get left in the dust, as 60K per year aids are sometimes given per kid with a diagnosis of ASD, and no money for buses for the “normies” The squeaky wheel gets the oil, even if it is a square one that will never help move the vehicle of society.

          • Who?

            Gee four miles, we used to walk that to school in the snow when there wasn’t a bushfire, uphill both directions, mind you we had it hard…

          • Mishimoo

            What, no dropbears OR hoopsnakes? Geez, you had it easy!

          • Who?


          • demodocus

            In the 40s and 50s most middle-class women gave up their jobs when they became mothers.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            Ahhh I see the issue now. It has become clear to me.

            You don’t like “special” people because you think the world owes you something for going through the basics of life. And people that have disabilities or other issues that don’t -look- sick are taking the precious money that you think should go to you! That attention should have gone to you! Fuck self motivation, it was those damn autistic kids that ruined your chances!

            Don’t pretend this is a societal issue, this is about you wanting to get ahead of everyone else and getting pissed off that no one can see you’re a special snowflake too!

            But you are a special snowflake! You have the unique ability to concentrate all your hate and blame it on someone else instead of looking internally and improving yourself.

            Wait, that’s not unique either. Guess you’re just a bitter person that will continue to not be extraordinary because no one wants to be around people like you. -That- is why you fail.

            Also, for what it’s worth, I rode my bike most places as a kid even in cold sea mist soaking into my clothes.

            Now stop screaming for your lollypop and make something of yourself.

        • fiftyfifty1

          ” I wonder how much Autism they have in say, Uganda?”

          I can’t speak to Uganda, but the rate in Somali populations is quite high.

          • Daleth

            That’s interesting. How do you know?

          • fiftyfifty1

            Huge Somali immigrant population in my area.

        • Nick Sanders

          However, the high functioning patients, so called asperger’s, have symptoms that look suspiciously like what we used to call a spoiled brat, so perhaps thats what they are.

          Yes, I’m spoiled, that’s why loud noises feel like someone racking their nails over my nerves. Why I can’t tell the difference between a sarcastic joke and someone being pissed off at me. And why, back in elementary school, despite reading the text books for fun, homework took me hours every night because my hands couldn’t write more than a few words per minute.

          Pull your head out of your ass, jerk.

          • Who?

            So many boys at primary school spent hours every day on the verandah for being annoying/disrespectful/disruptive and looking back I wonder how many of them had developmental/aspie issues.

            Whatever challenges they had can only have been entrenched by their education being so disrupted. What a waste for them and everyone else too.

            It’s good that now those kids get picked up and helped. The idea that kids with these issues is a new thing is just ignorant.

          • Nick Sanders

            It certainly wasn’t a lack of discipline, as Dave claims. I got spanked plenty as a kid.

          • Who?

            Smacking in that scenario isn’t discipline it’s just the price of living with impatient or distracted people who have some power. I’m sure most of them thought their behaviour would have some positive effect, though why they would do it over and over again when it clearly wasn’t ‘working’ defeats me.

            Seriously, if I hit everyone who annoyed me I’d be in prison-as I told my father-in-law when he suggested I smack my toddler son for making play noises while he entertained himself.

          • dave0781

            Does it matter to you if your son was annoying your father in law? Or do we only matter as children, and become progressively devalued with age? Was your father in law’s suggestion teaching your son to behave well, so that he could become a productive member of society? I would not be surprised if your father in law fed and clothed and raised your spouse, and was instrumental in your son being born.
            Maybe those you say spanked over and over again would have had a worse result and they not spanked at all. Maybe they saved their kids for a childhood of dangerous ADD amphetamine medication with horrible
            complications as adults.

          • Who?

            It didn’t. My father-in-law despised and was irritated by many people, so it was hardly new news that a child he had (to great personal fanfare) flown 24 hours to see was getting on his nerves. The only person who reliably delighted-or even pleased-him was the good looking drunk in the mirror.

            Thanks for your interest, said unsmacked child is now a police officer and army reservist, promoted early in both roles due to his hard work, commitment and intelligence.

          • dave0781

            Sounds like he is doing great, doesn’t sound like he needed spanking, some kids don’t .

            The point with your father in law is that his feelings as well as those of the child both matter, although in American culture we seem to have forgotten that.
            In the the past’, the adults were prioritized over the kids. Ask a boomer, when Dad came home, we weren’t even allowed to make noise. Today, in most cases that social contract has resolved, or been reversed, and kids sense it. Kids can do whatever they want, and adults don’t matter .

            This is quite a shift from the “kids should be seen and not heard” days, and we are only beginning to see the effects as kids raised in this social milieu grow into adults.

            This may be the first time in our history that children have been empowered over adults, and some unintended consequences like an increased incidence of ASD may be seen. By any objective criteria kids are doing worse, as obesity, ASD, ADD, and many other negative consequences have increased. I would refer you to “The Dumbest Generation”, by Mark Bauerlin, a fantastic book, which outlines all the ways , including SAT scores, kids are doing worse.

            ASD is a heterogeneous population of patients, and as such a verity of etiologies may be found. In at least some, perhaps most, this sea change in parenting style may be this cause.

          • Who?

            We’re not American.

            My father-in-law had made a huge fuss about wanting to see the child. The child was entertaining himself, singing and quietly talking as he played. My f-i-l could have chosen to leave the room if the sound of a toddler quietly amusing himself bothered him. He chose to not do that, preferring the martyr role he relished. What would I have been hitting the baby for-annoying an ambulant and petulant drunk? And what message would interrupting the game and punishing the child have given him? Perhaps I could have shouted ‘don’t irritate Grandpa’ as I hit him?

            The world has changed. Women have lots of choices they didn’t have before. The unsmacked child was opining the other day about how much harder it is for men of his generation than his father’s-twice the number of job applicants with women getting into all walks of life. Many jobs that used to keep whole communities going-I’m thinking about manufacturing and priniting-no longer exist. And making busy boys sit outside classrooms for hours rather than working with them will hardly equip them for a world where education is required for work.

            Not sure how thumping the most challenging of those young men will equip them more thoroughly for that competition and the fewer roles available-though it might just teach them, in their turn, that big cranky opinionated men rule the world, which is a one way ticket to prison.

          • SporkParade

            Then why hasn’t the percentage of children in special ed risen? You would benefit from reading this: Also, why do you seem to assume that autism and ADD only affect boys?

          • Young CC Prof

            OK, this is off the point, but it’s an example of the fuzzy reasoning you’re using. You’re taking the past as you remember it and comparing it to the present as viewed on cable news.

            The drop in SAT scores does not mean what you think it does. Over the past few decades, the percentage of high-schoolers taking the SAT has gone up dramatically. In 1970, only the “best and the brightest” took it. Now, in some states most high school graduates take it. It’s a different population.

            If you look at tests given across the entire school-aged population, scores are UP in elementary and middle school, and in high school, scores have4 stayed about the same, but dropout rates are down.

            Compared to their parents, today’s teens are less likely to have sex, more likely to use contraception if they do, more likely to graduate, less likely to smoke, and less likely to commit crimes. When modern diagnostic criteria are applied to the entire population, the rate of ASD is approximately constant.

            The kids really are all right.
            -An actual professor.

          • Daleth

            Omg your father-in-law sounds insane. I’m sorry, that’s one of the worst reasons for disciplining a kid (much less hitting him!) that I’ve ever heard.

          • Who?

            He was an alcoholic. At that time he’d recently lost his wife and wasn’t in a good place-she seemed to have a moderating effect on him that he never managed to achieve for himself. He and I got on fine for years until one day, at lunch, someone casually mentioned I’d been raised catholic. This was no secret, and I have never been a church-goer, but from that day forward he never spoke a word to me he could avoid. He also hated all asians. Every single one.

            He was a very simple character-a lot of certainty in his world, and absolutely no nuance or insight into his own behaviour. And very judgmental.

            Hitting people who annoy you isn’t discipline, it’s a failure of self control and a total lack of self-awareness.

          • dave0781

            I am sorry you are so hypersensitive , perhaps some earplugs and training in a field that doesn’t require as much writing would be in order. Have you considered food services or housekeeping?
            I don’t know your age, but if you are under thirty you likely were much more spoiled than the boomer generation, on average, although I don’t know what led to your problems in your individual case.
            To say that the number of Aspergers, autism , or other similar autism spectrum disorder diagnosis is really unchanged is ridiculous.. Not only by looking at HELLO, the number of cases, but look at the mismatch between the unemployed or underemployed compared to your grandfathers, something is causing dysfunction and it isn’t that kids are getting too much discipline and actual training in real fields.
            Back then, many more people trained for the skilled trades, hard core sciences, or engineering. Today, we have told our (frequently spoiled ) kids they can “do whatever they want” and they have flocked to the “Glam Fields” The arts, entertainment, FILM SCHOOL, Business, they want to do something fun and easy and get paid a lot. PROBLEM! 99 percent of the time it doesn’t work out unless Daddy is a film producer or owns an art gallery. How about free tuition for Medicine, engineering and the hard core sciences and every body else can pay.
            As far as your interest in my ASS, that’s a symptom of another “problem” you might have , but that is beyond the scope of this thread.

          • Nick Sanders

            Fuck off, troll.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            Wow. And they say autistics don’t have empathy. *slow clap*

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            I know you’re being sarcastic, but I believe that there is some evidence that autistics are hyper-empathetic but don’t know how to express their empathy as well as neurotypicals. It may be that the excess empathy might be one reason that autistic people get overwhelmed and shut down.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            I’ve wondered about that myself actually.

            I think it’s perceived that autistics have a lack of empathy because we cannot immediately recognize subtle signs of distress that are more readily apparent to those that can properly read body language.

            Once distress or any other emotion is actually recognized by autistics I’ve seen them go one of two ways: one is the classic “lack of empathy” where they continue to appear not to acknowledge it but if asked they do know the emotion the person is expressing. The other reaction I see is on the complete opposite side of the scale where just seeing someone crying sets off the autistic person to start crying too. If someone is heartbroken over something you’d think the autistic person just has their heart broken too.

            I fall into the latter category where when I’m around someone expressing very “loud” emotions it’s almost like that emotion leaks into me. I’m the biggest crybaby and sympathetic cryer. Also seem to get practically drunk on other’s joy and happiness.

            For me it feels like instead of having a selective ability to let certain emotions from others through, it’s all or nothing. I think the ones that appear more stoic find nothing to be easier to cope with and just put up all the walls or risk massive overstimulation. I find it easier to “pass” as normalish by taking it all at once and because I find it extremely difficult to turn that empathy off and I can’t tune it down either. I feel worse feeling nothing than I do feeling everything.

            It does make me very good at my job though since most patients I check in are in a lot of pain and it’s a pretty clearly broadcast signal. Since I can’t turn my empathy off or tune it down I don’t get the same kind of compassion fatigue some of my coworkers get. I also have to keep a professional air so I don’t have to worry about “is this a proper situation for a hug? Do I agree with them? I don’t know what to say besides I’m sorry! I really don’t want to do physical contact right now but is this a pat on the shoulder situation? Aghhh!” Touching patients is a no-no in my job position outside of emergencies and I can understand emergencies lol.

