By Cathy JamesonBright Lights in the Big City
Last Monday evening I got a call from my friend Megan Davenhall who is also known as Sunshine
from The Thinking Moms’ Revolution. Sunshine was asked by Fox News to go on air and give her reaction to the induced labor-autism study. Unable to go, she asked if I might be able to jet up to the studio to be on the evening news. While still on the phone getting details, I whispered to my always-supportive husband what the call was about. He encouragingly smiled at me and said, “Go!” I have no prior television experience. Heck, we don’t even have cable TV anymore! I felt a little out of touch but was excited to see what was in store. I thought what have I got to lose? I’ve already been so vocal about Ronan and our situation; this will be one more chance to tell people what I know about autism.
I said to Sunshine, “Sure! I’ll do it.” Had I known how nervous I would be just a few hours later during the interview, I would’ve quickly hung up and hidden under a blankie instead! I’m glad I didn’t run and hide. As nervous as I was (and, oh boy, was I nervous), this opportunity was important.
I knew I needed to do some major prepping for what I just signed up to do and only had just over an hour to do it. I made a quick call to Fox News and told the fellow putting the segment together that a Thinking Mom was available to go on air. I got more details about what the piece was about too. Fox News’ reporter, Shawn Yancy, who is also an autism mom, was going to showcase the autism-induced labor study in the 10 o’clock health news segment. Could I share my thoughts on that? I laughed and said, “Oh, yeah, I saw that go through my news feed. I usually read everything I see about autism, but I didn’t open that link. I thought to myself, ‘Another study? Really?? What’ll it be this time?’ My contact at the station pressed if I’d be available. I confirmed I could and hung up.
While I got dressed and ready to go, my husband read through the study and wrote some notes for me. I joined him moments later and sat down at the computer to do some reading. Together, we found more information and saw that this particular study was drawing a great deal of national attention on several news sites, including ones we trusted and on quite a few mainstream ones as well.
With notes in hand, we went over key talking points. Since I hadn’t yet been given any questions that the reporter would ask me, I made sure to jot down general information on autism as well as news from other recent studies. Not having done too much reading on induced labors, I wanted to verify that process and that induced labor requires chemical assistance. I already knew that, when any kind of toxic goo is added to the body burden, the immune system can be suppressed. The GI tract can take a hit. A toll can be placed on the neurological system. I assumed that once induction starts, risks immediately do too.
I felt like I had a good idea of what could be presented but wanted to get some input from those who’ve sat in the hot seat before. I made a quick call to Kim Stagliano
. She offered sage advice and boosted my spirits. Once we hung up, Kim put the word out that I’d be on the news which prompted an encouraging call from AofA’s Media Editor Anne Dachel
. She too wished me luck and reminded me of something I hadn’t thought of. This study, as with a string of others, puts blame on the mother. Ah, yes. Another tactic to dodge the truth and make mommy the bad guy.
With only ten minutes left before I needed to get on the road, I reached out to a friend who is well versed in the subject of pregnancy, laboring and babies. Brandy Burd
has ten year’s experiences as a doula and serves the Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Norfolk cities in Virginia. From her website, “As a birth doula, my goal is to help mothers educate themselves on their options for childbirth, and provide the physical, emotional, and informational support they need to achieve what they define as a positive birth experience.” I knew Brandy would be a fantastic source for me in the final few minutes I had left to cram for the interview.
What I gathered from our conversation is that inducing labor could indeed be medically necessary in certain situations, but allowing for a natural birth should be considered first. Some reasons a doctor may suggest an induction are when the mother is experiencing pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure, diabetes, multiple complicated pregnancies and when the membranes rupture but the next stage of labor is grossly delayed as that can put the baby’s health at risk.
Full-term pregnancies typically range from 37 – 42 weeks. Forty-two weeks may seem like a long time, but women can and have safely labored up through then naturally. Despite that fact though, some clinics promote induced labor as a “standard management” practice. Some reasons for non-medically necessary inductions are:
*for social reasons (inducing because parents wish to have the baby on a certain date)
*due to maternal age (inducing because a woman is “older”)
*for convenience to the provider (inducing around his/her schedule or time off)
*for convenience to the hospital (inducing scheduled during the day when more staff is available)
*for convenience to the pregnant woman (inducing because she may be tired of being pregnant or because she wants a smaller baby)
When considering birthing options, taking note of the woman’s health, the type of pregnancy she’s had as well as the baby’s development is of utmost importance. To needlessly schedule an induced labor could actually cause serious complications for both mom and child and what Brandy referred to as the Ripple Effect. This means that when one intervention is started, another is likely to be added in order to offset an unexpected outcome or unforeseen complications from the procedure. More drugs, some with increased negative side effects, are added next. Those, as well as other invasive actions, can add stress and physical strain to the laboring process. Instead of a let-nature-takes-its-course approach, or allowing mom to trust her body, both mom and baby are hooked up to drips and monitors and have less mobility to move through the labor pains.
It was a lot to take in within such a short amount of time, but I got some other good talking tips from Brandy. It was finally go time. The last thing I wanted to do before I drove to the big city to sit under the bright lights was pop over to the Thinking Moms group to tell them I was on my way. Their messages were enthusiastic: Cat, you can do this!!! Here’s hoping!
When I arrived at the studio, I was shown the green room and the main studio. I’d be doing a remote interview that evening. That meant I’d be in a studio all by myself while the news reporter spoke to me from another studio. During the interview, I’d be sitting on a stool staring into a black monitor that housed a camera. I could hear everything through an ear piece, but I wouldn’t be able to see the reporter or the video of the segment. It wasn’t what I expected. I had hoped to either be face-to-face or at least next to the reporter to pick up on her cues, but I put on my game face and tried not to be nervous.
