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From med school to SAHM, MD

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13 years 5 months ago #69774 by SAHMdoc
Wow! Three months since my last post. Where has the time gone? I'm not even sure where to begin at this point. Let's see...

My older son turned 4 a few weeks ago and we had his first "real" birthday party, inviting a few cousins and kids from his gym class. It went well and he had a great time. Incidentally, I'm sooo happy he finally likes birthday cake- for years, he refused to even try it, which made me sad because I think he was missing out on one of the great joys of childhood!

I also FINALLY got him potty-trained a few weeks after his 4th birthday, thank GOD! He still demands a diaper at night, but seldom wets it- I give in at night, but no diapers during the day and he almost never has accidents, maybe once a week tops. HURRAY!! Now I will never again have to listen to other people lecture me on what a bad mom I am for having a 4-year-old still in diapers!!!

Now, the bad news is that since he's been potty-trained, his behavior has regressed. He's become really resistant to doing RDI activities with me and he has frequent crying spells and lots of perseverative, repetitive language. I'm hoping this is just a phase, a response to the stress of potty training, and that it will pass. But I've contacted a couple of child psychs in town and gotten on their waiting lists, so hopefully I can get some more insight into what's going on with him and maybe some advice on how to handle it.

My 18-month old is doing fine- walking, talking, pointing, smiling, everything he's supposed to be doing. He worships his older brother, which sometimes annoys him, but usually he's really affectionate with him and gives him hugs, etc. Only problem with the baby is that he has a very demanding personality and cries any time he doesn't get his way- which invariably makes my older son cry as well and then he is very difficult to console. So life is a challenge for me- keep the baby happy so he doesn't cry and make the 4-year-old cry, which makes the baby cry even harder, etc. etc. Some days are really, really tough, especially since I have no support.

I did attend a couple of meetings of the autism support group and that did help. What helped more than anything was seeing how severely affected some of the other kids are. It's heart-breaking. So whenever I get down on myself, I tell myself to thank God that my child has a normal IQ, doesn't have severe sensory problems, doesn't have major behavioral problems. It really hit home when I invited one of the other moms to bring the kids to a local indoor playground. She asked "Do they have bright lights? Do they have loud noises? Are there any visible electric outlets?" Her son is very sensitive to bright lights and loud noises and is utterly obsessed with electric outlets- so this wasn't an option for her. My son is fine with lights and noises and his biggest obsession is trains, which is inappropriate in intensity, but at least it's a typical interest for a 4-year-old boy, though certainly not to that extent. I don't even think twice about taking my son anywhere and I cannot even begin to imagine what life must be like for this other mom. Bottom line: there is always someone else worse off, no matter how bad you think you have it. I try to always remember the saying about the man who wept because he had no shoes until he met the man with no feet.

My DH is still working at the same job- not perfect, but ok so far. We're not getting along very well, unfortunately, mainly because I am so stressed out from dealing with the kids. Hopefully things will improve once my older son gets over this difficult phase he's in.

But I am starting to change my mind re: homeschooling. I'm not sure my nerves can handle being home with both kids all day, every day, for years and years. I think I'm going to try to get him in a typical public school with a one-on-one aide. There's really no reason he shouldn't be in a regular class, since he's quite intelligent and has no major behavioral issues. His communication and social skills are, of course, impaired to the point where he would need an aide. I'm not thrilled with the public schools here, but private school isn't an option because of his disability, By law, public schools are required to provide a free, appropriate education for kids with disabilities, including one-on-one aides or whatever accommodations are necessary to help them function. Private schools have no such obligation. I think that the school where I've been taking him for speech and occupational therapy is probably one of the better ones in this area, so I think we'll try to plan on sending him there. Ideally, he could go to public school at least for a few years, then I may pull him out and homeschool beginning in middle school (when the kids get meaner and life gets really difficult for kids on the spectrum) By then, my younger one will be in school as well, so I think I could handle having one child to homeschool.