          • Who?

            dave is a horrible man.

        • Young CC Prof

          And back in the 50’s, there were many children in asylums that no one talked about. I’d say special ed is an improvement.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            Agreed. Never mind they didn’t recognize the less socially impacted cases of autism until 1994 as an official diagnoses to be tracked. But I’m sure the sudden jump of autism cases in the mid to late 90s had nothing to do with that.

            We’re pretty sure my paternal grandfather was Asperger’s Syndrome after I was diagnosed and we looked back in our family history.

            Same aversion to social situations, same almost OCD like tendency to have things a certain way and heaven help you if you moved them, same narrow fields of interest (oddly enough we both shared an intense interest in nuclear physics and computer programming), same blunt way of speaking though I am able to temper mine a bit better. Same rather overly literal mind.

            He was a certifiable genius but unfortunately I didn’t get that part. He worked for Hanford designing the ferro-concrete biological shields still in use today. To help him he created his own program on the old IBMs to calculate the tensile strength and neutron blocking capabilities of the different ratios of metals to concrete. After that the government snapped him up and he worked in the military in weapons development, mostly middle tracking and guidance systems as far as we know. We don’t know much else of what he did after that except that he was on a Soviet hitlist at one point.

            But he had a bad habit of not checking his speech with people he really, really shouldn’t have been pissing off. It’s only because he was so useful that he wasn’t shoved off to some corner somewhere and fortten. He was an army guy and the air force tried to wine and dine him to come worn for them. He said no. When they asked why he wouldn’t he said “Because you’re all too stupid.” He talked that way to everybody as far as I’ve heard. Even his own kids sometimes. He just didn’t get not being direct and saying what you mean without beating around the bush. Very odd sense of humor from what I understand, too. Or what passed for his sense of humor. It was very dry and direct from what I understand.

            Back then you would have called him eccentric, the odd duck, brilliant but has no social skills, meticulous, overly protective of his work space, overly focused. Doesn’t seem to understand certain types of humor. Today we would do further testing for an ASD.

            And to refute the spoiled brat analysis he didn’t have a spoiled upbringing. Pretty much to exact opposite. When he was fourteen his dad quit his job to become a writer and basically told my grandfather that they couldn’t afford to clothe and feed him anymore. Back then you couldn’t go to school without shoes and unlike now there wasn’t a program in place to provide shoes to those in need. So he worked on the Deseret sugar beet farms with the PTDS World War II veterans to earn enough money to buy shoes. He walked to and from school barefoot so that one pair would last him all year. After the Korean War he and his friends wanted to buy a car. Between nine of them they were able to pool their money and buy and old piece of crap prone to breaking down. They shared it between the nine of them because they were so broke.

            But he must have been spoiled, right? How else do you explain his ASD symptoms?

            As for the White anglo-saxons having a disproportionate amount of people with ASD, my mom has her own theory on that. Most of the people of that background are also Scandinavian. She’s noticed a disproportionate amount of areas with a high Scandinavian heritage and background have children with ASD.

            Her theory is that Scandinavians had a lot of very focused, solitary jobs in their society. Being a fisherman was rather isolating with repetitive tasks and that was a major job for their society where a person with ASD could be very successful. In other societies, people with ASD and their lack of social skills would experience being selected against as mates and therefore didn’t pass down their genes. But in a society that has very successful and therefore desirable people with ASD they were neither selected for or against, they just evened the playing field and so had a better chance of being selected as mates than others on the ASD spectrum. Their genes were passed down. Oddly enough, my grandfather was full blooded Danish.

            My mom wants to do more research eventually and I don’t know how accurate her analysis is, but there’s one possible reason why we see a boom of ASD in the Scandinavian populations.

        • Who?

          Could be, who knows? In the meantime, it’s Dr Lovaas. If you think having no job and no future isn’t stressful you should take some time to talk to university graduates, from good universities with good, professional degrees, who can’t get jobs. At the same time you could talk to people who lost jobs in the GFC and can’t get another, and see how unstressed they are.

          Just because your idea of an easy life is lying around all day with nowhere to be (though presumably you have a decent roof over your head and are getting three square meals and a couple of snacks all the while) doesn’t mean others, who don’t share your advantages, agree.

          I think you’re the only person who finds it odd that behavioural and development issues should be more obvious where there is a basic education and work system, rather than in countries riven by poverty. When getting food and clean water into mouths and vaccinations and other basic care happening, behavioural problems are way down the list of things to be worried about.

          • dave0781

            Thanks, it was Lovaas, it’s been a long time. You miss my point about stress. Autism is developed in early childhood and infancy, so the “stress” I am referring to is that which the infant experiences.
            As we evolved, infants were exposed to noise, hunger, moving around to escape predators while in some sort of papoose. Mothers did not have the time or resources to respond instantly to crying.
            Today, I have seen parents who freak out if someone makes noise while their baby sleeps, or if people argue around kids “your scarring the children” is a concern. Do you really think we developed this way? Really?
            In prior generations, people allowed their kids to experience discomfort, adults came first and kids second. Today, there has been a reversal of that social contract , and some kids become virtual “bubble boys” completely shielded from any trace of discomfort.
            My parents were depression kids, and constantly gave us the five miles in the snow bit, but their childhood was harsh.
            . We, my sibs and me, were accused of being spoiled, but by todays standards we were horribly abused. I don’t advocate a childhood as harsh as mine, I think it causes other problems. However, college and medical school seemed easier for me than some of the rich kids I attended with, made me wonder…
            I’m just raising the possibility that a lack of stress might be an actual problem and we don’t realize it. We thought bottles were better than breasts, x rays were OK for shoe size, and thalidomide was a great sedative at one point. What is going on now that we will look back on?amphetamines for ADD? Letting kids boss their parents around and obsessing over them? Let’s wait 30 years and see.

          • Medwife

            Parents- mothers in particular- really cannot win sometimes. If you were a “refrigerator” you were at fault if your child was schizophrenic or gay. Now if you are affectionate and pay attention to your child’s emotional and physical needs, you made them autistic. Like other posters responding to your bone headed post, my husband’s dad, a member of your generation with a dad who was as strict/abusive as yours, has Aspergers written all over him, my husband has a syndrome associated with autism, and our little boy is autistic. And I guess you’d say I spoiled him because I comforted him when he cried and fed him when he was hungry as a baby, because identical twins don’t have 100% concordance (not even close to being necessary to show probable genetic contribution, “doctor”).

          • Who?

            It’s compicated, that’s true. My nephew (now 16, so very much of the current generation) who has aspergers was left to scream until he kicked his cot apart aged 18 months, because his parents thought ‘routine’ was everything. Same family would take meals away after 20 minutes and re-present them at every meal until they were eaten. No genetics in there at all, what do you think? And pretty spoilt, wouldn’t you say?

            Their older child, who is very social and ‘normal’ left home the very second he could get out, the younger (aspie) one is still living there.

            It’s in the nature of people that we want to do our best. There was a lively discussion here the other day about the pros and cons of sleep training-some loved it, some would never do it, some had never felt the need. Everyone felt they’d done their best, within their limitations, based on the information to hand.

            We know now that bottles are no better or worse than breasts, that xrays are not necessary for shoe fitting and that thalidomide, which is great for certain things, is not indicated for pregnant women. We learn, and hopefully get a little wiser.

          • Daleth

            Wow. I’m so sorry for your nephews. What a bizarre and unpleasant home life.

          • Who?

            It is. My kids, who are a year or two older than their cousins, pursue a running commentary, can’t deal at all with their aunt and uncle who they consider to be just this side of abusers.

            This nonsense about ASD kids being spoilt brats is so wrong, and unhelpful. Spoilt brats-of which we have a number in our circle-are totally different, particularly as adults.

        • demodocus

          Iran has no homosexuals; Former President Ahmadinejad said so.

          • Who?

            Apparently there are none in the northern part of the state I live in either, a local senator said so.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          I wonder how much Autism they have in say, Uganda?

          Noble savage trope. Lovely.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      Nope. Abusing children still isn’t good for them, even if you phrase it as “old fashioned parenting”, 1970s behavioral therapy is not state of the art, and the primary reason the diagnosis of autism has increased is diagnostic substitution and increased awareness, not parenting failure. Also, maybe if your parents hadn’t beaten you so often you’d be able to write english. “Robing” children of the opportunity to develop normally?

  • Lombardi

    I have no idea where the child in this post is on the spectrum but if he is on the mild or moderate end I have so much pity for him. I feel so sorry for this women’s child and the kids of those who posted in the comments section. I imagine that most are not getting the cognitive and behavioral therapies that have been shown to be helpful in teaching Autistic children how to address the world and communicate with others. Autism is not just a developmental disorder it id a fundamental aspect of a person personality as well. Can you imagine growing up in a house where you are mom’s number one mistake in life and she is constantly trying to fix or cure you!

    • Ellen

      This. Both of my children have ASD. They are wonderful, just as they are, and although it makes parenting them much more of a challenge, I would not change them if I could. Autism is not a tragedy.

  • Dyke by choice

    Transgender kids are not radically different from their parents. Transgenderism would not exist without patriarchally enforced gender roles. Gender is what behaviors are forced on you and socialized into you because of your birth sex.

  • Ducky7

    Thinking Mom’s Revolution is more like Society of Tin-Foil-Hat Wearers… I posted a somewhat compassionate, well-reasoned comment arguing that the poster should not blame herself for her son’s autism, and it was not posted. Since I’ve posted, the following comment was let through. It was literally written by someone who confessed **in the comment** to recently having been released from a mental ward (I’m serious!):

    “You have hit the nail on the head, many of us have given our children Autism. Unfortunately, children suffer because of their parents sin. Each time we have our children vaccinated, give them chemical-ladened food, plonk them infront of the tv for hours at a time, ignore them and reject them in other ways, they suffer. I have a 10 year old with Autism, and I know it is my fault.”

    I think the biggest thing at issue here is trust. Is it even possible to gain the trust of these people? Or, more importantly, keep/gain the trust of the people on the fence who they may be swaying with their nonsense?

  • lilady R.N.

    Thinking Moms Revolution? They are anti-vaccine and anti-science self-styled “warrior moms”, who are all affiliated with Age of Autism, Generation Rescue and other crank groups.

    They indulge in online “pity parties” and view themselves as martyrs because they have a special needs child. They refer to their children as “vaccine damaged” and “train wrecks” and many of them have subjected their children to “biomedical treatments”, such as industrial bleach enemas, chelation, chemical castration and intrathecal IV stem cell treatments at filthy, unregulated off-shore clinics.

  • anonymous

    Lots of references to…there goes any vestiges of credibility

  • Ducky7

    I wrote an extensive and respectful comment on her blog, but it was not posted. I also calculated that a 140-lb woman would need to drink ~3700 cans of 12-oz Coca Cola PER DAY to achieve the blood levels of mercury shown to impact children neurologically. Lab studies have shown that oatmeal and nutrigrain contain upwards of 3x the amount of mercury that Coke does. You get WAY more mercury exposure from one weekly serving of fish.