I had a peek at what the reporter was going to say and reread my notes:
1-in-88??—Um, hello! That is so last year’s rate.
Doctors declined—of course they did! Who wants to admit they contributed to an autism diagnosis?
It was finally time to go live
. I was miked, did an audio check and stared into that black screen. There was no turning back now. Nor was there time to turn off my nerves. Holy nervous Nelly!
DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG
Can I Get a Rewind?
As you can see in the link I’m no Hollywood super star. Everyone says the first time is the hardest which I can absolutely attest to. Since there’s no rewind button to do this particular interview again, here’s how I would’ve responded without the pressure, the bright and blinding lights and the bundle of nerves that kept me from smiling on camera:
Reporter: Should pregnant women be concerned (about the results of this study)?
Cat: This study has many holes in it. Not enough data of each birth experience was reported which leaves me with more questions than answers. As far as should pregnant women be concerned, my thought is this. If the reason to induce is due to an emergency and/or to protect the mother or her child, then no, pregnant women shouldn’t be as concerned as the media might think they will be. Medically necessary induction rates are much less than those of the elective induction rates that this study focused on.
Now, if the reasons to induce labor are elective for the doctor’s convenience, then, yes, I would think pregnant women should be very concerned. The concern would not about the study or about autism though. It would be a concern for the woman’s personal needs and that they are not a priority for their provider.
As we autism parents have done for so long, pregnant women must also arm themselves with as much information as they can before they step foot into a doctor’s office. Their input is just as important, if not more, than what the doctor’s have been trained to say. If a woman needs intervention, she should ask early what her options are. I’d encourage expectant moms to be thorough with their research and to read as much as they can throughout their pregnancies. She should read about the procedure and the drugs that will be administered—including the ones that are clearly not recommended for pregnant women but are often used to induce labor. A good deal of information is available to women when they know where to start looking. Two helpful resources are the Nurture Parenting
website and Jennifer Margulis’ book, The Business of Baby.
Lastly, I’d recommend she hire a doula who can provide the pregnant woman with continuous physical, emotional and informational support during her pregnancy and the birth of her child.
Reporter: What if any advice do you have for parents out there who have children with autism and for moms whose labor was sped up or induced?
Cat: How long can I talk? Seriously. I need at least an hour. For the first part of that question I think parents like you and I need to be more vocal about what happened to our children. We need to keep talking about it, about autism and about that the autism rates are still rising.
Secondly, what would I say to moms whose labor was sped up? Unfortunately, you can’t go back in time to change what happened. But you can be proactive now. Find resources. Look for therapy and for appropriate intervention. Get started as soon as possible, and stick with it. Since it can be very overwhelming, find a support group to guide you. Over time, as you read, research and discover that certain procedures and medical interventions you opted for may have a link to autism, learn more about it. Read, research, ask questions and do it all over again until you have a good understanding of what happened and why. If the side effects can be reversed, try to do just that. Autism is medical. It can be treated. Happily, for some, autism can also be reversed.
Reporter: Cathy, in your circles, are people talking about this study?
Cat: Yes, and not in a good way like mainstream media probably thinks. When I first saw the link go by my news feed I laughed. It had only been, what, 4 few weeks, since the IVF-autism study was shared? When these “studies” come out, I can’t help but wonder what is being covered up in other autism news? And, come on, media! It’s not the 1950s. Stop blaming moms for autism. If you want to do something that’ll make everyone want to read and share your stories, get someone to investigate the overinflated vaccine schedule and how it’s messed up so many children’s childhoods. I guarantee that’ll make front page news.
If I knew what the protocol was during the final seconds of the segment, when Yancy said,
Reporter: More studies need to be done…
I would have interrupted and said:
Cat: Well, not entirely. I’d prefer more action be done than studies. People need help now. Sure, it would be nice to have more definitive answers as to all the causes of autism, but look at what the other studies are saying causes autism: old dads, moms with big boobs, college-educated parents, living near a freeway, prenatal ultrasound, Tylenol use, jaundice, larger head size and watching TV. Enough already! Families working through an autism diagnosis are in crisis. They need support. Why not take some of those valuable research dollars and put them into intervention programs and biomedical treatment options? Studies cause speculation and delays. Action can help people right now.
What an experience! I am glad that in the actual interview I did remember to use key words and phrases like environmental trigger, unnecessary elective procedure, do your own research, ask questions until you get a good answer, the current autism rate is alarming and parents should be concerned about it. Fast Forward to Now
All week since the interview I’ve been thinking about the study and the pressure it will put on women. This study does nothing more than raise alarm bells for pregnant women and future pregnant women. Fear, worrying and possibly being bullied by a provider to give birth earlier than necessary is no way to go through pregnancy. I also believe this study will make parents second guess a decision they made years ago that they can never take back.
I made sure to email the news reporter the next day. I said thank you for the opportunity to be on the news. Her response was encouraging as she said she’d make sure the producers had my contact information for future stories about autism. I’m glad because as thrilling as it was to correct the reporter about the autism rate, it is troubling that both this station and several websites that posted the induced labor study have the incorrect autism rate
. Sadly, some people are not doing even basic research on such an important issue.
We all know that whenever human development is interrupted, or when chemicals are injected, ingested or slathered on the body, potential risks that cause irreparable damage can occur. Messing around with nature and adding increased stress isn’t going to do expectant mothers or their unborn child any good. Additionally, if a woman is being told that the tiny human being she’s carrying in her womb isn’t worth another two or three weeks of development, I’d hope she already have that mother’s intuition to question why. What’s the rush to get life started? Is it really too much to wait it out? We’re learning that our kids’ physical, mental and emotional health greatly depends on.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.