As for work, who knows? I think I should probably plan on a part-time career as adjunct faculty for the near future. Hopefully I can at least earn enough to make my loan payments. Who knows when I'll be able to do residency? I do need to try to make myself study for Step 3, though, so I can get all 3 steps taken within the requisite 7-year period.

Somebody needs to knock some sense into me about having a 3rd child. My second son is such a joy, it really makes me want another. Sure, he can be a bratty, demanding toddler at times, but he's such a sweet, precious beautiful little boy- I just can't help but think about having another. I always envisioned myself with 3 kids and I'm having trouble letting go of that idea. But, realistically, it is all I can do right now to handle 2 high-needs kids. If I were to add a new baby to the mix, my older son would suffer tremendously. So that's that. Plus, my advanced maternal age and history of pregnancy-related complications put me at higher risk. And there's always the chance the baby could have autism. So I need to just thank my lucky stars that my second son is neurotypical (so far, anyway) and focus all my energies on helping my older son as much as possible.

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12 years 5 months ago #69775 by SAHMdoc
Wow! Where have I been? It has been a year to the day since I last posted in this thread. I still read MomMD almost daily, but never got around to updating this blog...I'm going to give it another try, if anyone is still out there reading this ;-)

My older son is now 5 and his baby brother is now 2 1/2. I'm still mostly at home with the boys, which I still LOVE! I guess I truly am cut out to be a SAHM because I've been at it for 2 years and have zero desire to go back to work full-time. If money were not an issue, I could totally see myself doing this until my kids are grown. It's been especially worth it to see the improvements in my older son. He has made huge strides in the last 2 years and I know those are in large part due to the one-on-one work I've done with him.

Unfortunately, money IS an issue and I have just one year remaining on my economic hardship deferment for my student loans. So that's why I recently started teaching anatomy and physiology part-time as an adjunct instructor at a community college. The pay is horrible (around $1300 per semester per course!) but I've enjoyed it so far. I figured out that if I teach one class per semester, I can earn just enough money to pay the interest on my student loans (around $4K per year). My lender offers the option of making interest-only payments for the first 10 years, so if I can just earn that $4000 per year, I can get by for the immediate future. That's probably the route I'm going to take.

The students in my class are mostly pre-nursing and other allied health fields, are mostly older, working adults, married with children. For the most part, they're highly motivated to learn and to improve themselves career-wise, so that helps make my job easier. Of course, anatomy and physiology isn't always the most exciting subject in the world, but I do my best to make it clinically relevant and they do seem to appreciate that. Of course, every semester I get one or two bratty little kids who try to get away with skipping class, not doing the work, then begging for special treatment, etc., but fortunately, those are the exception rather than the rule.

I don't know if I will ever be able to work more than part-time, but I seriously think I could see myself teaching on a long-term basis. Of course, the pay would be a small fraction of what I could earn as a physician in practice, but at least I wouldn't need to go through 3 years of residency, which I know my family wouldn't survive right now or anytime in the near future. I'm not sure what permanent full-time faculty get paid, but I'm thinking if it's at least $50K or so, then that would be enough to get by and repay student loans (albeit quite slowly!) Anyway, something to think about...I'm definitely glad that I took this part-time position, just to test the waters and see if this is something that I think I'd want to do. So far, it's gone better than I thought it would.

It's amazing...I STILL don't miss medicine! For someone who couldn't imagine herself doing anything else in life besides medicine...who re-applied 3 times before I finally got in...how is this possible? Well, it's quite simple, really. It's my children, particularly my older son. Every time I think about being on call or having to stay late to see a patient, I think of my son. I think of all the times in medical school that I had to sneak home on rotation whenever he was having an especially difficult day and driving my husband crazy. Even though he's much better now, we still have our issues and I know our whole family would suffer tremendously from my absence. So that's that. I can't ever do anything where I have to put the needs of my family behind that of my job. Period.

