This is for my Autism Moms.
Last night I read a blog post from a fellow mom of a child on the spectrum. And what she had to say brought me to tears.
She listed the ways in which she caused her child's autism. If you've been around Autism World for longer than a week, you can probably guess what was on the list. I'm not here to debate the validity of those claims, or the current research, or biomedical treatments. That's not what this post is about.
This post is about guilt. The way this mother spoke of her guilt, her absolute assurance that what she exposed her child to is directly responsible for his autism. You could feel the weight of it. It seems as if it haunts her.
Oh, how that breaks my heart.
Not all that many years ago there were doctors who told the world that the cause of autism was Refrigerator Mothers. These children didn't connect with the world around them because their mothers were cold and uncaring. It was all her fault. Can you imagine? Imagine the shame and heartache of those women who suffered under such a label, on top of the concern they had for their child. Now imagine what they would think if they saw us today...free of such a condemning label, yet still trying to heap the guilt upon ourselves.
I want you to read this, again and again, until it reverberates inside your head and your heart. It's not your fault. It's NOT your fault. It's. Not. Your. Fault.
How do I know? Well, for one thing, almost every single thing I have ever read as being even partially responsible for autism does not apply in my daughter's case. Ditto with my son. And yet, here I am. I truly think that for my family, autism was unavoidable. It may have been for you, as well.
But even then, let us say that all of those things, for your child, DID contribute to their autism. I've seen and heard from too many mothers to believe otherwise. Well, here is the thing...it's still not your fault. You did not hand your child a vat of toxic goo and encourage them to drink up. You did not medically neglect them. You did not ever mean to cause them the least bit of harm. You're a good mother.
Read that again. YOU'RE A GOOD MOTHER. You are now. You were then.
Let go of this guilt. What good is it doing you? What good does it do your child? And what message does it send to your child about who they are, what message does this send to the medical community, to the world? Be careful. I've met women that were so sure of their guilt that they tried desperately to convince me of mine. They wanted so badly to find a reason that they actually tried to examine my history and that of my children's to pinpoint the exact moment in which I dealt them their autism blow. When I was new to Autism World, I felt as if I had to deal with not only whatever guilt I walked in with, but also the guilt that other women tried to heap upon me. Is that really what we want?
So, with what little power I have, I attempt to absolve you of your guilt. If you insist on being guilty, the least you can do is forgive yourself. Then let it go. Let if go for yourself, for your kid, and for all the other autism moms who need to know that it's not their fault either.
It's not your fault, you amazingly wonderful mother. It's not your fault.