Autism and the Measles Vaccine Debate

Really, there is no debate. As Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” My opinion, which is based in decades of scientific research by people way more qualified than I am, is that unless you have a compromised immune system, have an allergy to a vaccine’s ingredients, or have some other contraindication based on actual medical science, you should get your ass vaccinated. On time.

I know this is an unpopular opinion in some circles; I’ve lost friends over my resoluteness in this matter. When people cite Andrew Wakefield, my response has always been this:

“Even if vaccines did cause autism, I’d rather my kid be autistic than dead.”

My recent discovery of a decades-old autism diagnosis does not change my mind one bit. And it looks like I’m in good company. Sarah at The Archipelago wrote about the very topic of autism vs. measles. She took the words right out of my brain. I wouldn’t be surprised I’ve said exactly the following at some point:

Vaccines don’t cause autism. But even if they did, is being like me really a fate worse than death?

Please read it, no matter which side you’re on.

Link: The Archipelago – I’m Autistic, and Believe Me, It’s a Lot Better than Measles.

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A quick word about Kim Kardashian

I’m not a fan of Kim Kardashian. I didn’t like her father, I can’t stand her mother, her stepfather seems to be a hot mess, and I just don’t see much to like about Kim herself.

That being said, she’s a grown woman and can do whatever she damn well pleases, so long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.

There are many reasons to throw shade at her, but lately, people are up at arms over her recent magazine photos. Some people are even saying that because she’s a mom, she has no right to post these sexy pictures.

Reality star Kim Kardashian, wearing a black evening gown. She is holding a champagne bottle in her hands, while a wine glass is perched on her backside. A stream of champagne goes from the bottle, above her head, to the champagne glass.
This is the only picture that’s SFW (safe for work).

*needle scratch*

Why can’t moms be sexy? Is there some unwritten rule that once you give birth, you’re no longer allowed to be sexy or have sex ever again? How are we to “be fruitful and multiply” if we don’t at the very least feel sexy during motherhood? Are we all supposed to have one kid and that’s it?

David Beckham, how DARE you! You’re a father of four! (source: Us Magazine)

Isn’t it a bit hypocritical to suddenly be up at arms when she decides to show us a bit more about what made Kim Kardashian famous in the first place?

She’ll already have to explain her sex tape to her daughter North West some day; isn’t a magazine shoot tame in comparison?

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We can’t stop here, this is Bear Country!

Berenstain Bears
The Berenstain Bears

The Things We Do for Family

A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law invited us to see The Berenstain Bears Live. Seeing it as a great opportunity for my son and nephew to spend some time together doing something fun, I agreed. The day of, I was super-tired, and didn’t feel like going. Kevin had to prepare for his impending business trip, and so backed out. My brother and sister-in-law had both been battling bugs for the past week.

But I put on my big-girl panties, decided that for the sake of the kiddos, we needed to do this Family Thing. Why else did we uproot ourselves from New York to become Beantown “interlopahs,” if not for the kids to grow up together?

We drove ourselves, in two cars, mind you, over to the Theatre District and found our seats for the show.

What The Heck Are They Singing?

The show itself, meh. The acoustics stank. I couldn’t understand half of what was being said or sung, so I focused on how the actors moonlighted as stagehands and let the minimal props work for multiple situations.

Fat-Shaming Mama

That being said, I have big issues with the part that focused on The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk Food. The message is an important one: we all should cut down on junk food and make healthier choices. However, Mama Bear goes into a musical diatribe about how Papa, Brother, and Sister Bear are putting on “too much fluff on their tummies,” and they’re going to rip their pants. Of course, this is then demonstrated by Papa Bear ripping his overalls and exposing his polka-dot underwear, to much comedic effect.

(Oooh, look! A tie-in from the show’s Facebook page touting “healthy” recipes!)

Even though the show moves on to other topics, such as Brother’s grades, and Sister’s newfound fear of strangers, they then return, after their bows, to teach the “Fluff on Your Tummy” song, and related hand movements, to the audience. It begins with pointing out toward other people, then touching your belly, and laughing.

Yes, yes, jolly good. You, are getting so fat that you might ruin your too-tight clothes. Ha ha ha!

I don’t think I can quite convey the ridiculousness of it all. I wish there were YouTube videos of this, but photography was prohibited.

Eating Disorder 101

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Papa, due to Mama’s new rule against junk food, finds his secret stash of chocolates, an amount he proclaims should last him “for days,” and practically inhales them. He then has to find a way to get rid of the wrappers without anyone finding out, in order to avoid the wrath of Mama’s judgement.

Is this really the lesson we need to be teaching young children?

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The Cycle Continues – Adventures in Early Intervention

Baby A
Baby A, at his first birthday party

My son, we’ll call him A, is sixteen months old, yet he doesn’t speak any words. He babbles, and sometimes says things that are almost words, but they’re not quite real English-language words. Otherwise, he’s a big, happy, and healthy baby.

