The first wail of your newborn brings indescribable relief, tricking your brain into thinking everything is going to be OK.
Elation blanketed me when my doctor laid Benson on my chest, and my husband’s warm breath tickled my cheek, both of us watching our little baby, covered in goop, squirm and scream. That’s a vivid memory I hope to store deep in my brain to call upon as I age and these moments seem so far away.
I had never felt so much joy. It was enough for me to block out the fact that a small audience, including my mother-in-law, had gathered to watch the birth.
Brian and I drove home after my two-day stint in the hospital (the only time I’ve been away from Scarlett in her entire life, so it was actually an all-inclusive pseudocation) when I asked him to pull over. We needed to pause and appreciate how fortunate we were to be going home with not only a healthy mother, but a healthy baby as well — realizing that this is not often the case.
For the second time, we got lucky.
Now the hard part begins as I learn to juggle two children, a home, a man, and a sense of self. Already, I’ve survived moments when my 2-year-old is convulsing on the floor over a cut-up hot dog while my newborn screeches for my boobs and I can’t decide if I should book it to the nearest liquor store or call my mom.
Best yet is the smorgasbord of poopy diapers, as if Benson and Scarlett have synced their bowel movements behind my back. I guess that smell triggers a chain reaction among children.
While these daily occurrences are no simple feat, I live with a constant fear that one day my luck will run out, forcing me to travel a difficult road that so many parents take as they care for a sick child.
As I rock my boy to sleep, I look at his body and wonder: What scary thing is lurking in your body?
I guess you could say I’m a glass-half-empty kinda girl.
The moment Dr. Lister told me I was having a boy, I began sweating over autism. For me, this is one of the most tragic disorders to ever hit a family — a child locked away from the world, a mother locked away from her little one. Having worked with kids falling within the Autism Spectrum Disorders, some high functioning, others struggling to speak, I already worry about my son.
With the ever-climbing rate of diagnosis, especially here in Utah, my concern is well-founded. Like so many parents, I’m tired of questions; now I want answers.
Why is this epidemic sucking up our innocent children? We now know through research, debate and wise Playmate Jenny McCarthy that vaccines aren’t to blame. So, is it the environment or genetics triggering ASD?
From 2002 to 2008, autism rates in Utah doubled, according to the Autism Council of Utah. Of the nearly 200 babies born each day in the state, two are likely to be diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder at some point in their lives. The rate of ASD in Utah is 1 in 77; nationwide, it’s 1 in 111. Something is going on in this state.
If these numbers aren’t startling enough, a recent study by professors at the University of Utah and Utah Department of Health has me questioning the safety of the air we breathe. The group’s findings claim a relationship between ASD and heavy metal pollution — Utah’s bread and butter. If it emits dirty air or radiates carcinogens, bring it or build it here in the Beehive State.
By tracking original addresses of children later diagnosed with autism, the U of U research team found that children born to mothers living within a mile of areas high in heavy metal pollution are more likely to be diagnosed.
Here’s the kicker: Salt Lake County has the second-highest amount of toxic chemicals released into the environment, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. No wonder the rates continue to ascend like Utah’s dirty air.
If a link exists between environment and autism, every avenue of research should be followed, no matter the cost.
Autism isn’t an end, although it may sound like I believe it to be that way; I just know that ASD is not a small problem overcome in a day. I’ve seen the difficulty that lies ahead for these families and question whether I have the strength to be one of those mothers carrying on, making the best of a heartbreaking situation.
A simple cry from a newborn relieves so much tension, only to have it build back up over a lifetime. I’ll take all the blow-outs, tantrums and midnight feeding if it means I get a healthy child — but I wonder how much control I have over the outcome.