Of course, the economic reality is daunting- we don't own a home, have virtually no retirement savings, no college fund for the kids- and I have huge amounts of debt with no long-term prospects for paying it off. But I will just have to take things one day at a time. The college fund- well, I didn't have one either, and I somehow managed to earn an MD degree. I'd like to have provided better for my kids, but maybe they'll qualify for financial aid and it won't kill them to work a part-time job or take out a few loans in college(though hopefully not 6 figures like I have!) More importantly, college wouldn't even be in the cards for my older son if I were not constantly working with him on remediating his autism.

Retirement savings- well, this one is definitely a concern. I'm going to try really hard to pinch pennies and get my husband to stash some money in a 401 (k) at work. As for myself, well- hopefully in the future, as my children get older, I'll be able to teach more classes and start saving.

Owning a home- we currently rent and pay more than most people in this area pay for a mortgage. We don't have enough money for a down payment and my DH doesn't earn enough to qualify for a mortgage over $100K or so- which would basically buy you a dump in a dangerous neighborhood around here. We currently rent a house in an acceptable neighborhood that was last sold for around $180K or so, so our goal would eventually be to buy something in that range. I know if I were a resident, banks would be beating down the doors to offer me 102% financing including closing costs- despite my debt. But currently, that's not an option. So...we keep renting in the meantime.

But this will all be worth it someday, if we can continue to help our son. He's made very significant progress with RDI- enough that I'm going to try sending him to kindergarten this fall. We're going to start with half-days and he is supposed to get a one-on-one aide in a regular kindergarten class. I'm nervous about it, but I think it is worth a try, especially since he says that he WANTS to go to school. It's a decent public school, with a strong history of inclusion of students on the autism spectrum. I've met both the principal and his kindergarten teacher and they both seem very supportive, so we'll see how it goes. If it doesn't go well, I can always pull him out and homeschool. And as he gets older, I can see that it might not work anymore, especially as he approaches middle school. But, again, let's not get ahead of ourselves here...one thing at a time!

My 2 1/2 year old is very high needs, but seems normal otherwise, so I think we are almost out of the woods here. If he were to develop autism now, it would be a highly unusual presentation. Thank God! My heart goes out to all the families I know with 2 kids on the spectrum. I can't even begin to imagine what they must have to go through.

Well, this has been a VERY long post...hope I haven't bored everyone to tears!

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12 years 5 months ago #69776 by SAHMdoc
Thanks so much for the PM's! I enjoy reading them and it means a lot to me that someone would take the time to read all my rants and random musings. I guess I have been feeling rather isolated lately and maybe that's what prompted me to revive this thread- leave it to you guys to make me realize I'm not alone!

Someone brought up the "mom" issue- I have somewhat good news to report on that front. Over time, my mom has gotten much, much less critical of me. Of course, she still has her issues and I can't change them, but she has slowly begun to realize that perhaps I do have a clue what I'm doing with my children. It's hard to deny the tremendous progress my older child has made over the past 2 years- he used to be utterly morose, sullen, withdrawn, with frequent crying spells 2 or 3 times a day, often for no apparent reason. Now, he's mostly a happy kid, much more outgoing, and the crying spells have diminished to maybe once a week or less. She now admits that I must have been doing something right with him. Unfortunately, though, she still doesn't really know how to interact with my son. He is DYING to have a relationship with her- he constantly begs to play with her when she visits- but she invariably gives up after about 5 minutes and ends up playing with the baby instead. I wish she would make more of an effort to play with him, but I've learned to live with it- I just let my mom take the baby so I can devote my full attention to my older son.

That's a problem he's going to have often in life. He's made such huge strides, but it's becoming painfully obvious that he's still got a long way to go. For example, he has developed an interest in other children over the last several months or so. I never dreamed this could happen and I literally jumped for joy once I realized it wasn't a fluke. However, he lacks the social graces of a typical 5-year-old. When he sees a kid he wants to play with, he will state "You want to hug that baby" or "You want to play with that one." (He still has pronoun reversal, referring to himself as "you" and the speaker as "I". Theory of mind, anyone?) He will try really hard to get the kid to play with him, following the kid around, but usually the kids ignore him. Increasingly, they have started making fun of him or occasionally becoming aggressive. My son has no conception of aggression and he doesn't even know that the kids are making fun of him, so he usually keeps trying to play along until I lead him away if things start to get ugly.

