What causes autism? As a mother of two children on the autism spectrum, that is the million-dollar question in my world. It has been nearly five years since I heard those words, “your daughter has autism,” and while I don’t know what causes autism, I do know what didn’t cause it — me. My daughter was diagnosed on the day before her third birthday, and in the past five years I’ve seen study after study come out that points to something the mother did, or didn’t do, as a cause of autism. This has caused many mothers of children with autism, including myself, to feel guilty.
Here are just a few of the studies or news reports I’ve read in the last five years that have caused me and other mothers to question our role in our children’s condition:
- Terbutaline administered to stop preterm labor can lead to autism.
- Flu shots during pregnancy can lead to autism.
- Antidepressant use in mothers, even before pregnancy, can increase autism risks.
- Undergoing infertility treatments can cause autism.
- Skipping prenatal vitamins causes autism.
- Toxins in a mother’s breast milk can cause autism.
- Weaning a breastfed child too soon causes autism.
I’m not a scientist. I’m not a researcher. I’m just a mom of two children on the autism spectrum. I have dealt with mommy guilt and while one day in the future scientists may determine that it was, in fact, something I did to cause my children’s condition, there is no reason for me to continue feeling guilty today. Now that I have five years of “autism mom” duty under my belt, I want to encourage other moms who are just starting this journey to let these feelings of guilt go as well.