Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Whom Can You Trust?
I’m generally not a worrying kind of mom. An inquiring one, but not one naturally prone to sleepless nights wondering whether my kids will be abducted or get irreversible brain damage from lead poisoning. But I don’t want to be naïve, either—I know people like me often underestimate real dangers that are out there. So, after one-too-many sane mothers expressed concern over the potential link between vaccines and autism and my first son was born (boys having a much higher likelihood of autism); my ears started to prick up on the issue. I recalled an issue of Cookie where they did an interview with a mother who was also a pediatrician—Cara Natterson, MD. Dr. Natterson authored a book called Dangerous or Safe, where she goes through the research on a whole host of issues—basically, dangers that your children may be exposed to in everyday life. She hits up all the big ones I know: plastics (and the PVC connection), vaccines (linked to autism), milk (possibly connected to various problems; dietary and other) and so on.…there are chapters devoted to a wide range of potential dangers.
Natterson sets the book up very nicely: for each chapter, she explains the issue at hand and why there is cause for concern; she then details the research, concluding with her assessment both as a doctor, and as a mother: she explains what she herself has done with her kids. Her discussion is thorough; her writing style is familiar and clear; her conclusions seem reasonable. And yet, I found myself curiously dissatisfied after reading the chapters that most interested me. It reminds me of one of my father’s dictums: that if you want to judge an encyclopedia, you need to read an entry addressing something you know something about--since you’ll be a lot more critical and able to appraise the value of what is presented in that section. At the end of the chapter dealing with the Autism-Vaccine link, Natterson notes that she had her own children vaccinated on the regular schedule, but that she “held her breath” each time they got their shots, given some of the stories she had heard. While it’s honest and direct, this is not confidence inspiring to me, as a newly-anxious mother.
Ultimately, it seems like the problem with a lot of these mom-worry issues is that you’re not sure whom to trust. And in a world where we’re not sure we trust our own childen’s doctors, why should I be sure I can trust someone else’s--even if she's also a mom? Ultimately, her book seems to be in a Catch-22 type of situation: we desperately need a book like this for the same reason we aren’t ready to accept the conclusions someone else has drawn for us.