I still think about It sometimes. My brain cells loop alot, rather than moving forward and outward. But I wonder if I get this out on “paper” if it will make the shitty thought go away.
The other day I was speeding down a hill on my bike — which is when I think of everything and nothing — and I realized that I’ve rarely written about a the question I first asked Dr. E, the developmental pediatrician who first evaluated Nat, 21 years ago. He delivered the diagnosis, “PDD, under the Autism Umbrella,” (almost charming, calling it the Autism Umbrella, as if it can shade you or keep you dry from unpleasant things). I was not stunned. I remember feeling as if I were in a movie or something — at a distance. I experienced the news in levels of my consciousness. The rational, intellectual part of me said, “Yes, yes, of course. That makes sense.” The fearful animal side of me thought, “What? What do I do? What should I do?” And the mother’s heart of me asked, “What did I do?”
I asked the doctor if I had caused Nat’s autism (I have written about this) because I literally did not know what caused autism. But he told me at least what did not cause autism: a cold mother. He said it resided in Nat’s neurology. Later I learned that his brain cells — Pukinje cells? — were growing in clumps and not tributaries. Back then I thought, “Can I please just cut some of those cells out of my head– surely I don’t need to be this non-autistic, I could handle it — and graft them into Nat’s?
But deeper and more mired in shit was the thought: What caused this?
1) Was it because we chipped away at lead paint in our dining room while I was pregnant with him?
2) Was it because our car back then had a rotten egg smell of exhaust? Was there something toxic I was exposing Fetal Nat to?
3) It was a shitty labor and delivery, from the first. A ton of Pitocin. They go back and forth about that one. Or how about the fact that the epidural was too strong and I could not feel how hard to push? I was pushing him out for three fucking hours? This is the one that reduces me to animal anger, because this one is not my fault. That fucking doctor knew the baby was in distress. He took blood out of the emerging Nat head and could not even wait for the elevator to run to have it looked at. And for what? What was he looking for? Low oxygen? Why even wait? Do a Goddam caesarean, Asshole!!!!
4) Was it because I was depressed in his earliest days? Did I withhold love because he seemed so fragile, I didn’t want to lose him? Every time I looked at him my heart twinged, pinched. No, this one counts as Refrigerator Mother which we know is wrong.
5) Was it the shots? No, that has been disproven, but sometimes I fear it anyway. It makes a horrible kind of sense. But no, it has been disproven.
6) A top-rated Boston hospital specialist told me that Ned and I are genetic land mines for autism because on my side is all the depression, OCD, and anxiety. On Ned’s side are the geeks and nerds. So actually, I should not give Nat some of my brain cells, he’s probably happier with his own.
Ned says, “You will never know the answer. So you should not think about it.
But sometimes I do, because I want to know who to be angry at.