A word about refrigerators

February 4, 2008 at 8:08 pm 2 comments

     In the 1940s a theory about autism grew and took hold among some doctors. It blamed mothers for causing autism with their cold, distant care and feelings for their afflicted child. They were called “refrigerator mothers.” When I first heard about this theory, my initial, vehement response was how ridiculous the concept was. Of course the idea was later dismissed wholeheartedly by anyone who mattered. But in the back of my mind, in the admittedly negative way I sometimes talk to myself, I wondered if I played a hand in my child’s autism. It’s completely irrational, and I know this, but it made me second guess everything.

     There are women who absolutely radiate love and joy when they are pregnant; they revel in each and every moment and experience of pregnancy. There is something beautiful about these women, and I marvel at their seeming knowledge and confidence that they are doing what they were born to do. I was not one of these women. I was miserable in pregnancy, and my own mother later confessed she was worried I wouldn’t bond with C because of it. This was said in a moment of praise for what a great mother I turned out to be. But it gave voice to my fear that I hadn’t in fact bonded with C and that no one else noticed but me. When I first touched him, I stroked his belly, and all the monitors attached to him went crazy. I was told to only touch his head as his system was so overloaded even the most gentle touch was disturbing. How did I not instinctively know this? My first Failure as a Mother. No one could hold him, and I in fact didn’t hold him until he was 5 days old. When I finally arrived at the hospital where he was taken to save his life, and was then able to hold him, I worried that he and the world (and more specifically, I) somehow missed an all important moment that only comes once.  


Entry filed under: autism. Tags: , , .

In the same vein Soccer Moms

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. hfamom  |  February 5, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    D, I read this earlier and didn’t know how to respond… I’m back and no wiser… You know you aren’t a refrigerator mom! The love you feel for C comes across loud and clear in everything you write! (Even when you’re mad– you are on his behalf!)

    You guys had a really rough start– but, things have changed and he is well adjusted! He knows you love him– and, he loves you! Isn’t that the bottom line of bonding?

    I know – DH said the same thing – he read it and didn’t know what to say. I do KNOW I’m not a refrigerator mom, but I do think I struggle with insecurity, and as DH puts it, a gift for overanalyzation. And I am VERY suggestible to stupid things like the refrigerator Mom theory…so while I know it’s not true, there is always that little flag in the back of my mind, you know? But he IS my report card and I get an “A+!!!” 🙂

  • 2. Jesch  |  February 7, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Have you read that book yet?


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