Monday, August 6, 2018

Was She Born With That?

It was September. It was hot. Really hot. She was late and we didn't know if it was a "she" or "he" that would complete our family. When I found out I was expecting (unexpectedly), I did everything and anything in my power to keep this pregnancy healthy as I had the five previous times I found myself pregnant. Vitamins. Extra rest. Increased fluid intake. I stayed away from lunch meat, we didn't own a cat and I made sure that when kids were diagnosed with illnesses that disrupt typical development that I steered clear. Her pregnancy was like the others, sure there was a partial previa but that was the ONLY difference between her pregnancy and the ones that I had before. Her delivery was quick. Really quick. Though I had labored nearly a day when we finally got to the hospital she arrived before nurses entered me into the computer. She was perfect.

Like her siblings, she developed typically. She rolled as she was supposed to, she crawled within a typical time frame and in true little sibling fashion, she was carted around like the newest favorite doll. Life was perfect. Five children. Healthy. Typical. Until it wasn't. I still remember when it changed. I can picture it. I struggle to put it into words but for our family, I know when she changed. I clearly remember a feeling of being unsettled the day I strapped her into her car seat for her well visit. Her brother and I took off for the pediatrician we have seen for years. As I drove, I prayed. I don't know why. I don't usually pray before well visits or vaccines. Now, the disclaimer: I personally do not believe that a vaccine itself causes autism. I don't believe that they should be banned our outlawed but I will tell you our story.

As we drove that day I felt sick. I replayed our "perfect" family in my head and hesitated as I signed the waiver for her to receive her vaccines. Then it happened. As we drove home, my son, recently forward facing mentioned that "they baby looks funny". I pulled over before we even got home and saw what no mother ever wants to see. Hives. At the site of the vaccine but not a typical hive, a HUGE hive, as if she was having a severe reaction. I quickly dialed the doctor who immediately said to administer Benadryl. As I drove to pick it up and listened carefully to the amount to give, I wondered, was this the hesitation I had? By nightfall, the hives had spread. She had a fever and I sat in our small bathroom running a bath watching as hives crept up her body. Again, I called. The doctor told me to call the emergency pediatrician at St. Peter's. I did. We conversed and I tried to help her with a cool bath. I cradled her in my arms and once again administered Benadryl and followed up with the allergist first thing in the morning. Luckily he saw us. That day. Little love had vials of blood drawn while still being given Benadryl for days. Within a week, I saw it. She changed. She no longer turned her head when I called her name. She was typical, physically but she was different than she was the week prior. Again, I am not physician, scientist or medical professional but I personally believe my youngest daughter had a genetic predisposition that was influenced by an environmental factor, for her, that factor was the vaccine. This is in no way any one else's story. This is not to dissuade vaccination for children on the whole. All my children are vaccinated, and continue to be, however because of her reaction she will no longer have her MMR.

We were blessed. We still are but now our blessings have a different tone, they aren't the ones that take on the typical family pictures that one dreams of when they fall in love and meet their spouse. Often, when I have difficult days I cue up Laura Story's song, Blessings. I belt out her words or sob on the floor as I wonder if the child she was would be the child she is without that vaccine. Often, I fault myself. I suffer with the guilt that I signed that paper that changed her. Forever. That said, there are blessings because of our journey. Those who knew me before can tell you how I have become more understanding, compassionate, empathetic and for that, I am grateful.

I have always hesitated to share this truth, our truth because you see, there is so much controversy. However, the other day while at the library with my four youngest, a mom and I began to chat. As we did she asked if Seraphina was born with autism. I was grateful. Instead of carefully tiptoeing around the obvious fact my child was different, this woman had the courage to ask what others often wonder. Is she different? Has she always been different? What a breath of fresh air. For me, I would rather people ask than stare, wonder or in some instances scoff at the struggles that we face because of the disability that sometimes makes life difficult to live. Her intent to listen and to learn was a deep breath of fresh air that released the story that I held quietly in the depths of my soul. The visions of the day of her vaccine rose within my mind, and as I spoke the words, sweet relief. This is our story.

No, our sweet baby was not born with this disability. It arose after an environmental factor was placed upon her. Do I believe that all vaccines are bad? No. Do I believe that children shouldn't be vaccinated? No. I do however believe in sharing our story that perhaps others won't feel alone, perhaps others won't suffer as I have, maybe I will no longer feel the intense guilt that I have for introducing the factor that changed my child. Perhaps that won't be the case, but within a week, the child I gave birth to on that blistering hot day changed and with that change, we all changed. We are all impacted and though it includes pain and suffering, it also includes the opportunity to be better people for living with and knowing the blessing that is our daughter.

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