Celebrities say parenting-related things all the time. Angelina Jolie is our current savior for being the most understanding parent, while Gwyneth Paltrow remains in the clueless to anyone else's situation but her own department. Now, however, Toni Braxton has said something that carries such weight, it's difficult to process. I find it hurtful and terribly sad. Her words are shocking to me.
Toni Braxton believes that her son Diezel has autism because it's God's payback to her for having an abortion.
Diezel is now 11 (pictured here with his mom), and he was diagnosed with autism when he was 3. Diezel's father is Keri Lewis, who is now Braxton's ex-husband. Braxton writes in her new memoir Unbreak My Heart:
I was suddenly faced with a choice I’d never thought I’d have to make. Amid my major misgivings about abortion, I eventually made the gut-wrenching decision ... In my heart, I believed I had taken a life — an action that I thought God might one day punish me for .... My initial rage was quickly followed by another strong emotion: guilt. I knew I’d taken a life ... I believed God’s payback was to give my son autism.
I think it's in our nature as parents to blame ourselves for anything that happens to our children. I completely understand that. We want to know why, we want answers, some of us look to God, we wonder if it was something we did, we ate, an action we took that could cause any kind of issue in our children's lives. We sometimes think crazy things -- perhaps put blame on things that we shouldn't. Was it all the cold cuts I ate when I was pregnant that caused this to happen to my baby? Was it because I worked on my feet my whole pregnancy that this happened? Is it my fault? It is my fault.
By saying this, Braxton is insinuating that she feels her child is a punishment. That Diezel is being punished for decisions his mother made long before he was born. This breaks my heart. I cannot believe this to be true. Children with special needs are not a punishment. My niece who has autism is not a punishment -- she is pure joy and love. We all learn from her as much as she learns from us. I cannot believe Braxton would write such a thing. In her memoir. A book that is there for her son to read someday. For her other son to read as well. I know not everyone is going to have a positive outlook when their child has a special needs diagnosis -- not every parent is going to be like mom Jennifer Parrella Lister. She saw her daughter Riley who has Down syndrome as a gift -- she knew she was put on this Earth to do amazing things, to help people, and she says "there's nothing down about it." But this statement that Braxton has made perhaps went too far.
While I understand how something like this could cross Braxton's mind -- as parents, we go there, we think the worst sometimes -- I'm sad that she included this in her memoir. At the same time, it was very brave of her to include her innermost thought. But at what cost? She also wrote later in the book: "Maybe it's just a coincidence that after my son's first MMR vaccine, I began to notice changes in him." It's clear she is doing what so many of us do -- looking for blame. Looking for answers. For the why. When things are unexplained, when there is no cure, that's exactly what we do.
Since writing the book, Braxton has had a change of heart. She told People magazine, "I thought I was being punished for having an abortion. But I realized there is nothing wrong with my baby. He just learns differently." I'm thankful she sees things differently now. And if this somehow brings more awareness, or brings us one step closer to helping kids with special needs by putting more attention on it, that would be the positive takeaway we all need.
Do you understand how Braxton could make such a statement?
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