    I don’t understand it fully but there is something really interesting going on cognitively with all these people who believe their child’s autism could be prevented. Perhaps it allows people to live vicariously through the fantasy that they will help others; perhaps it gives them a space to play out the thought: “If only I could have done something”?

    By the by I really, really appreciated this post. My twin brother is autistic and he and my parents have had a very difficult time of it in the last five years. My mom asked for “Far From the Tree” for Christmas last year. Parents need that message I think.

    To me more than anyone else it’s apparent that autism has a strong genetic component and that in normal cases it’s almost absurd to take credit for “giving” your child autism. My brother and I shared the same womb, birth (by c-section- has it ever occurred to anyone there might be a correlation between c-sections and autism because autistic infants are more prone to distress?), medical treatments, food, and environment for at least our first two years, and we could not be more different. It’s not scientific evidence but I hope it might help someone without any scientific instincts to understand how absurd it is to draw a causal link between one’s own actions and their child’s autism.

    I would agree with them on some points and I’m interested in diversity of perspective like the next person but the censoring of comments is a clear sign that these people are afraid of scientific debate.

  • Carrie C

    I’m sorry, but this woman’s attitude is CRAZY, and just about every comment on her post is, too! They’re all resigned to the “fact” that these HARMLESS things cause autism! It’s maddening to see people like this! She really needs to change her perspective, because it’s not good for her kids to grow up seeing that kind of behavior, blaming herself for something she had NO control over, and constantly looking for control over things she simply could never have control over. I know that autism is a rough thing for a parent to deal with — just as any illness or disability in a child is difficult for the parent. I know parents of children with neural tube defects often blame themselves for not taking folic acid when they should have. It may have helped, but there’s no guarantee it would have changed anything, and they should not blame themselves. But this woman, blaming herself for something that categorically has NOTHING to do with causing her child’s autism?! That’s craziness! That’s grasping at straws! That shows she hasn’t properly grieved! That shows she needs some counseling! That shows … just how sad it is. :( I feel very sorry for her.

  • HM

    Thanks for posting this! My brother is a heroin addict, and my mom beats herself up for it. Every time I talk to her, she says, “Maybe I shouldn’t have done this. I should have done x instead. When this happened, I should have done that” about everything she can think of. I’m emailing her the title of this book!

    • KarenJJ

      That is hard. My neighbour had one son that is/was a heroin addict and basically unable to function in society (hold down a job, live away from home, apply for unemployment benefits) and one daughter that was happily married to a nice, hard working guy and had three little kids. I’ve no idea how it happens like this. Apparently he was a really nice kid that feel in with a bad crowd. I also wonder if he is self-medicating somehow? But I’ve no idea and it’s not really my business.

  • Lynnie

    If ultrasound contributed to autism, my niece should be autistic. She’s not. My sister had an ultrasound pretty much every day for her last 6 weeks of pregnancy. My niece had heart problems before she was born and she was pumped up on all sorts of medications before and after birth. Her heart beat way too fast and they had to give her digitalis (I think) to slow her heart down to keep her from having cardiac arrest. The doctors were actually concerned that all the medications that she had to take when she was a baby and all the medications my sister had to take while pregnant to slow the baby’s heart rate. She has had NO negative affects neurologically. She is a thin little girl, but that might have to do with the fact that she never stops moving for a second.

    I read the linked article and one of the commenters was saying that dopplers and bad as well. Well, if it wasn’t for dopplers and ultrasounds, my niece would have probably died before she was born and we would have missed out on a great joy in our lives.

    The fact is, they don’t really KNOW what causes autism. (My own personal theory is that it’s largely genetic.) My brother is diagnosed as mildly autistic. My father and nephew both have autistic tendencies while not being officially diagnosed. 3 different women, 3 people with either autism or autistic tendencies. They were all raised a little differently, There isn’t really any strong similarities between them all, except for a genetic link. Well, both my brother and my nephew were induced with Pitocin, but my son and my niece were as well and no autism there.

    Personally, I think the autism and [insert blame here] is too convenient. Ultrasound-well, the vast majority of women have had ultrasounds. Pitocin-um, if the NCB proponents are right, a majority of women use Pitocin as well, The same for pretty much everything they blame autism on. The practices they vilify, a large majority of pregnant women and babies have done. So, obviously a large amount of autistic people have experienced many of these “risk factors”.

    Well, I am beginning to ramble. The whole blame game for autism is a heated topic for me for some reason. I guess it’s because my mom actually blamed herself and her induction with my brother on his autism. I will stop rambling now. ;)

    • Isramommy

      Just to add another anecdote- if ultrasounds caused autism, my daughter would be screwed. She had a mild brain abnormality detected at our 20-ish week anatomy scan. As a result, I needed high resolution level two ultrasounds focused directly on her brain every two weeks until delivery in order to monitor the dilation of her lateral ventricles. Plus we had a fetal MRI of her brain (according to these people that has to be bad, right?) We also had several fetal/neonatal neurology consults which, guess what, also involved ultrasounds of her brain. Oh, and ultrasounds through her soft spot at birth and at 3 months also.

      Thank God, she is a totally normal, healthy two-and-a-half year old. She has no neurological issues, either from her ventriculomegaly, or all those ultrasounds. The fact that this woman has such guilt about routine ultrasounds is very sad. The fact that she is encouraging other women to forgo important diagnostic tests is infuriating.

  • yentavegan

    Meanwhile, here in New York, 3 weeks have passed since 14 year old Avonte Oquendo walked out of his school without the security personnel even trying to stop him. This teen ager is autistic and has no communication skills. It is now bitterly cold at night and I get really bad vibes concerning the outcome of this situation.

    • Young CC Prof

      Yeah, I’ve been following that story, and it’s pretty bad.

  • SkepticalGuest

    So glad you’re reading Andrew Solomon’s book. I thoroughly adored it.

    The whole culture–not just attachment parenting–tells us that IT’S ALL MOM’S FAULT.

    Seriously, I have a child with food allergies (celiac) and I can’t tell you how many “explanations” I’ve heard for why food allergies are on the rise: mom didn’t breastfeed, or didn’t breastfeed exclusively or for long enough; mom introduced solids (and/or the allergen) too early or too late; mom kept her houses too clean; mom did IVF; mom had a c-sections; mom is making it up/exaggerating/following a trend, etc.

    But ultimately, it’s all the same: whatever is wrong with the child (food allergies, autism) is ALL MOM’S FAULT.

    I’ve thought about it a lot, and I’ve concluded that people are looking for boogey-moms to blame so they can either a) feel smug that it’s their spectucular parenting that kept their kid safe; or b) feel that this can’t happen to future children.

    Really, all the APers are doing is extending the blame to how mom gave birth. There is plenty of crazy in the non-AP community when it comes to blaming the moms of kids with food allergies. They just don’t blame vaccines or lack of natural childbirth.

    • Young CC Prof

      Very good summation of the problem: Society tells us that whatever about your child is less than perfect, it’s ALL YOUR FAULT.

      Every time I hear someone say “ADHD=Bad parenting” I get angry on my own parents’ behalf. Sorry, self-righteous parent blamers, the hand of fate gave me ADHD. My parents gave me coping skills, with no support from society at large, after a succession of therapists and an actual child psychiatrist failed to diagnose or treat me.

      • KarenJJ

        And on the other side, if you do something right you are such a good parent. I’m still cautious with one of my parents due to a tendency to get overly excited about any achievements and brag about how it was due to ‘such and such’ a decision that was apparently made by themselves during my childhood. Also thinks my kid spoke so clearly while young because I spoke to her a lot. Nope – it was just how she was. The next one is more of a mumbler.

        • Bombshellrisa

          Seriously-I thought I was the only one. My mother accepts the praise for everything “right” that I have done because she is sure it was “taking her prenatal vitamins”, “laying on her left side only” and being “very careful” during her pregnancy with me. She also feels that being a helicopter parent is something she (and my father ) must continue being even now when I am 34 years old. It’s hard to explain to a parent why they aren’t invited to MY OB appointment. My father doesn’t understand why I don’t want him there, after all, my pregnancy is a “special time FOR HIM” and he and my mother feel that they can contribute something to the discussion since they are my parents.

          • Elizabeth A

            There is a vague logic, with babies, to attributing goodness or badness with parental action, but it’s not that the actions were actually logically related.

            As far as I can tell, a “bad” or “misbehaving” baby (air quotes used advisedly) is any baby that fusses. A “good” baby is a baby that coos and smiles. The very best of all babies is any infant that is currently asleep. Of course, a parent has very little control over these things, they change from moment to moment, and they bear no relation to the personality or intentions of the infant. The vague logic I referred to is that as long as we’re inventing judgments out of air, parents feel justified in getting some benefit out of that.

            I don’t say this to defend your parents. At some point you have to give up the fantasy that the way your kids turn out is entirely down to you.

          • KarenJJ

            “At some point you have to give up the fantasy that the way your kids turn out is entirely down to you.”

            Problem is when they don’t. The achievements of a young adult should be something they can own themselves without also trying to gain reflected glory based on your decisions in their early life. I’m grateful for the options I have had and the support I’ve received, but there is a level where it is OK and a level where it isn’t. It comes down to where a young adult’s identity lies and the fact that it should be their identity, not the parents, if that makes sense?

          • Elizabeth A

            I think we agree. There’s a point at which, if you want a real relationship with your adult offspring, you have to acknowledge your child’s effort and accomplishments without trying to own those things.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            This, if you can you try to give them some tools to deal with what life throws at them. How they deal is largely up to them. My kids grades in school were largely up to her. I could help by giving her a quiet place to study and maybe getting a tutor something if she wasn’t getting something. Or maybe being an advocate if she needed extra help that she wasn’t getting. But her success is hers. But so were her failures if she was choosing not to do her homework or study for a test.

          • Bombshellrisa

            Oh, I don’t mind that she thought that about whatever I did as a baby : ) it just irks me that she still sees those things as the reasons why I have done things well NOW. My being able to learn Quickbooks now or throw a great party or anything else I do has very little to do with her taking her prenatal vitamins and laying on her left side during pregnancy (but she would argue otherwise)

          • AmyP

            That’s funny.

            I think I am responsible for my older children’s amazing spatial skills, but that my contribution there was 95% choosing their father.

            I am very smug about that particular choice, but it’s not nice to brag in real life.

    • Jennifer2

      Well then, the solution to all that ails our society must be for gay (male) couples to adopt all the babies.

      • Certified Hamster Midwife

        Doesn’t work unless we start growing babies in jars. There’s always a bio-mom to blame.

        • Jennifer2

          Let’s get crackin’ on that then. If we can put a man on the moon, we can grow some jar babies and adopt them out to gay couples.

        • Young CC Prof

          A year or so ago, my father’s younger co-worker was in the process of a planned newborn adoption, along with his partner. One day at work, the phone rings, young man answers.

          “Her water broke? Really?” Then he turns to my father. “Her water broke. What does that mean?”

          My father, admirably, did not laugh at his ignorance of all things female, just told him to get moving and prepare for parenthood within 24 hours.

