Friday, March 7, 2008


I was awake when the alarm went off, of course - I always am.
I leave it set anyway not because I have faith one day I'll sleep, but because I set it to NPR, and I love to listen, and I don't usually listen anymore with kids in the car.

Today the alarm really went off. The latest autism vaccine story came on. I'm sure you probably heard it today. Now, I am pretty sure I have nothing left in my reserves for getting into any big frays; I have had little space in my heart for even examining the vaccine connection, as this life and blog really fill me to capacity. But one thing always resounded in my intuition, enabling me to avoid the question best: my rooster was born my rooster, same as the day he was born. As I've written before, he was born hard, he is hard, I love him fiercely and honestly. But. So.
Only maybe about 45 seconds into the story, though, the alarms begin blaring through my head. It's an alarm I heard faintly before, today louder. The flu shot I got while pregnant. Not mercury free I don't think. Before I took it, I called the obgyn, I called my husband, I called my friend the doctor before and discussed the risk. I work in a school full of flu each year. I get sick pretty easily sometimes. Flu can assault a pregnancy. I got the shot. The rooster was born the rooster. But might he have been born less hard? Be less hard?

Okay so does it matter now? I mean for me, for the rooster? Whatever caused his challenges, the why probably does little to help. Usually I am there. Today, somewhere else. Frightened. Blaring. Deafened.

This morning something happened as I listened to the radio. I pictured the rooster well, my blonde boy talking comfortably, in the here and now, articulate and happy in his skin, amid a crowd of friends. Healthy. Unvaccinated. Unvaccinated in utero. For some reason, if there is guilt in me about shots, the guilt feels so much more horrific if I took those shots for myself, leaving him hurt. The alarms escalate as I write this. I think maybe you can hear them. Help! Too loud! It hurts!

I don't feel too rational right now. I desperately want you to write me, anybody, and say, "I did not get a flu shot while pregnant, so I know that your flu shot did not harm your rooster." Believe me, I know there are countless other things you could tell me - philosophical, political, scolding, remonstrative -- and that you might be right or valid about all those things, but in my panic, that does not sound to me like an off switch for the screaming sirens in my head AT THIS MOMENT. My first blog, this, dashed off in the moment of an experience, forgive the drama of, I do not really expect you to write me reassurances. Of course not. None of this is really RATIONAL, it's just the thoughts in my head typed out loud, and isn't the solace of that process why I blog?

Oh! My rooster is up now, running toward me wanting a few morning cartoons. I paused my writing and my panic just now to hug and kiss... interrupting my ocd-like mental scab picking... Yes, the sound is abating some. I KNOW that whoever the rooster is, he is my beautiful boy to embrace, and that I am lucky no matter the bad days (daze). I know. I know we do the best we can. I know we cannot go back in time, the waste of regret. I know we might never know about the vaccines, that it's a personal decision, that polio SUCKS.

I know. But I am alarmed nonetheless.


Anonymous said...
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Jordan said...

I hear your fear and I hope someone soon will be able to comment here and say what you need to hear today.

I too awoke before the alarm, and my alarm also started at 6am with the top NPR story being the vaccine story. I don't know why I was so startled, maybe the fact that it was the headline. And all I could think was how many parents it would frighten, the guilt it would induce, and - as they pointed out - the people who might not vaccinate their children today because of it. They were fair in their reporting, making it clear that the CDC did NOT link vaccines and autism, but I also know that in that fearful moment that is not what everyone will hear. I am saddened.

PBear said...

I had flu shots with both my pregnancies... NT girl born first, AS son born second. Never thought about it, other than to avoid getting the flu while pregnant and causing the baby problems. I have absolutely no belief in the vaccine causes autism theory though, so maybe I'm not your best data point... :-)
My son is an intense version of my husband... throw my quirks in, and it's no surprise that he is the way he is.

Anonymous said...

I understand the alarm bells. First let me say that I believe the science that there is no connection between autism and vaccines. Second, I did NOT get the flu shot while pregnant with Chee and she is the one with special needs. I DID get the flu shot while pregnant with Ess, and she's typical as can be. So there's that.

Let me say though that having all this out right now does give me cause to worry. Ess is 15 months, right smack in the midst of the heavy duty vaccine schedule. I can't but wonder and worry, what if there is a connection? What if something happens to my sweet typical girl because of these shots? I am in the moment making these decisions ... and now all this comes out. Even though the science disproves it ... the mother in me questions and worries.

As such, at my pediatrician's suggestion, we are slowing down and spreading out Ess' vaccines. She won't get more than one at a time and there will be a few months in between each.

Still it's worrisome. I can't wait for this all to be behind me.

Unknown said...

I did get the flu vaccine while pregnant with my son. He is not autistic but does suffer from ADD. We are now having a holistic pediatrician treat him as ADD is one of his subspecialties. At our first meeting the doctor asked me if I had any immunizations during my pregnancy with my son. This question was not a surprise to me as I had already read enough to know that the thimerosol could have caused dammage in utero. I do not let my kids get the flu shot and I refuse to get it also. I know I cannot go backward and change the past and I know Kevin could have had ADD anyway considering my family's genetic predisposition to mental illness etc but I often wonder... I am so greatful that his challenges are pretty minor(some learning/focusing issues and some socialization) compared to what we could be dealing with. Best of luck to you in your journey with our son.
Mary Beth

Niksmom said...

Oh, G, I feel your panic and fear in the moment. I CAN tell you this:

I DID NOT GET A FLU SHOT WHILE PREGNANT...and my child is somewhere on the spectrum (along with a host of other issues).

But, that said, there will always be times when we as mothers will want to blame ourselves for somethign we did or didn't do to cause our child's (fill in the blank). At 44, I am the youngest of three and my mother STILL wonders to this day "Was I a good enough mother? Did I do something to cause my daughter [me] to have such difficulty with her pregnancy that I somehow caused my grandson's problems?"

Breathe. And love your rooster exactly as he is and where he is right this very moment. He is constantly changing and growing; that's the important thing.


Joeymom said...

Joey never had thimerasol in any of his shots. I had no flu shots while pregnant. The rhogam shots I had included no mercury.

And here we are.

My Andy is also vaccinated. No autism there. His sensory dysfunction can be directly linked to the same sensitivities and motor planning/fine motor issues I had at his age. Not vaccines.

This is just the way they are. Like your rooster, my Joey was autistic the day he was born. From how he reacted to the ultrasound, I suspect he was autistic from the git-go. It is just the way he is, and I love him.

tulipmom said...

I had the flu shot with thimerosol while pregnant with SB. This time around I opted for the thimerosol-free shot.

Like goodfountain mentioned, I will be spacing out this next baby's shots as much as possible.

However, I also agree with Karin's description of her son being "an intense version of her husband" mixed with some of her idiosyncrasies. There's definitely a genetic component to SB's issues. Which, of course, scares the hell out of me with this next baby.

And then yesterday the OB told me about a recent link between Terbutaline and autism. Terbulatine is a drug used to stop pre-term labor, something I am trying to avoid. Let's just say that was all I needed to hear to follow the get-off-your-feet directions TO THE LETTER.

So yes, I can understand how the noise in your head becomes deafening. Hugs.