I’ve been worried for a few months now about A’s lack of words. My mother kept saying, “at least he’s trying to talk; you didn’t do that when you were his age.” Sure, but I also didn’t talk until age four. I wanted A evaluated, just to make sure. I’m living proof of the benefits of early treatment (I don’t say Early Intervention, because interventions for kids under age 3 didn’t exist in my day). I decided, however, to wait until A’s next well-baby checkup.

That was on September 10. The doctor confirmed my thoughts: A’s height’s in the 92nd percentile, his weight in the upper 80’s. He’s very healthy, and on-target with physical milestones. However, the doctor also agreed with me that he should be saying more words at this point. She referred him for a hearing evaluation, to make sure he has no hearing problems, and for Early Intervention.

I was a bit conflicted. Part of me was glad that my instincts were correct. However, part was also sad that my beautiful, happy, adorable son has a delay. What will this mean for A’s future? Will he have as much trouble as I did in terms of communicating, making friends, managing emotions? Worst of all, will the service providers think it’s all my fault? 

I scheduled the hearing evaluation; it’s taking place next month. However, we’re all pretty sure that A can hear okay. He responds to his name (when he feels like it), and goes crazy when he hears me shake his can of puffs.

The Early Intervention place was slightly more complex. The lady who answered the phone was nice enough, and started collecting information. All was well until I told her what town we live in. “Oh, we don’t service [Our Town]; you have to call [Town 25 minutes away].” She then gave me their number. By that time, it was 3:58, and their recording stated that they close at 4:00pm. I left a voicemail.

8:59am the next morning, the Early Intervention office for my town returned my call. They took down the basic demographic information, such as: Name, child’s DOB, pediatrician’s contact info, insurance info, address, ethnicity, father’s highest level of education (but not mine, for some reason), who lives in the home, who will be present at the evaluation. The evaluation was scheduled for the following Thursday (i.e., the day I’m writing this blog).

I started worrying some more: They’re coming to the house. It’s a mess! Is it completely child-proof? What if they find something wrong and call Child Protective Services (CPS)? What if CPS then considers me an unfit parent due to my diagnoses? Will my husband and mother be considered sufficient mitigants, or will they take my son from us? Will they place him with his aunt and uncle? Will he grow up to resent me? My anxiety only got worse after I received a packet in the mail explaining the process, privacy policy, and other stuff.

On Monday, I received a call from Early Intervention. Apparently, I needed to sign the consent form before the day of the evaluation, so we scheduled a meeting for the following afternoon. I believe her title was Developmental Specialist. The first thing she mentioned is that we live so close to the first Early Intervention office I’d called (it’s within walking distance, but is technically in another county). She said that if A qualified for services, it might be worth looking into whether he could go to groups at the closer office, though it’s usually not done. She explained the Early Intervention process a bit, gathered more detailed information (e.g., where my son was born, birth weight, length of pregnancy, reiterating why I suspected he’d need services). She left me with a folder full of papers describing most of what she’d just explained.

On the day of the eval, I cleaned like a madwoman. Well, “dash and stash” is probably more like it. I cleaned up most of the clutter in the playroom to make room for all three evaluators (the fourth couldn’t make it). They administered the Batelle Developmental Inventory, a standardized test which consists of seeing what tasks A could do, such as grabbing objects, standing up from a supine position, waving bye-bye. For some of it, they were able to go by our reports (e.g., his favorite activities). After about an hour, A started getting tired and cranky, so we took him to bed for his nap. The evaluators then started tallying up his scores.

As suspected, A has delays in communication; everything else was within normal ranges. He therefore qualifies for Early Intervention services. I was actually a bit relieved, because I was partially worried that he might be delayed, but not delayed enough for services. Then what would we do? We’d have to pay for any services out-of-pocket. However, since he qualifies for Early Intervention, whatever our insurance doesn’t pay will be paid by the state Department of Health.

They asked if we had any goals for the initial Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP). I said I wanted A to say more words to better communicate his needs. I think the evaluators were a bit surprised by the response. They don’t know that I used to be a service coordinator (for a different population) in my past life.

In a few weeks, we’ll be assigned a Service Coordinator, who will work with us to come up with more goals and details for the IFSP, and to match us with service providers.

It’s going to be an interesting journey, but it will be well worth it once A can start saying stuff!

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Parenting Boot Camp

Reddit has some jewels of wisdom. In response to a potential parent’s fears about raising an infant, one Thompson S Sweetback responded:

 

Infants are the drill sergeants of parenting bootcamp. They give you four basic tasks – diapers, burping, feeding, and napping – and then scream at you when you do them wrong. There’s no encouragement, no smiles, just crying and quiet. And they give you tasks at any time, day or night. Just finished changing my diaper? Change it again. Good job, now change that one.

After a few months of breaking you down, they build you back up again. They smile at you. They sleep through the night. They hold their head up, so you don’t have to.

And after It’s over, the tasks you learned – swaddling, diapering, bottle prepping – are tasks you will likely never use again. But the skills you’ve gained – patience without sleep, calm in the face of screams, moving your hand into the shit instead of recoiling – are skills that will serve you the rest of your life.

This is the best description of newborn parenting I have ever read. I’d probably expand a bit on this, if I didn’t have to put my little one down for a nap.

 

 

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