    • Olga Mecking

      Yes! A million times yes! I adore books but stopped reading parenting books because they were all: “You’re doing it wrong”. “It’s all your fault”. My first child was a late talker: my fault because I didn’t talk to her enough. My second child was a late walker: my fault because I didn’t exercise with her enough. Or something. Let’s see how my son will tunr out and if he is late to do something, it’s probably my fault, too!

      • SkepticalGuest

        I am SO with you on this. Whether it is sleep or potty training or anything else, I couldn’t read any parenting books about the topic. Not matter where they were on the parenting spectrum (from AP to ultra-conservative) and no matter what they recommended (from almost exactly what I was doing to the polar opposite), the ultimate message was the same:

        “If you don’t do it exactly as I say, you’re going to screw your child up for life. And if my method doesn’t work for you, it’s because you’re a bad mom.”

    • Mel

      My husband and I were both breast-fed and he grew up on a farm surrounded by animals. Under the laws of comic correlation, we should be skinny and asthma/allergy/eczema-free. Too bad we never got the memo. We both struggle with obesity, my husband has severe allergies and asthma and I’m coating my hands in steroid lotion to control my second outbreak of dyhydriotic eczema since July.

      • GuestB

        My daughter has this on her feet. It itches like crazy, and the steroid cream doesn’t really help. If you have any tips for management I’d love to hear them.

        (Sorry this is so OT)

        • anna

          ive had it…. barrier cream and willpower not to scratch sorry :( it was SO itchy i scratched myself raw and bleedign and hen got serious infections. a slimy/greasy barrier cream helped a bit, i would put steroid on first and then the cream… just gott try and stick it out for a week or two of the cream without scratching and then it should fade away a little

        • Mel

          A friend of mine used photo therapy for worse dyhydriotic eczema. We both had good insurance through our work and his doctor was willing to go through the paper work/treatment logs needed to get permission to essentially write prescriptions for using a sun-tanning bed.

        • me

          I’ve suffered with that on my hands (and when I was younger, my feet) for years. I also found steroid creams didn’t help much, and as soon as you stop them, it comes right back. I recently cut most grains and starches out of my diet (mostly for weight loss purposes) and found that within a few weeks my eczema just cleared up (hurray!!). You may want to try eliminating wheat from her diet (as it seems a lot of people have sensitivities to gluten) and see if that helps. For me it only took about 2-3 weeks to see dramatic improvement. Also try adding more saturated fat to her diet (our cell membranes are comprised of saturated fat, we need it for their structural integrity). Coconut oil, palm oil, butter, and lard are wonderful sources and easily replace vegetable oils in anything you cook. I don’t know which thing helped me (cutting carbs or increasing good fats), but you could certainly try it and see if it helps!

          • Young CC Prof

            You know, mine got way better when I cut out all raw plant foods. Turned out I actually had really bad oral allergy syndrome, bad enough it was manifesting on my skin. (OAS is pretty rare in children, though.)

          • me

            I will say that I don’t know exactly what aspect of my diet helped, all I know is that I no longer even need lotion :) I went from the conventional wisdom diet (low fat, lots of whole grains, lots of fruit and veggies, lean meat, low fat/fat free dairy) to a low carb, high fat diet (lots of non-starchy veg, lots of fattier meats (well marbled steak, dark meat chicken, oily fish, etc), lots of eggs (eat those yolks), avocados, nuts and seeds, full fat dairy in moderation, low sugar fruits in moderation, and minimal grains/starchy veggies (1 serving or less per day), and also eliminated vegetable oils (with the exception of olive oil) and replaced them with the fats I mentioned above).

            I lost a lot of weight, yes, but the disappearance of my eczema was simply amazing. I went from cycling between itchy, liquid filled blisters (oh my god, that level of itching is c.r.a.z.y.) and cracked, bleeding skin, to clear, normal skin in just a couple of weeks. My mom thinks it’s the additional saturated fat, my husband thinks I might have a gluten sensitivity. I don’t really care what it was, lol, I just know I’ll never go back to my old way of eating again.

            I don’t know how old GuestB’s daughter is, and a radical change in diet can present challenges in kids, but making a few simple switches might give insight as to whether dietary factors are causing the eczema. It can’t hurt to try, you know?

        • fiftyfifty1

          Dyshidrotic eczema tips:
          1. Identify triggers: Common triggers include mechanical sources (e.g getting an outbreak after clapping at a concert or after a road trip where the hands contacted the steering wheel), changes in pH (e.g. contact with lemon or tomato juice.) Another overlooked trigger is the fungus of athlete’s foot. Even mild tinea pedis (mild peeling skin between the toes or a little dry/flaky look to the foot skin) can trigger an outbreak and the outbreak will often occur on BOTH the hands and the feet even though the fungus is only infecting the feet. Treat the fungus with OTC tinactin foot spray and you can really help the problem.
          2. Use steroids effectively. Don’t waste your time on weak steroids. Adults will need clobetasol, halobetasol or betamethasone dipropionate. A child’s thinner skin may respond to triamcinolone 0.1% ointment. Always use the ointment (grease) form, never the cream form. Ointments penetrate much better than creams and don’t contain potentially irritating preservatives.
          3. Manage the itch: itch is worse at night. Use a sedating antihistamine like Benadryl. Don’t use it during the day (too sedating). Never use topical Benadryl preparations: they can cause allergic reactions.
          4. Treat early. Easier to nip it in the bud.
          5. DE has a big genetic component but what the genes are have not yet been identified. Spontaneous remissions are common. It may clear up suddenly on its own and not bother you for years and then relapse and be a real stinker for a few years. This part is still a mystery.
          6. Watch for signs of superinfection. Agent is almost always Staph aureus. Look for the golden colored pus. Seldom will need oral antibiotics, just drainage or the infected blisters and topicals (try bacitracin first not triple antibiotic). Soaking hands in a very very weak bleach solution can help and surprisingly almost never makes the eczema worse. If you do need an oral antibiotic, make sure to cover for MRSA, and remember no doxycycline etc in those who haven’t yet formed all adult enamel (under age 9).
          …see, the crap that clogs doctors’ brains. With all this minutiae, no wonder we don’t have room for a sense of humor.

          • GuestB

            Thanks for the tips! My daughter has seen 2 dermatologists, and both have said dishydrotic eczema – but neither one has done the test (is it KOH?) for athletes foot. Is this a test we should insist on? Her feet are so raw and cracked and they look awful. And we have cream, not ointment. Should we insist on a new script, too? Thanks in advance, and sorry to hijack the comments.

          • fiftyfifty1

            I would ask for ointment not cream, it really is more effective. But patients tend to complain about it because it’s greasy, so some derms seemingly have given up and go for the creams first. I personally don’t do the KOH test in these cases because the test can miss a mild case. I just go by clinical judgement: if it looks like it could have tinea pedis, or if nothing else is working, I treat for fungus.

          • GuestB

            That makes me feel better. Everything I read on the internet (I know! I know!) said you have to do the KOH test to r/o athletes foot. I figured if two dermatologists didn’t bother with it, then it really wasn’t necessary, but it was still nagging at me. Your input is very helpful. Thanks so much.

          • KarenJJ

            Some of this was exactly the sort of advice we got from the paediatric dermatologist my daughter saw for her eczema at 18 months. Basically it was “go hard and go early” – use the strong stuff early enough and you’ll use much less steroid ointment in the long run and she’ll feel a lot more comfortable. She was also a fan of us using ointment over cream.

    • Sguest

      Well, I DEFINITELY couldn’t be accused of keeping my house too clean. Phew! Must be the perfect parent, must start a blog about how awesome I am………

      • araikwao

        Ha ha, me too! I keep telling myself that the hygiene hypothesis hasn’t been rejected yet, so I am *protecting* my kids by avoiding housework.

    • me

      This post is timely for me. My oldest suffers selective mutism (she has still never spoken to anyone at school, teachers or peers, and we’re midway through first grade, into our second year of therapy and recently started medication). I did, and often still do, blame myself for her disorder. I know it’s not rational, and fortunately I have two other children who don’t have the anxiety issues my oldest has, and since I know I didn’t do anything significantly different with them, I can take solace in the idea that I didn’t cause her issues. But it’s still hard not to engage in self-blame (was it the induction, the epidural, did I bf her too long, not long enough, was it the frequent moving, the choice to be a SAHM, and on and on and on).

      It is human nature to try to explain the unexplainable. And it is the nature of parents to blame themselves for their children’s imperfections. I’m still struggling to come to terms with the idea that I may not be able to “fix” this, and this may be something she suffers with into adulthood. It’s sad and depressing and scary as hell, and so of course it’s easy to blame oneself. Before it’s over I’ll probably be the one in counseling and on meds….

      But Dr Amy is right, thinking we have control over these things is a prettier picture than the ugly truth that bad things happen to good people, often randomly.

  • The Computer Ate My Nym

    So I have another question: I’m probably autistic/asperger’s. My daughter is floridly neurotypical. Makes friends at the playground, socializes with kids when she doesn’t even speak the same language, the whole thing. I’m worried. I’ve heard that neurotypicals have terrible trouble resisting peer pressure and am concerned about her. How could this have happened*? Did I not have enough ultrasounds during pregnancy or not drink enough high fructose corn syrup drinks?

    BTW, yes, I’m being sarcastic but I do have real concerns about how I’m going to help her through adolescence when the challenges she faces are likely to be so different from mine…

    *Actual answer: recessive genes and partner who is not autistic, not even a little bit.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      Come to think of it, I did Every Last One of the things on the list of things that will make your child autistic when I was pregnant or delivering. Except maybe Tylenol and I did that while breast feeding. She’s still neurotypical. Almost as though the claims about ultrasounds, tylenol, etc were nonsense*.

      *Not, of course, that my anecdote proves anything.

      • Lisa from NY

        Good luck to you. I am sure you are a great mother and your fears are probably unfounded.

        • Antigonos CNM

          There’s a part of me which wonders whatever happened to individuality. Too many people — and especially nowadays, children — are overdiagnosed, IMO.

          Where children are concerned, it’s similar to the “there’s an app for that” syndrome with iPads and smartphones. Jiggles his leg, never sits still, seems rather scatterbrained? He must have X syndrome; there’s a med to make him “more normal”, and he probably got that way because he was exposed in utero to something deemed pernicious. What’s wrong with being always on the go, and having a short attention span anyway? [today, my son who has all these characteristics is a very successful businessman, these same traits inspiring him to be a go-getter and to think outside the box]. There was a time when a certain amount of oddity or eccentricity was not given a diagnosis that required treatment. When one reads biographies of high achievers, how often does it seem that their very success comes from NOT being “average”?

          The definition of autism and the “autism spectrum” seems to be constantly expanding and I question its validity. This is not to say that autism doesn’t exist, and can be profoundly disabling. But labeling just about everyone as having some form of “problem” is a problem in itself.

          • Anj Fabian

            If it makes you feel any better, IEPs don’t care that much about the “diagnosis” as much as they do about measurable deficits.

            IEPs are evidence based. You might quibble about what they are measuring and how they are measuring, but data is collected and evaluated in an objective way. (Ignoring politics and funding problems..)

            The IEP attempts to address those deficits, no matter if the child is autistic, AD/HD, DS, or some rare known genetic condition. As long as children in need get the services to help them, I don’t care if they have a diagnosis or not.

