Learning that Natalie has autism came as a tremendous blow to me and our entire family. One of the first emotions I experienced, once I accepted Natalie's diagnosis, was the feeling of guilt. As parents, we have the major task of protecting our children from danger. As a mother I often wonder if something I did or failed to do during pregnancy might have made a difference in Natalie.
I have read so much about autism and because there is no proven cause, there is much speculation and many theories. I have questioned the safety of where I live, our water supply, I have wondered about toxins in the environment or in my home. I have questioned vaccinations, and asked myself, "Did I take care of myself when I was pregnant?"
I even had someone speculate that I had "bad" genes and overheard a woman at the hair salon say that autism is caused by ignorant parents who should have taken parenting classes before having a child. These two incidents alone, were emotionally devastatting to me. Because although they made me angry---they also created doubt and caused me many sleepless nights.
When picking up Natalie from school, I chat politely to the other parents. One mother mentions that her son has extra speech therapy. Another one talks about the social skills group she enrolled her daughter in. Another one declares that she just signed her child up for Karate with an aide to help him. Despair and guilt wash over you. “These parents do so much” I think to myself. “How do they do it? Where do they find the time and the money? Therapy is so expensive and our insurance covers so little. But I should do more. As the guilt factor sets in, I shamefully accuse myself of being a bad parent.
But I do know that I try. I try, every single day, to be the best mommy that I can be. And I was entrusted with this beautiful little girl. But although I no longer spend all my waking hours feeling guilty or even wondering what actually caused it. That little guilt nag is always in the back of my mind.