He seems to have better luck with younger kids- 2 and 3-year-olds, who are more on his social developmental level anyway. On a couple of occasions, he has had successful play episodes with kids this age and I have just sat back and watched, with this big huge Cheshire cat grin on my face, perhaps unfathomable to anyone who hasn't dealt with an autistic spectrum child. I never dreamed my child would ever show an interest in other children. Yes, he has a long way to go, but there is hope.

That's also part of the reason he will only be attending kindergarten part-time. I want to provide him opportunities to go to Kindermusik and other activities with younger kids so he can hopefully have more opportunities for successful playdates. Right now, it's sort of hit or miss- he may meet a kid to play with at a playground, but chances are, we'll never see the kid again afterwards. It would be nice if we had the same kids to play with over time. Unfortunately, I still don't really know a lot of other kids- I lost touch with the one mom I knew last year once her son started pre-school and besides, she lived on the other side of town anyway. The kids in our neighborhood here are much older than him (and a few have made fun of him as well, unfortunately.) I've met moms at Kindermusik and other places and have tried inviting them places, but it's never worked out. I invited his whole Kindermusik class to his birthday party, but none of them came, so either these moms aren't looking for new friends or maybe they don't like us or maybe they were just busy that day, who knows? In any event, I need to look harder for opportunities for him to meet other kids, now that he's finally showing an interest.

Oh- his train obsession has dwindled to what I would consider an appropriate level for a 5-year-old. I never thought this would happen, either! He likes trains, but he likes lots of other stuff, too. He has recently developed an interest in stuffed animals, which seems inconceivable. I remember trying to get him to hug a teddy bear way back when he was just a baby and he never showed the slightest bit of interest in anything soft or cuddly. Now, all on his own, he will play "Hug Mountain" with his stuffed animals, where he and I and all the animals are supposed to hug each other. He tells stories about what each of the animals like to do and where they've been...it's unreal!

He's also really, really smart. I taught him to read because he was interested and he now reads quite fluently on about a 2nd grade level. I also started some simple math lessons with him and he already knows all his addition facts to ten and then some- and this was without hardly trying! We try to do a couple of fun science experiments a week, e.g., dissolving sugar cubes or salt in water, then letting the water evaporate and the solid re-crystallize. Or building a vinegar-and-baking-soda powered rocket. Or just mixing up food coloring to see what colors he can make, etc. It's all lots of fun! Of course, he's way beyond kindergarten-level academics- I didn't plan it that way, it just sort of happened. So I'm going to try to have him go to school primarily for the non-academic portions of the day- circle time, center time, art, music, PE- hopefully where the stress level is lower and the opportunities for interaction higher. The rest of the day, he'll be home with me working on RDI or at Kindermusik or hopefully playdates with younger kids.

I could go on and on. I think he's the best kid in the world. The way he takes care of his younger brother is so sweet. For example, if we're at the playground and the 2-year-old starts to climb a dangerous ladder, my 5-year-old will call me over to help him- or sometimes go help him himself if I'm too far away. If his little brother leans over a fence too far, he will put his arm out to protect him. He grabs his hand when we cross the street without my even having to ask. He is constantly hyper-vigilant, always attending to his little brother to make sure he's ok. I never thought this child could be capable of this degree of concern for others!

OK, this post is long enough already...but just wanted to share because progress like this is what keeps me going! Yes, we still have a long way to go, but if it's possible for him to care for his little brother and want to play with other kids and learn academics, then it is possible for him to do almost anything. It won't be easy, but I now have hope that maybe, someday, he can be an independently functioning adult who will have friends, hold down a job, maybe even get married and have a family, who knows?