          • Lisa Cybergirl

            I was very glad to finally be diagnosed with Aspergers and ADHD at age 49 (girls didn’t GET those when I was a kid; I was just creepy). My ADHD support group has given me so many tips and tricks for getting through life! I only wish I’d known a long time ago, I’d probably have a decent job by now.

          • Young CC Prof

            Yeah, girls didn’t get those in the 80’s, either. Being finally diagnosed at 19 made a huge difference in my life, just understanding myself better.

      • GiddyUpGo123

        Here’s another anecdote, I *did* actually do all of the things on that list, except with first two pregnancies it was pitocin, not c-sections and with the second two it was c-sections, not pitocin. And none of my children have autism.

      • carr528

        I had four pregnancies which were all pretty much the same. Ultrasounds, caffeine – one cup of coffee a day, tylenol, probably had some HFCS, c-sections with all four, vaccinated all four on schedule, etc. My second son has ADHD and is probably on the spectrum, while the other three are neurotypical. My third son WAS born with craniosynostosis, so I’m sure I caused that. (Darn hair dye!)

        It’s just proof that there’s NO one explanation for ASD. And for a mom to beat herself up because of it is ridiculous.

    • auntbea

      I’m neurotypical, but I went to a science and engineering magnet that attracted a lot of people on the spectrum, strong introverts (me!) and then just a lot of generally quirky people (also me). I loved it. My daughter is clearly an extrovert and very socially adept even though she’s only 19 months. I just don’t know what I’m going to do.

  • MichelleJo

    I could easily be eating myself up with guilt. I have an autistic
    daughter, and the things I did in pregnancy were far more sinful than
    having flouride and ultrasounds. I took category C drugs in early
    pregnancy, I was artificially induced three weeks early and the baby
    took her time to get breathing.These were both things that I could have
    not done. The point is that whenever a decision has to be made, when
    doing nothing is also a risk, it is always weighed up in a cost versus
    benefit way. You can’t do more or better than that,*even if that choice
    could end up doing harm*. Autism is probably random anyway, but what if it’s not?There is a *chance* that my choices caused her
    autism. But do I feel guilty? Have a ever even thought of being guilty? Not for a second. We are not prophets, we
    are human beings, and can only know, and make decisionsbased on, what is in
    our capacity to know. It’s like someone feeling guilty when their safely
    strapped in child is killed in a car crash where the driver was
    blameless. Oh if ONLY I hadn’t taken her with me that day, she would
    still be alive. I murdered by daughter!

    • Lisa from NY

      But there is more research pointing to genetic tendencies. I have a friend who works in a special school, and she says she sees lots of first cousins with it.

      • Young CC Prof

        I seem to recall an identical twin vs fraternal twin study. Don’t remember the exact numbers, but with identical twins it was much more likely that both would be autistic, while the numbers for fraternal twins weren’t terribly higher than for non-twin siblings.

        • Amy M

          That’s usually the case when something is genetically linked/heritable. The fraternals, like any sibling pair share 50% of their genes. The identicals share 100% (not counting epigenetics and stuff like that).

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          The dumb thing is that the autism woo crowd has tried to jump on that study as proving that autism is NOT genetic, because, you know, the incidence in the identical twins was not 100%. Since they share 100% of genes, that means that it must not be genetic. Get it?

          One criticism I heard of those claims was from L&D nurse, who noted that she has seen identical twin babies, where one had curly hair and the other had straight hair. Does that mean hair style is not genetic? Of course not. It just means that genetics is not as trivial as “gene for” or “gene against.”

          People who study this issue are well aware of the subtlety. Autism woos have no concept of such.

          • Young CC Prof

            Right, and my oldest brother-in-law who was born during famine in a foreign country is 4 inches shorter than my husband or the other brother, so clearly height isn’t genetic either. *facepalm*

          • Amy M

            Yes, and I wouldn’t be shocked if [autism] was some combination of environmental factors plus genetic tendency. Even in utero, identical twins environment is not exactly the same–they are not attached to the placenta in the same place, they do not necessarily get the same amount of nutrients, TTTS might be an issue, etc. Subtle environmental differences may make big differences in terms of gene expression, methylation, and other things on the molecular level. There are clear examples of this sort of thing–there have been studies done on sets of identical twins where one is gay and one is not. I even know a set like that. One of my (ID) twins is a leftie, the other is not, but they do not appear to be mirror-image twins either.

  • Alenushka

    Far from the Tree is a great boom. Bipolar disorder runs in my family but so is creativity and talent. I passed the genes to one of my kids. Yes , it is not easy to but I am not going to feel guilty. He does amazing things in life.

    • SkepticalGuest

      It’s funny how often we say that it’s mom’s fault for passing on genes but somehow we never blame dad’s, even though dad contributed 50% to the gene pool. (OK, technically slightly less than half, but you get the point…)

      • araikwao

        Yeah, I read a while back that advanced *paternal* age is associated with autism. Disclaimer: I have no idea of the source, or its quality.

    • Certified Hamster Midwife

      Depression runs in my family. I have it, and I don’t plan to have children partly because I don’t want to bring more people into being who have to suffer like that. Maybe it’ll be cured in 20 years, maybe not, maybe it wouldn’t get passed on. The world doesn’t need more sad people and self-blame would destroy me.

      • Ob in OZ

        What if your child is the one that discovers the cure for depression? I hope there are many reasons why someone decides whether they choose to have children. I would consider it a preconception counseling failure if the only reason not to have a child is the fear of that child developing depression. Good luck reguardless of what you choose to do.

        • Certified Hamster Midwife

          What if your tenth child is the one who would have discovered the cure for cancer?

          I don’t have a partner so it’s not really in question anyway. I would not wish my life on someone I hated, let alone my own child.

          • Ob in OZ

            My point would be that you are who you are and having children is a hugh undertaking. No child is perfect, nor are their parents. So you have children because you want to and will do your best as a parent regardless of how they turn out. I just took issue with the idea that having a child with a risk of a problem (and I can’t believe how many comments relate to passing along allergies as a concern, as opposed to something that can have severe implications like untreated major depression). I enjoy your comments so I hope you find joy in your work and at home as well.

          • Certified Hamster Midwife

            Allergies are easier to control. it would be nice to have depression shots.

            I’m in very bad shape now, which is probably coloring my view of the topic. I don’t have much in my life now.

          • Renee Martin

            Are you on the FB group? There is an open group (Fed up w Natural childbirth) and from there you can get into the closed one (Fed up w NCB Zealots). The amount of support, and also pure entertainment, you can find there is amazing. Its quite an interesting group of people. Please check it out!

          • Certified Hamster Midwife

            I used to be. This is a great group of people but it’s difficult for me to be part of a community centered on birth, parenting, and families when those are all things I can’t have. It can be a terrible trigger for me, which is why I disappear from this site sometimes.

          • Young CC Prof

            I can understand that. I had to put off children for years due to medical and other factors, and it became really hard towards the end. I’d expected a child two or three years ago, and there I was not even trying. Other people’s children, even good friends, sometimes hurt me deeply.

          • KarenJJ

            Same. It can be a very hard thing to face. Take care of yourself CHM, we’re all thinking of you here.

          • thepragmatist

            I can’t/won’t be having another child, and I get that. When my ex and I split up I had to stop coming here because I knew with him went the hope of a sibling for my child AND the hope of someone who was willing to support me through what would be a very difficult pregnancy. I am so sad about that. It’s getting better. Prior to that, I wanted a child for years after a termination, and I avoided most things child-bearing related, and tried to take some solace in working with kids, instead. I still feel like my sphere of influence and capacity to create a better world was much wider when I worked with kids. But I do remember those feelings and commend you for being able to come here, because back when I felt like that I could barely get over it to be an aunt.

          • Kumquatwriter

            That’s a rotten place to be. I’m sorry you’re in it – it colors your memories too, at least in my experience. Don’t care if you have kids or not, just hoping you get through the dark time.

          • thepragmatist

            I know it’s trite but when I feel like that I try to meticulously build a vision of what my life will look like in six months. And I’m qualified to comment, I’ve had some pretty awfully bad times in my life. I also do daily gratitude lists, even if I have to pull them out of the stupidest things (I am glad that my car isn’t broken down, etc)… ten things a day. If you’re in a Northern Climate, Vitamin D helps me. I used to have at least 2-3 very bad depressive episodes over the winter, and now with medication + Vitamin D supplementation (at 3000IU) I rarely have them, unless they’re situational. And if it’s a situation depression, remember, it will pass as time passes. I’m getting old enough to see that this is really, as lame as it sounds, true. Hope you feel better.

          • Young CC Prof

            Oh, our baby has an uncle with life-limiting allergic disease, though uncle is better now than he was as a child. I’m not afraid of “normal” allergies like most of the family has, we know exactly how to handle that and we’d probably find it weird if it didn’t happen. I’m afraid of anaphylactic food allergies and regular trips to the hospital for asthma.

          • Ob in OZ

            Didn’t mean to belittle a life-threatening allergy. It is thus revealed I know my specialty but not much outside it anymore. A. Egret example would be the patient with an unrepaired aortic aneurism. She may have a 50% chance of dying in pregnancy, but we wouldn’t do a hysterectomy, sterilization or force termination (if it was legal and available in her country… A topic for another day), but give her the best care we could if she wanted a child. And depending on the etiology of her aneurism ( ex. Marfan’s syndrome), shemayvery well pass the risk along to her child. My point is that even or especially the crazy ones all now expect a perfect child. We don’t take care of the children with special needs anywhere near enough, or support their parents for that matter. It is to a point that young doctors are baffled by the idea that a parent doesn’t terminate a pregnancy if anything at all is found on ultrasound! I’m not even talking downs syndome. It can be a few missing digits.

          • Certified Hamster Midwife

            Anaphylactic allergies terrify me. One of my parents developed a severe bee sting allergy late in life and scared me many times.

        • Lisa the Raptor

          OT but are you an OB in the Ozarks or in the Land of Oz? My minor was Appalachian studies and the Ozarks are the little sisters of that chain and have a close culture separate from “The South”.

          • Ob in OZ


          • KarenJJ

            So a bit further south then.

          • Lisa the Raptor

            Ah ha! Totally different lol. Silly me .

          • Ob in OZ

            No worries mate. Even writing that does not work for me. Still very much smerican

      • amazonmom

        You have every right to decide for yourself if you want kids or not! It’s not like you are my asshat coworker who insists all bipolars destroy their children and should be sterilized…

        • Certified Hamster Midwife

          As long as your coworker isn’t a mental health caseworker, they can just go on and be bigoted and evil.

          • KarenJJ

            Plenty of non-depressed people contribute little to the betterment of the world.

            It’s such a personal decision – I decided to have kids in spite of the cards stacked against me (genetic disease, hearing impaired, infertility) but others with the same syndrome have decided against it. I don’t think there’s going to be a one-size fits all solution. To be honest, kids can be hard – especially when you have other issues going on.

          • Certified Hamster Midwife

            I wish marriage and kids weren’t the default. Single people are really ostracized in our society.

