Meds That Mom Gives You… Worth It At All?

“E, eat your applesauce!” It’s a refrain I hear myself say every morning. Sometimes, she eats it without assistance; other times, I stir through the sauce in search of the little white beads. On top of adding inconvenient moments to the morning shuffle, I hate putting chemicals into her body. But I have to because it helps her concentrate and reduces her impulses to a manageable level. Currently, she’s taking Ritalin. Even though it helps, it still makes me cringe and feel guilty.

A few years ago, my daughter E had trouble controlling herself. She’d grab things without thinking, grow frustrated with work or anything else new and throw a desk or another object; and, sometimes, she couldn’t sit still even if I had belted her to a chair. It wasn’t horrendous, but it sure didn’t lead to success in school or in daily life and caused me excessive worry.

When a parent puts a child on medication, it’s never a quick fix or a subject that hasn’t been fraught with anxiety, resentment and indecision. You keep thinking about how you failed your child and also desperately hope the medicine will bring your child back to some state of normalcy. At first, I resisted the choice when a trusted teacher and friend suggested considering the possibility and discussing it with E’s pediatrician. I never allowed the kids soda… why would I feed E chemicals?

"When a parent puts a child on medication, it's never a quick fix…"

Another friend delivered words of wisdom I never forgot: If your child developed cancer or another serious disease, would you forgo the medication due to the side effects and/or the stigma; or administer the drugs and realize that you were trying to help your child lead a better, longer, more productive life? I know several moms who have tried therapy and natural diets aimed at eliminating the negative behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorders with mixed results. While I attempted in the past to follow this path, I never received definitive results that it alone changed her behavior for the better  And I am in no way advocating the use of drugs to solve your children’s problems — it’s more often than not a last resort option or a method to take the edge off impossible behavior with therapy in tandem.

So far, her medicine has been working and allowing E to learn and progress, but I’m still on edge about continuing her medicated state. Of course, I’m never going to be totally comfortable about this — it is a controlled substance that I must sign for each time I pick up a new script at the pediatrician. I hesitate to carefully read about the side effects unless I suspect something to be off with her health or behavior, and I dread the possibility of a report stating how detrimental these medications are for children. I just do not see another alternative except this type of risk.

If your child developed cancer, would you forgo the medication due to the side effects or stigma?

Back when I gave birth to her and cradled her sweet little self, I promised to protect this dear little person from any harm, so the guilt I feel in possibly exposing her to danger causes much ill feeling. Much more than allowing her to participate in a sport or stay over at a friend’s house or cross the street by herself which I imagined would be my concerns at this time.

Maybe she won’t be able to rely on this medication forever and may have to experiment with another that may require more trial-and-error. Although I realize this could happen, I hold out hope for the future that she will not need any medication to overcome any of her issues. That simply her own cognition and training will allow her to control her own behavior. Until then, I must give her the medicine and swallow my own pride and guilt while I watch her spoon the applesauce into her mouth.

M. B. Sanok is a South Jersey mom. She is a blogger for JerseyMomsBlog, from which this post was adapted.

Categories: MomSpeak