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12 years 5 months ago #69777 by SAHMdoc
I ran into a student of mine today at the local kids' museum. Yesterday she knew me only as her physiology professor, "Dr. D, MD", as I delivered a lecture on GI physiology. Today, she saw me dressed in shorts and T-shirt, pushing my 2-year-old around in a stroller and running after my 5-year-old. We chatted about our kids, just like I do with other moms I meet- but it was interesting because she had never seen me in my SAHM role.

And it was interesting for me- because it made me realize that my part-time teaching job seems to serve a need that I previously didn't realize existed. The need to be appreciated, to be respected, to experience success. My instructor evaluations are among the highest in our department, so that certainly makes me feel good. Several students have said that they wish I were in practice so I could be their doctor. I've heard students tell their friends that they need to be sure to get me as their instructor ("She's awesome!!") (Of course, I'm sure there will always be students who don't like me, but man, it sure feels good to hear from those who do!) I guess I must have really needed this boost to my self-esteem!

More importantly, I'm realizing that I'm able to be a mentor to future generations. I recall way back when I was a freshman (at this very same community college, no less!) and how much I benefited from having professors as mentors. In fact, I probably would have dropped out of school altogether if it had not been for the encouragement and support of one professor in particular. Eighteen years later, I still recall how it meant the world to me when she wrote on my chemistry quiz "OUTSTANDING!! The work of a REAL chemist!" So when someone does well on a test or shows significant improvement, I try to take the extra few seconds to at least write "Outstanding!" or "Great job!" on their paper. Insignif as it may seem, it often means a lot to the person on the receiving end.

In the past couple of years, I've often felt like a failure because I'm not practicing medicine. People always ask me why I'm not in practice and most people think I'm utterly insane for choosing to be a full-time SAHM. But now, I have students who look at me and see me primarily as Dr. D., MD. They know that I'm also a mom and that I'm choosing to stay home to help my disabled child. They also know that I got my start at this same community college. Maybe some still think I'm crazy for not practicing medicine, but all of them respect me as an instructor. Hopefully, I might be able to help motivate someone in the class to pursue their dreams- be it nursing or respiratory therapy or pharmacy or whatever. (No pre-meds that I know of, but that's probably a good thing in my case!)

As I get more comfortable with teaching, I'm starting to get really into it. More importantly, I can teach the way I want to...which means I try to add in lots of clinical correlations, anecdotes from my med school years, case histories...and try to eliminate as much of the rote, meaningless memorization as possible. For example, next week I'm supposed to cover metabolism. Their textbook is full of all the steps of glycolysis, Krebs cycle, electron transport- all this crap we had to memorize in med school and for Step 1 and never (I mean NEVER!) used again. I'm not going to require that. No patient is ever going to die because a physician (or nurse) doesn't remember the name of every intermediate in the Krebs cycle. In my class, we're going to focus on the big picture as much as possible. I'll mention the terms glycolysis, Krebs cycle, and electron transport, but the focus will be on developing a conceptual understanding of the big picture. We'll focus on what's clinically relevant, e.g., why blood ketones are elevated in the Atkins diet and how that relates to fat catabolism, what happens to glucose and insulin in diabetes, etc. (Honestly, I've never understood the value of memorizing structures and intermediates. I personally think biochemistry is one of the most fascinating subjects in the world- but NOT the way they teach it in medical school!)

On an unrelated note, we've recently made some improvements on the home front. My DH and I have barely seen each other for the last several years. We are basically both full-time caregivers who happen to share a house. We have no babysitter, no one to watch the kids. He goes to bed early, the kids stay up late. I put them to bed, then spend an hour or so on the computer, then go to bed myself. My 2-year-old still insists on sleeping with me, so DH has been relegated to a twin bed in the guest room. He gets up early in the AM to work out and go to work, is gone all day while I'm home with the kids. Then, I go to teach in the PM and he takes the kids. Basically, we never see each other. And on weekends, one of us is almost always interacting one-on-one with our older son while the other has the 2-year-old. And so it goes. We have this idea that one of us always has to be interacting with our 5-year-old at all times, so we have completely sacrificed ourselves and our marriage in the process. And it was killing us.