      • fiftyfifty1

        I have no interest in your reproductive choices one way or the other, but I do object to your idea that the world doesn’t need more sad people. Sadness is no fun for the people who have it, but sadness doesn’t harm the world. Cluelessness and meanness are what do that.

        • Certified Hamster Midwife

          Most sad people contribute nothing, and their existence is harmful to themselves and detrimental to their families.

          • fiftyfifty1

            I normally agree with what you say, but not this. I know plenty of people who deal with severe depression and many of them contribute a lot. Your “most sad people contribute nothing” is just bullshit and prejudice. As to how their families ought to feel about the situation, it’s as dumb for you to decide how they ought to feel about their children as it is for other people to tell you how you ought to feel about having children of your own.
            You can decide your life hasn’t been worth it. You can decide you don’t want to risk it not being worth it for your own theoretical kids. But you don’t get to make that judgment for other people.
            I have no rosy glasses about this. I don’t tell myself or my patients fairy tales about depression being some sort of misunderstood superpower. I have no desire to downplay the pain of chronic depression/psychotic depression episodes etc. It’s real and it sucks. But to say that depressed people can’t build lives for themselves worth living is simply untrue.

          • Certified Hamster Midwife

            I see myself as someone with a sad, empty life and no contributions to society, but people who are close to me are surprised at how much paid and volunteer work I take on and how little regard I have for my own work and career. But from the outside, if you didn’t know me well, I just look like someone who has a cool job, and lots of interesting community projects going on at any given time.

          • Elizabeth A

            The way to look like that is to be that, so it’s not like they’re wrong. You being depressed doesn’t make what you do not impressive. It may make you, personally, unimpressed.

            Look, you sound like you’re having a lousy night. I can philosophize at you poetically, but it won’t sink in unless you’re feeling receptive. Some days I find inspirational writers like Anne Lamott moving, and some days they just sound fatuous.

            If you were in my house, I’d give you dinner and tell you to try to get some sleep. If sleep is impossible, comfortable stacks of pillows and a good book are better then writing about how much you (think you) suck.

            I promise that tomorrow after comfort reading is better looking then tomorrow after beating yourself up all night on the internet.

          • Ob in OZ

            And that is why from here ( anonymous internet postings) you personally may be struggling and your recent comments suggest it, but hopefully the same articulate and interesting commentor of days gone by will have better days ahead. It is obvious this topic is difficult for you and I hope your depression improves.

          • Clarissa Darling

            It’s heartbreaking to hear of anyone who feels this way. I have felt this way before. I have always been very functional in terms of going to work, success in school etc….but, at the worst of times my accomplishments seemed empty and meaningless and no one else could tell me otherwise. I know I can’t say any magic words that will resolve these feelings for you but, I hope I can offer some words of encouragement.

            I don’t know you in real life but, if your contributions to this blog are any indication, then your value is much, much higher than you’ve estimated. I guarantee many people do value your contributions in life, even if you don’t. I hope you can learn to see yourself through their eyes.

          • Lisa the Raptor

            Meriwether Lewis (Of Lewis and Clark fame) suffered from major depression and ended up ending his own life, but he also opened up the western end of the US. Many people suffer from depression and do amazing things. It’s not fair to say that they contribute nothing.

          • Certified Hamster Midwife

            I did not say “no depressive person has ever contributed to human achievement or knowledge.”

          • Elizabeth A

            The probability that a single individual, over the course of a lifetime, will be a burden to his or her family is 1. That’s why we invented families – because for most of human history, the probability that a single individual, unfettered and indebted to no one, will die a horrible and lonely death was also 1.

            My grandmother suffered from depression and anxiety, but her family loved her fiercely, and she was a powerful advocate for her developmentally disabled son.

            My own problems with depression and anxiety have not kept me from contributing to my household. I could do more if I had fewer problems, but the household is a voluntary association and still wants me, so it appears to be a win from all sides.

          • Certified Hamster Midwife

            Indeed. But plenty more people are too sad and crazy to find a spouse and just go ahead with that horrible and lonely death thing.

          • Elizabeth A

            Spouses are really not the only option for family formation. There are plenty of less intimidating alternatives for support people.

            My best comfort read suggestion for shitty nights is To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. Only very bad insomnia makes it through the suggestive effect of the first few chapters, and then it’s a romp. Dorothy Sayers’ s Gaudy Night is another favorite. Or Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, by Bujold.

          • Sullivan ThePoop

            Some people who are neither sad nor crazy never find a spouse and just go ahead with that horrible and lonely death thing. My brother married a woman who has schizophrenia, not paranoid.

          • thepragmatist

            Wow. I entirely disagree with this. I can promise that at least a good portion of the art, music and literature you enjoy was produced by “sad people” and I can tell you that, while I am disabled and unable to be financially independent, I definitely contribute– even when I am very, very sad due to Bipolar and PTSD. My son would beg differ than I am harmful to his life. He knows Mama is different by now, but he loves me and his life would less without me.

          • Sullivan ThePoop

            My husband has horrible anxiety and says things that are definite tells that something is wrong. His are usually health related. If you have depression, the things you are saying are definite tells that something is wrong.

            I am not going to lie to you and say that being with someone with a severe psychiatric disorder is easy, but it is so worth it and he is a successful, amazing person. The main problem I have had is that he doesn’t let people know when he starts feeling bad and sometimes messes with his medication dose or stops taking it.

          • Certified Hamster Midwife

            I have never refused to take meds. I forget sometimes, and then end up in a tailspin of sleeping and not taking things.

          • michelleJo

            Sadness my not cause death or even crime, but it sure breaks marriages, traumatizes children, is hell for the person suffering from it, and puts a burden on the economy. Deciding to take the chance of producing sad people is personal, but it is definitely not a good state of being. That said, and as I mentioned before, in most cases it can be brought under control and the person can live a normal life.

      • Elizabeth A

        I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety my entire adult life, and some times are definitely harder then others, but there are still lighter parts as well as darker ones. On balance, I would rather exist then not, and I would rather my children exist then not. It turns out that the ways that I’m screwing them up are neither the ways I expected nor entirely within my control. I suspect that would be true even if I was robustly mentally healthy.

        We don’t produce people to meet needs, for the excellent reason that people don’t work like that. They aren’t machine parts, there is never any predicting what they’ll be like.

        There is never any really solid, logical reason for anyone to have a baby, in this age where we can mostly choose to do or not do that. Parenting is a peculiar experience, unpredictable, loaded up with hope and fear. Whether or not you want to produce people and embark upon that experience is completely and entirely up to you. “There’s no need for more like me” is an utterance of despair, not a life plan.

      • Poogles

        “Depression runs in my family. I have it, and I don’t plan to have children partly because I don’t want to bring more people with it into being.”

        I also suffer from depression and my mother has bi-polar disorder. I frequently wonder if taking the chance my child would have to suffer through a life with either one of those is worth it, so I understand completely where you are coming from.

        • thepragmatist

          I have Bipolar but I don’t consider it suffering. Yes, it is not good at times, especially under stress or if I am not properly cared for, but for most of my life it has just added to who I am as a person and is part of who I am. I see the world in much brighter hues AND feel things on a much deeper level. On the one hand, sometimes the extremes of mood are paralyzing without medication and the two true manias I’ve had (both brought on by doctor prescribed meds) were frightening (mostly because I didn’t identify them earlier– I think, without education– I would have had a lot more scary experiences at other times), but on the other hand, I am pretty sure that most of the suffering has been almost entirely because of the lack of understanding around me, and a world that already lacks in gentleness, sensitivity, and support. At times when I am well-supported, the disease isn’t as hard to manage. I’ve developed a lot of of coping skills and strategies. At times when I am not well support it is a huge liability. And I do believe it contributed to my developing a trauma disorder.

          • Ob in OZ

            “…a world that already lacks in gentleness, sensitivity, and support…”
            I couldn’e agree more.

          • Poogles

            I fully realize that my feelings on the issue are colored by my own life experiences. My mother’s bi-polar has been largely untreated (non-compliant patient) and is worsened by her alcoholism. My own depression is of the dysthymic variety – the so-called “low grade”, chronic depression. What this means in day-to-day life is that I really don’t get a “break” from my depression – I don’t have “episodes” of depression surrounded by times of relative “normalcy”. It is my normal to be depressed to some degree or another, always.

            I look at my mother’s life and I look at my own, and it would break my heart to see my child going through something similar. I also completely realize that a child of mine would not be guaranteed to have any mental illness, and even if they did, they could have a completely different experience then either my mother or myself.

            It is something I think about fairly often, though, and certainly plays a part in my decision-making as far as having children goes.

        • Ainsley Nicholson

          SSRI’s are a wonderful thing. Like going thru your whole life with a pebble in your shoe (sometimes it hurts a lot, sometimes it only hurts a little) and then having the pebble removed. Sure, you can still get blisters, but it is very nice to be able to walk without pain some of the time!

      • Ob in OZ

        Assume no one looks at comments from days ago unless prompted. Wanted to wish you well as you seemed to be suggesting you were going through a difficult stretch.

      • MichelleJo

        I suffer from severe depression and went ahead and had kids, but I do understand you. It should be known though that the majority of depressions can be brought under control. I live a normal life as a wife, mother, employee, friend, even though I have depression. No-one has to know that I take four different types of anti-depressants in different dosages daily, in order to feel and function like every other person. It can take a while to find the right drugs and combos, but it is very doable.

        • Certified Hamster Midwife

          I was diagnosed 14 years ago and have had maybe 6 months in all that time that I’ve had it under control. I did gain 100 pounds from one med, though, so there’s that.

    • amazonmom

      I had no idea I had Bipo 2 before I had my daughter. My son was a surprise. So many say people like me shouldn’t have kids, but would they say that to my husband? Literally every family member that has died on his side in the last 20 years died of cancer. I sure hope my kids don’t get my illness, but I’ve managed to live a great life with it and I will help them do so too if I have to.

      • Sullivan ThePoop

        My son has Bipolar type 2 and the only person in his family who had it that I know of is his paternal grandmother.

        • amazonmom

          I’m guessing if my family wasn’t so stubborn about seeing doctors more of us would have gotten the diagnosis. It’s hard to believe you may have a mental health issue when you are successful and your social/family life is going well.

      • LibrarianSarah

        If it makes you feel better, my mom has BiPo 2 and neither I nor my siblings do. So if my family is any indication you only have to deal with autism and some learning disabilities.

        • amazonmom

          I’ve been sensitive about it lately, the preggo hormones are really making me all weepy!

    • Olga Mecking

      I have to read it! Depression run in my family and while I don’t have autism, I do have sensory issues. And so does my little girl. She is a wonderful, sweet child who loves everybody, and even though she needed therapy, i somehow understand her better than I do her “more normal” big sister.

    • Clarissa Darling

      I struggle with depression and anxiety which runs in my family. Schizophrenia runs on my husband’s side but, so far thankfully hasn’t developed in him. I would be lying if I said that having kids doesn’t scare me especially because of the prospect of these diseases. I just want to say what a beautiful comment you have written. I was reading next to my son asleep in his bassinet and when I saw this it actually made me tear up. What a wonderful statement for any mom to remember, especially ones whose children cope with medical disorders.

