Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: I have two kids on the autism spectrum….and I’m pregnant.
I know what some people are thinking – I know because my husband and I have thought the same thing.
Well, for the next three years we really won’t know that answer and all we can do is rest in is the fact that God is sovereign. It’s His call.
At the same time, He has given us a responsibility as parents. He’s provided resources and education over the last few years and I’d be an idiot not to tap into that.
It’s like the joke about the guy who’s drowning; he calls out to God for help and soon a row boat comes by. He turns the guy down and says “My Lord is going to save me.” This happens two more times and the guy dies. He gets to heaven and asks God why he didn’t save him and God says, “Well, I sent you three boats!!”
So that’s not doctrine right out of the bible, but the truth is most of the time God works through people. And books. And circumstances.
So, knowing what we know now; having learned an immense amount because of the twins’ autism, I do not feel powerless. I do not feel like I’m walking into a disaster destined to happen. Like Maya Angelou says, “you do what you know. And when you know better, you do better.”
Now we know better.
This is what we know: genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger.
That means our baby is genetically pre-disposed to autism. But so was our third child. And he, according to Vanderbilt, is “no where near the spectrum.” He’s got some hyperactivity and sensory issues we work on but he doesn’t have autism.
Here’s my encouragement to you if you are considering having another baby: Don’t let anybody suggest to you that you can’t – or shouldn’t. Don’t let anybody make you feel like you’ll just bring another “broken baby” into the world. When they look at you crazy and say things like “but you’ve already got your hands so full with these guys…” just smile and nod. This choice is up to you and your spouse, not public opinion.
We prayed for a long time over whether or not to have a fourth and the desire just never went away. And then our prayer was “if it’s meant to be, it will happen.” And it did. So it is apparently God’s will we have another child and I’m certainly not going to question that.
So here’s some practical things I am doing this pregnancy to try to do my part on the environmental end to minimize our chances.
I keep this in mind:
“Pregnancy, birth, and early childhood are times of particular vulnerability, while the brain and digestive system develop and the body is exposed to the world for the first time.”
– Martha Herbert, MD, PhD from The Autism Revolution
My take away from that: the little things matter.
There is so little proactive information out there for moms-to-be. We are told to take prenatals, eat healthy (which is relative to every person) not to eat certain fish, smoke cigarettes, or drink alcohol. There is much more you can do.
The focus is on the four following categories: Food, Toxins, Bugs and Stress. It’s all about keeping the immune system strong. These are the same four categories Herbert looks at in how to take steps in recovering from autism.
Herbert suggests “a high-nutrient-density, plant-based diet during pregnancy, with lots of multicolored vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and high-quality proteins.”
My doctor suggests pregnant women avoid dairy, gluten and processed foods and agrees with the rest of the list above.
I do the best I can with the dairy and processed foods, limiting as much as possible. If I do dairy, I try for high fat which is actually good for brain development and organic.
Remember moms are passing everything down to the child, including nutrition problems. If there is something seriously wrong with your nutrition (are your kidneys aching for water??) now is the time to fix it! What better motivation could you have than your unborn child?
This category includes nutrient deficiency like zinc, B12 and Vitamin D. Your OB can check your levels for deficiencies.
Basically, I eat how I ate before pregnancy but with heightened awareness, especially to sugar, which is my downfall.
“Avoid as may environmental toxins as possible, particularly the ones you can control easily, such as alcohol, drugs, and pesticides. Try to use green household products, and stay away from mold.” – Herbert.
In other words, no remodeling – of your home or yourself. My OB told me someone actually asked if they could do Botox while pregnant…ladies, let’s stay focused. This time is about growing another human being!!
We are convinced it’s crucial to clean green, so of course I still do during pregnancy.
Stay well. The way you do that is to avoid sick people and wash your hands, yes, but above that, boost your own immune system. Be the pig with the brick house. If anyone so much as sniffles around here, it’s juicing and vitamin C’s. By no means am I a germ-a-phobe though; my kids play barefoot outside and dig in the mud and we apply the five second rule to dropped foods. We rarely get sick, though, and when we do it is quick to pass.
No out of country travel or doing anything your gut bugs are too unfamiliar with.
Be aware of your own circumstances: “Parents with an autoimmune disease – such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or celiac – run a higher-than-average risk of having a child with autism. And a pregnant (or soon-to-be-pregnant) woman’s allergies, infections and toxic exposures can all affect her fetus, though we are just beginning to understand how this happens.” – Herbert.
Everyone seems to know this one yet it is possibly the hardest to enforce. Stress can increase risk of getting sick, too, so this one is a double whammy.
I walk the dogs nearly every day and do yoga stretches before bed as much as possible. We listen to classical music and do our best not to over schedule. When I am pulling my hair out with matters of the day, I call a friend who can help me level my head and get perspective. And yes, I pray, pray, pray.
I would say sleep and getting enough rest probably fits in this category, as well.
A note on breastfeeding…
One of my biggest regrets as a mother is not exclusively breastfeeding. We supplemented with formula with all three boys and I just hate that now. I cannot emphasize enough how good breastfeeding is for the baby’s immune system. La Leche League is of course the gold standard when it comes to this topic so I’ll let them explain why breastfeeding helps prevent illness.
This is not a sure fire plan. There is no guarantee how any child will come out. And if we still end up with another child on the spectrum after all this, I will know that I did the best I could and the child will still be better off than if I’d not taken these steps.
photo credit pixabay.com