So we've recently started doing the unthinkable and using TV as a babysitter. Both kids still love Baby Einstein videos and that's about the only thing my older son will watch. We've always hesitated to let him watch them because he's really way too old for them and it's basically just stimming for him, but we have decided it's not going to kill him for 30 minutes a day. And we get a blissful, much-needed, uninterrupted 30 minutes alone together. ;) :) :goodvibes: I feel like I finally have my husband back. Thank you, Julie Clark and everybody at the Baby Einstein Company!

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12 years 4 months ago #69778 by SAHMdoc
I ran into a guy from my med school class today. He's now a 3rd year resident, married and a father of 2, looking forward to finishing up and going into practice. That's the first time I've seen anyone since graduation and I've often wondered how it would feel.

Well, honestly, I feel pretty bummed. I didn't know this guy well, but he seemed like a really nice guy. But for some reason, seeing him brought back a whole lot of emotions for me. It sounds ridiculous, but for whatever reason, I have this on my mind, so I'm going to try to figure out what's bothering me.

Let's rewind to med school graduation, a little over 2 years ago. I had a moderately autistic 3-year-old, a new baby, a terminally ill mother-in-law, and a very unhappy, unemployed husband who had been a SAHD for 2 years. All that notwithstanding, I was attending my med school graduation right along with the others in my class. I was proud of myself and so was my husband.

But it wasn't much of a celebration. Honestly, it felt like a slap in the face. It seemed like everyone in the class was being honored with some award or another- some worth several thousand dollars! Everyone except me, that is. I wasn't expecting an award myself, of course, but it got really old after awhile. After over an hour of listening to the laundry list of awards that my esteemed colleagues were receiving, I tuned out and started chatting with my neighbor (a really nice guy whose name never got called during the awards ceremony either). He felt somewhat slighted himself, so it felt better to have someone to commiserate with. Awards were given for the best overall student, the best woman student, the best women's health student, the most humanistic student, the best academic student, and hundreds more, blah-blah-blah. There was even an award given to someone who had overcome the most significant adversity, which was given to a woman who had gotten divorced during medical school.

I'm happy for all the people who got awards, but I wonder if the administration ever stopped to think how that made the rest of us mere mortals feel? We'd all worked just as hard- some of us even harder, against even more difficult odds- and it just seemed like a slap in the face for the same people to be honored over and over and over again, while the rest of us were completely ignored. Why can't they just honor the valedictorian and salutatorian, then leave it at that?

I then heard the announcer mention something about autism. Something about how one student had done a remarkable job with a research project on autism and, as a result, the student's mentor had inaugurated a new award and this student was to be the first recipient. Dear God, I allowed myself to think, does someone want to honor ME?! I had spent the better part of my 4th year doing research electives related to autism: a couple of months in a child psych elective studying autism treatment, a month on a neuroanatomy elective reviewing the literature on neuroanatomical and neurophysiological abnormalities in autism. I had been an invited speaker on autism at various resident conferences and grand rounds at my medical school. I was even invited to serve on a state committee for the treatment of autism. I had given presentations on autism during my peds, psych, and family medicine rotations. Now, the reason I did all that was pure self-interest. I wanted to help my son any way I could. I wanted to learn as much about his condition as humanly possible. I wanted to meet as many people involved with autism as I possibly could. As I said, sheer self-interest. I never expected to receive any other rewards for those efforts.

Well, I didn't. The inaugural award went to yet another one of my esteemed colleagues for writing a "truly outstanding" paper on autism. He had written it while on rotation with the same developmental pediatrician who had diagnosed my son. That award recipient was the guy I ran into again today, who's looking forward to graduating from residency and entering practice, the guy who has a wife and two perfect little kids.