    • thepragmatist

      I see some of my predilections toward Bipolar in my small son. He has always been deeply emotional. Our worker didn’t believe me when I told her at 14 months he had started to have tantrums lasting over an hour. He must have things just so. As an infant, he would have only slept 10 hours a day if I had not forced it. As a toddler, he still won’t sleep easily. It’s hard to grade early mood disorders in children– my therapist says we’re about ten years away from developing early intervention to rival ADHD or Autism, but I think it’s terribly unfair. Because if he is like me, and he may be, and he’s as highly receptive and intelligent as tested, then I would like to give him the best chances possible, which I can’t see myself doing without some sort of guide. I see that he will do great things with his life, even if he is like me.

      The only mistake my Dad made with me that I won’t make with my son is hesitating to medicate him if he seems as though he’s gone too far off the emotional spectrum. When I was first diagnosed, my Dad freaked out and refused medication on my behalf. Years and years later, looking at the wreckage of my life, I can’t help but imagine who I could’ve been with early intervention (eg. preschool, not highschool– by then it was too late in so many ways).

  • InvisibleDragon

    Well, damn. My son is third generation autistic; never even thought of blaming myself. It’s a shame some people need to do this to get on with their lives.

    • Lisa from NY


    • thepragmatist

      It seems to be human nature to want to blame SOMEONE, anyone. There are times to seek blame, like when someone has caused you direct harm through sober actions, for example, but most things, even the horrible things that happen in life, seem to happen for no reason or as the consequence of a whole bunch of bad happening at once. Unless I’m seeking some sort of justice for myself or on behalf of myself and others, I’ve given up even trying to assign blame. As Ani Difranco sings, “Thing about blame/Is blame is much to messy/some of it is bound to get on you/while you try to put it on me…”

  • Lancelot Gobbo

    And I really did cause my son’s autism – by my genes. Lots of eccentric engineers in the family and ASD behaviours getting more noticeable over the generations. But he’s now at the age of 23 and managing to survive far away doing postgrad physics I wouldn’t change a thing about him. We all pass on undesirable genes of one sort or another, and we don’t mean to do it. No point doing sackcloth and ashes, nor blaming every unlikely thing other than genes.

  • mollyb

    Far From The Tree was an amazing, haunting book. I highly recommend it to anyone. So many of the sections truly broke my heart.

  • GiddyUpGo123

    Good lord, I made the mistake of clicking on some other posts on that site, including one rant about how the author hates it when people on Facebook post “Son getting shots today” or photos of kids at well-baby checks. It was a whole page full of self-important shrieking about how idiotic those parents are for “willingly injecting their children with neurotoxins” and then (gasp!) admitting it publicly! She compared it to posting a photo of yourself getting a pap smear. Seriously? Sorry, lady, not the same thing. And if you’re so offended, block them. Defriend them. Whatever.

    Personally, I loved well-baby checks. I wanted to know how well my kids were growing. I wanted to know that they were healthy. And yes, it was hard to watch them get their shots but I sighed a big sigh of relief afterwards knowing my kids were protected from childhood illnesses and wouldn’t be responsible for spreading pertussis to a newborn.

    I don’t think anything gets my hackles up like vaccine denyers. I just want to grab them and shake some sense into them There’s nothing like a bunch of idiots accusing reasonable people of being idiots.

  • Kumquatwriter

    I’m so damn sick of this handwringing about the Autism Boogieman. For pity’s sake, not every autistic person is Rain Man. Many high functioning people on the spectrum are successful, intelligent, independent, funny, and living happy and fulfilling lives! This “his eyes were empty, he had no soul” shit from these quacks makes me rage.

    Autism isn’t a death sentence.
    Autism is not an inevitable horrible outcome.
    Autistic people have plenty of challenges without dipshits saying they’re punishment for Mommy’s “sins”

    • Guesteleh

      Thank you. I know some autistic kids and adults, and you can be pretty damned autistic and still have a good life. My husband worked with an autistic programmer who struggled with even minute changes in his routine, but he still manages to work and has a wife and kid.

      • Mominoma

        That’s all very true. But for autistic folks like my son, a life like that is very likely to NOT be in the cards. He’ll be lucky to find a job, let alone an apartment, a partner, or to live on his own. It is by no means a death sentence, or a hopeless existence. But it’s not always rainbows and puppies and just being “wired differently”. Felt compelled to add that, no hostile intent here. :)

        • Guesteleh

          No, I get it. I know folks whose kids are more severely affected with limited ability to communicate and it’s very hard. But with good support those adults can have good lives too, it’s just that the support out there is so limited unless you happen to be lucky enough to live in an area with good resources or to have a lot of money. Not meaning to understate the challenges, though. It can be a very tough road to travel.

        • Kumquatwriter

          No offense taken, though disqus did dislike when I clicked like. Its a spectrum was the point, not unicorns shitting skittles;)

    • Expat

      I work in a field where a huge fraction of the workforce is somewhere on the spectrum. The ones who are limited by the autism typically get too lost in details and don’t grasp the big picture enough to take a leadership role. The most fascinating characters are the ones who made it into management on the basis of some brilliant research and who have developed sophisticated coping mechanisms to deal with not getting social cues in an easy fashion. They are often forced to act in a particular way (like a normal, social person) and it is interesting to see them when they let the facade fall. These are not bad, sociopathic people, trying to trick you. These are people who love to dive into complexity and tell you what they found. I’ve wondered if sociopathy is what happens when autistic people are badly abused at critical developmental stages.

  • Mel

    I grew up in a family that looks like a OB horror story.

    First pregnancy – identical twins born at 28.5 weeks (32 years ago), twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, postpartum pre-ecclampsia. Twin A was hospitalized for 6 weeks, needed bilateral pneumothorax tubes. Long-term problems: Hypertonic cerebral palsy; dyslexia; ADD. Twin B: multiple-tranfusions, OJ tube, OG tube, ventilator, hydrocephalic – no shunt, thankfully – umbilical hernia. Long-term problems: Profound deafness; hypotonic cerebral palsy; ADD.

    2nd pregnancy: singleton male born at 40 weeks (29 years ago). OP presentation. Normal Apgar scores. Healthy until two days before death. Died at 11 months, 21 days of setipsis caused by impaired immune system – patient was born asplenic.

    3rd pregnancy: singleton male born at 42 weeks (27 years ago). Multiple inductions required; pre-eclampsia requiring hospitalization. On antibiotics for 9 months until blood tests came back clean indicating normal spleen function. Long term problems: ADHD, asthma

    Did my parents feel guilty about all of this? Yes. Was the guilt rational? No. Mom didn’t do anything that caused these problems. Life just sucks sometimes.

    For the three of us who are living, here’s what life looks like. Twin A (me) is inner-city high school teacher who loves her job very much and enjoying life with an awesome husband – who also nearly died from a 3x nuchal cord that caused massive decelerations during pushing. Twin B (my sis) just married her girlfriend. She works with deaf students who have additional mental illnesses. Our brother lives with a great woman who has autism. She’s like a little sister to us. Our brother is a quirky, hilarious guy with a heart of gold and a great work ethic.

  • Lisa the Raptor

    Dr. Amy, a good historical reference for this would be that of the late Joseph Merek, who suffered a bone tumor disorder but was billed by a sideshow act as having been the result of his mother being scared by an elephant while pregnant with him. These are modern day examples of the same principle.

    • Kumquatwriter

      Joseph Merrick – better known to most as “The Elephant Man”

      • Zornorph

        I own his bones.

  • Busbus

    I started to read the comments on that post (the one Dr. Amy links to) and they are horrible. I stopped reading very fast. From others who blame themselves just like the author does, to quacks trying to sell their bullshit cures, to lots ad lots of people who basically respond, “good for you for being so self-aware! now others will maybe think twice before they get ultrasounds etc.”. How can there be so many irrational people?? It’s mind-boggling. And a little frightening, to be honest.

    • AllieFoyle

      That site is bad misnamed.

    • Busbus

      Ok, I just looked at that website some more… Ach.

    • C. Smith

      It really is sad how many people are majorly misinformed. I have 2 autistic kids, my oldest and youngest, and my middle child is the one that I had ultrasounds with every other week almost my entire pregnancy due to a high risk issue. She’s also the only one that had her full vaccine schedule on time, I took tylenol with her when in pain and she was the only one I needed Pitocin with for an induction. So based on there logic she should be my autistic child, but she’s not. She is a typical 9 year old. My youngest has a genetic anomaly that they say is the cause for his autism, my oldest daughter doesn’t have anything genetic, she’s just autistic. I also hate when parents start with the self pity crap too, like they can’t go to the store or run normal errands daily due to their child’s disability. I drag my kids everywhere with me, and they know when we are in the store a certain standard of behavior is expected of them, yes there are the rare occasions where something might set them off, but let’s be honest, ALL KIDS have at least one bad shopping trip when you go out, it’s not something uncommon when dealing with kids. I see a lot of autistic kids in my kid’s play groups that are sheltered from the real world and never get to experience so many things, and they are not severe kids that can’t, their parents just don’t want to be seen having a hard time with them. I can understand that, it sucks when people stare, but honestly one day these kids will be adults and then what? They can never go shopping for themselves or anything and they fear the outside world. It’s really sad, I wish they would just treat their kids like any other kid, it has worked so well for me I can’t imagine my kids are the exception in this.

  • Squillo

    It’s human to wonder about these things and to try to find connections, but I tell myself that every moment I spend fruitlessly wondering how we “gave” our son autism is a moment I’m not either helping him or simply enjoying him, and it certainly doesn’t help me or anyone else. I might as well wonder how we “gave” him his incredible talent for drawing.

    • VeritasLiberat

      Possibly the autism and the talent for drawing are linked. The autistic brain is often focused on details, and the increased ability to “see” detail is important in drawing.

  • DiomedesV

    Maybe the people commenting generally assume the best about others, but I didn’t read her post quite the way you did. I read it as wallowing and self-pitying.

    Even IF she is responsible, what good does this level of self-flagellation do? And I say that as someone who is generally paranoid and inclined to take responsibility for any perceived problem in their child. There were aspects of my pregnancy that made me worried about my child’s development and it wasn’t until my child was walking and talking that I felt relieved.

    Notice that she didn’t list the fourth kind of person: 4) There will be people who say that none of these behaviors cause autism, that I shouldn’t blame myself needlessly, and instead of wasting my energy on this, that I should do whatever I can to get my son effective treatment. Don’t bother, because that’s not what I want to hear. Accepting the uncertainty of his prognosis while looking for effective therapies is hard and I’d rather sit here and talk about what his prognosis means for me and my feelings rather than talk about what can be done for him. Also, blaming myself makes me feel like I’m a better person than people who don’t take responsibility.

    I realize this is harsh and I am sure that she is well intentioned to a certain extent. But there is a certain personality that likes to be publicly unhappy, even inconsolable.

    • AllieFoyle

      No, I saw it that way too, to an extent. She claims to be taking responsibility for all these things, but the subtext is that these other evil forces (the usual suspects–OBs, big pharma, heartless companies peddling poison to the unsuspecting masses, etc.) pushed these horrible toxic things on her. Now that she knows “the truth” she’s putting on her Brave Mama hat and making sure that other women fear coca cola, pain killers, antibiotics, vaccines, pitocin, ultrasounds, and c-sections. Now that she’s put it out there you have no excuse if you do any of those things and your kid ends up with autism.