I'm thrilled that he wrote a great paper on autism. I truly am. Especially since he's planning a career in peds. Back when my son was diagnosed, too many pediatricians were way too quick to dismiss my concerns and if I had listened to them, I would never have sought help for my child and who knows where we might be then?? So I hope that all the pediatricians in training become as well-versed in autism as this young man seemed to be.

At the same time, I couldn't help but be struck by the irony that this guy was receiving an award for writing a paper on autism when I was living it. Every day. Every night. All day. All night. Never-ending. All-encompassing. Living hell. This was back in the bad old days, when my son was basically stuck in almost non-stop tantrums. When he was basically completely oblivious to my existence. When he woke up screaming every night and was impossible to console and would tantrum for hours on end for no apparent reason. And still I got up and rounded on my surgery patients the next morning at 4 AM. When on call, I still worked my 30-hour shifts like everybody else, then came home, rested for an hour or two, then awoke to relieve my husband and provide one-on-one therapy to my son. I managed to squeak through medical school with minimal studying and still honor most of my rotations (though NOT surgery!) And despite all that, there I was at graduation, right along with everybody else. And no one- other than my husband-seemed to give a dam*.

OK to say I felt bitter at the time would be an understatement. It would have been really nice to have SOMEONE (besides my husband) validate my achievement, in some small way.

Since then, I moved on- both literally and figuratively- and mostly suppressed memories of graduation for that reason. In looking back at my post I made here 2 years ago, I just briefly glossed over graduation, though I did describe it as "anti-climatic".

Somehow, coming face-to-face with the guy who got this award- the AUTISM award!- has brought all those feelings back to the surface again. I don't like to feel this way. It's not animosity towards this guy- he seems like a really nice guy who'll be a great pediatrician. Maybe it's jealousy? Because his kids are perfect and mine aren't? Because his parents are in town to help out and mine aren't? Because he's going to be making real money this time next year and I'm not? All of the above? I thought I was way past all that, but maybe I'm not being honest with myself.

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12 years 4 months ago #69779 by SAHMdoc
Ahh, how I hate painting myself in a negative light on a public forum! Once or twice, people have called me a "saint" for what I'm doing for my son...but now the truth emerges...I'm anything but!! Yes, I'm jealous. Yes, I've been bitter, though not as much anymore. Today, I'm mostly thankful that my son is doing soooo well.

As if to remind me, a few minutes after I saw my former med school colleague, I pushed my 2-year-old's stroller past a little boy in a wheelchair. A little boy who appeared to have moderate-to-severe cerebral palsy or some other form of traumatic brain injury. A little boy who will likely never walk. Maybe never talk. Maybe wear diapers all his life or require catheterization. A little boy whose parents face obstacles that I'm sure I can't even begin to imagine. I looked down at my perfect, beautiful little 2-year-old and wanted to cry. Because he's so perfect. And because this other child was not. And then I felt guilty that I was feeling better at the other child's expense. Why should it require seeing someone who is worse off to make me appreciate what I have? Why should I have to compare myself to someone else to be thankful for what I've got? I've mentioned that saying before: "I wept because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet." Well, why should it take meeting a man with no feet to make someone feel better? Are we all in competition here to try to find someone worse off than us? Is this just human nature? There's a saying "There's always someone who's worse off than you are". What about the one person in the world whose life IS the worst-off worst-possible-case scenario? Are the rest of us supposed to be HAPPY about this? Relieved it's not us?

Well, it's getting late, I'm starting to rant, and I'm obviously not going to come up with any answers tonight. Bottom line- my older son is NOTHING like he was 3 years ago and for that, I am eternally grateful. He's a fabulous kid, very mild-mannered, very easy-going. It's nearly impossible to believe he's the same kid who made all our lives so miserable just a few short years ago. Still, there are thousands of families whose lives ARE still a living hell due to autism (or untold other conditions.) I wish there were something I could do to help.

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