    • Young CC Prof

      You know, over the summer I spent quite a bit of time around my friends and their children, one of whom is autistic. And what spending time with them while carrying my first child taught me is that their son is a gift to them, that any child is a gift, even one who didn’t turn out exactly like you expected.

      This is what the “X caused my child’s autism!” activists seem to be missing. Too much obsession with the child they should have had, not enough thinking about the one they do have.

      • Amy Tuteur, MD

        That’s a fascinating idea, that the mother’s insistence on blaming herself is, at the same time, a fundamental rejection of the child. It reflects a belief that the autistic child is not an authentic person, but a broken one who could have been so much better.

        • Young CC Prof

          I’ve definitely seen some of that on the anti-vaccinationist and “biomedical” communities. They talk about “recovering” the child that autism stole. It’s not some kind of fairy changeling, it’s your child. DEAL.

          • Squillo

            It goes along with the “othering” of the disabled in general, I think. It’s particularly sad when it’s a parent and reminds me a bit of parents who want to reprogram their queer children.

          • C. Smith

            The torture those kids receive at the hands of these DAN doctors as their parents try to “recover” them is horrifying. One kid in our playgroup ended up with a ruptured bowel from all the colon cleanings he was receiving to clear him of heavy metals cause the doctor told her that is why her son had autism. I felt so bad for the kid he always looked so sick and lethargic, it broke my heart.

          • Amy M

            Not “like” per se, the up vote is more of an acknowledgement. That is just awful.

        • Mel

          That reminds me of the people who can’t fathom why my deaf twin sister doesn’t want to be hearing. Seriously, people get freaked out about the fact she doesn’t want a cochlear implant. She sees her deafness as an integral part of her life…. not a drawback.

        • Guesteleh

          This is exactly what I thought when I read this.That all of this flagellation is dehumanizing her child.

        • Dr Kitty

          Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley is a poem about accepting your disabled child for who they are, not who you wanted them to be.

      • Squillo

        I remember one well-known “warrior mom” tweeting something like “Cheer yourself up by putting a picture of your kid before s/he regressed into autism on your desk.”

        That said it all, and it makes me wonder what kinds of messages her autistic kids get from her, that she’s willing to tell the entire world exactly how little she values them as they are.

        • Mel

          That’s really sad. I had the pleasure of caring for a girl with high-functioning autism starting when she was 3. She was awesome. Sure, she struggled with communication and interactions with people. She also had a memory like a steel-trap and would tell you exactly what she thought. I cared about her….not the person she would have been if everything was different.

          • Karen in SC

            No child is perfect and parents should love their kids for who they are, full stop. But I admit sometimes when my teenagers are ignoring me or not doing what I think they should be doing, I need to remind myself of that.

            That’s probably more difficult with a special needs child, but not impossible.

          • Amy M

            I am grown with children of my own and just last weekend my parents told me what a disappointment I am to them. You know why? Because I moved 4 states away and live a secular life instead of practicing the religion I was raised in. The fact that I am successful in my career, married a wonderful man who is an excellent father, have two beautiful children, have never committed a crime, don’t do drugs, hell I’ve never even smoked a cigarette…not good enough. I wish they could keep this: (“No child is perfect and parents should love their kids for who they are, full stop.”) in mind. I suppose if I was autistic that would be fine as long as I lived close to home and practiced the religion they raised me with. Sigh. The difference with them is they don’t blame themselves…they didn’t fail as parents, I just suck I guess.

          • Amy M

            Sorry, had something here, realized it was silly and irrelevant, so I took it away.

      • Elle

        I know a few families who have children with Downs syndrome, and they are basically told that they need to have a period of grieving for the child they didn’t have – the one in their minds that was “typical.” Because that child never really existed anyway. Once they have been able to grieve for their old expectations, then they can begin to accept their child for who they are and appreciate all the wonderful and unique things about them.

  • Amy M

    I understand that if my sons (one or both) turn out to have ADHD, that is not my fault. It’s not even my husband’s fault, though likely it came from him genetically, since he has it. I guess it could be argued that we took the chance that we’d produce children with ADHD (and asthma for that matter), since we knew one big risk factor is a parent with ADHD. Another risk factor is prematurity…our sons are twins, and they were premature. Not very, but still…..

    But, if anyone makes that argument, then its getting into eugenics territory and that’s not ok. My husband and I love each other and wanted to raise children together. Of course I’d rather that my sons not have ADHD–if they do, it will make life harder than it needs to be for them. But if they do, we’ll do our best to give them the tools they need to deal with it, because most of us don’t win the genetic lottery, and we love our children anyway, flaws and all.

    • Young CC Prof

      Good point.

      I’ve realized that the child I’m carrying does not have one single close relative without some form of allergies. My husband and I both have asthma, seasonal allergies, eczema, and mild food allergies. At this point, the genetic dice seem to have the same thing on every side.

      But I made my choice, and my child will be loved and cared for no matter what happens. I certainly hope that the child winds up either no allergies or with allergies no worse than ours, but I realize severe allergies are possible. No one’s genome is clean and perfect, you just deal with the child you get the best you can.

      • theadequatemother

        Or you rub them all over with your magical vaginal flora! ;)

    • Dr Kitty

      I’m horribly allergic to antibiotics, have Spina bifida and there is a family history of CDH, autism and allergies of all kinds on my side of the family. My husband has hayfever and there is a history of congenital cardiac abnormalities and cancer on his side.
      The idea that we wouldn’t have children because of that…no.

      We’ll roll the dice and love our kids whoever they are.

  • PrimaryCareDoc

    I have done every single thing on her list, and my son is not autistic. What is her response to that?

    • Young CC Prof

      Well, that’s not necessarily a valid argument, unfortunately. “I did X and Y didn’t happen” does not disprove the theory “X increases the risk of Y.”

      What you actually need is, “large well-controlled studies show no association between X and Y.” Luckily, for most of the factors she mentions, we have that. And the pitocin study is garbage, I think it was actually deconstructed here.

    • Elizabeth A

      There isn’t one, of course. Autism is less common then first trimester skiing, but that doesn’t stop anyone from theorizing.

      The refuge I most often see taken is to hide behind the “complex, multifactorial” features of the condition. Your son is not autistic because you got lucky. Her son is autistic, because she took those risks and didn’t have your luck.

      It’s actually far more painful and insidious that way. She thought her baby would be fine because women do those things every day and have perfectly healthy, neurotypical children. In other words: because the preponderance of evidence was that ultrasound, pitocin, c-section, flouride do not cause problems. But somewhere in all that, she must have taken some unseen step too far, or had some genetic flaw, and therefore, it’s all her fault.

      I don’t buy this line of argument at all, but I can follow it where it’s going. The biggest problem for the “my fault” argument is not the neurotypical children of people who did all the things that are supposedly wrong, it’s the existence of children who are autistic even though their parents did none of those things.

  • Young CC Prof

    I have definitely seen this with my friends who have children. K. has an 8-year-old autistic son, and she’s very smart, she’s very pro-science, but every time she sees some crappy article about autism written by someone who doesn’t bother to distinguish between correlation and causation, it makes her question everything she’s done all over again.

    There are big advantages to prenatal care, to avoiding certain well-established poisons like nicotine, and to getting reasonably decent nutrition during pregnancy. But these messages have been pressed upon women so hard that we now start to believe that doing everything perfectly guarantees a perfect baby, and that’s just not true.

    Our ancestors buried children, sometimes over and over, they’d see children born damaged and never know why. Sometimes they blamed their own sins, their neighbors’ curses, but many of them were able to say, “God’s will,” and move on, though they grieved forever. Perhaps we need a bit more space for that sort of attitude.

    • Ra

      I’ve been working on a project which involves transcribing death records from the 1700s-1900s. So far, I’ve done records from South Africa, Maine, and Illinois. I’m willing to bet that at least 1/3 of of these records are children under age 3, with a large quantity that are under 1 month old. It’s heart-breaking. I’m so thankful for c-sections, pitocin, ultrasounds, antibiotics, and vaccines that help prevent the tragedies of the past.

  • Stephanie

    Has anyone reviewed study that showed a link between autism and paternal age? I would be curious what everyone thought.

  • Lizzie Dee

    This woman isn’t exactly blaimg herself though is she? She is blaming a whole list of things she has now decided are harmful. How does she account for the fact that lots of people who also used those things DON’T have children who are autistic?

    I can sympathise with the anguish that can come from looking after a child who suffers or struggles, of course. But I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy with someone advising others to avoid ultrasound or CS.

    • Amy M

      Yes, based on that list, both of my children should have autism and so should I. In fact, based on that list, the rate of austism should be almost everybody born in the last 40 yrs or so (in America at least), thanks to the tylenol, vaccines, abx and hfcs.

      I get that this woman is upset, but that makes absolutely no sense at all. At least the anti-vax nuts argument, while disproven and fraudulent, was logical.

      Serious question, is this a generational thing? I’m pretty sure my parents don’t blame themselves for my sister and I having asthma. Or maybe it is just that they understand that asthma has genetic components (our mom is asthmatic) and environmental ones which were beyond their control. Of course my grandma always blamed my mom, because we lived in a house wo/a basement.(!?!) So maybe its more about education level than generational?

      • Guesteleh

        I think it is generational and also to some extent class-based. In the past, people knew that bad shit happens and sometimes there isn’t a lot you can do to prevent it. But when you reach a point where you do have a lot of control over some things, especially if you have money and insurance, it can completely blindside you when bad shit happens anyway.

  • Rochester mama

    So much of pregnancy and early childhood now is about inputs. Don’t have the tv on EVER, have the right toys, make sure to get enough DHA, but not too much fish. It’s hard to accept our children are individuals not a science experiment or recipe where you just need to gather the right ingredients and things will turn out perfect.

  • Dr Kitty

    So, so sad that anyone could think like that.
    That level or guilt and blame isn’t good for anyone, and it is so senseless.

    You don’t make your child autistic any more than you make them gay. It’s different neurological wiring, with a multifactorial aetiology- but it is almost certainly NOT due to the things this woman believes causes it.

    • Mominoma

      The thing is, in the early days after my son was diagnosed, I, too, looked for the whys and wherefores and Why God My Son? stuff. The short answer has always been that if there’s a reason for the WHY that we can point to, some specific thing, then maybe there’s a way to undo what’s been done. A cure. A way to make things better or easier for both the kids and ourselves, I guess.

      It’s been six years since my son’s diagnosis, and I’ve largely come to terms with the idea that the answer is likely to be very complex and/or genetic.There will be no cure (and if there is, I’m not sure I would want it, since it’s such an intrinsic part of who my child IS) and there’s nothing I could have done differently to prevent this from happening to my son. The only thing left to do, then, is to raise him the best that I can and leave the conspiracy theories to others. He needs me to believe in HIM, not in woo or whys. I hope that this woman and others like her can find some kind of peace, if not acceptance. It will be better for her if she can.