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I’m an “over-protective” mom. (If you look up ‘over protective’ in the dictionary, you’ll see me.) I’m the mom who considers bike helmets non-negotiable and doesn’t allow the kids to lick the cake batter bowl because they could get salmonella poisoning from the eggs. Our house rule is no driver’s licenses until the kids are 18, I spray door knobs with Lysol, and (no joke) I cut grapes in quarters until my kids are in kindergarten. (Hey! Don’t laugh! Studies show that grapes are the perfect size and shape to get lodged in little throats, and they are 1 of the top 5 most frequently choked on foods!) Yes, I’m over protective and, to be honest, I’m PROUD of it. My children were entrusted to my care and they are my treasures. I would die for them. I don’t believe in wishy washy, mamby pamby, half-hearted parenting. My kids are my life and I would do anything to protect them. Anything.
Fast forward to our story. I was surfing the net one day for other blogs of adoptive moms. I ran into a couple of blogs by some ladies named Carolyn and Erin. As I read about their families, I realized that they had not just ‘adopted’, like our family… they had adopted kids with HIV. *Full stop.* All I could think was
“WOW. Isn’t it great that these families have the courage to do that. But I never could.”
I was intrigued, though, so I poked around and was truly surprised and amazed to find a bunch of other families that had also done this “unthinkable” thing. Why weren’t they TERRIFIED for the safety of their other children? Were they careless parents? Why were they okay with something so RADICAL and RISKY!? We had 4 kids in our home already and the thought of putting them in danger was 100% unacceptable. No way. No how.
But… I’m curious by nature and I’m a researcher at heart…so I started researching. I read everything I could get my hands on about HIV/AIDS and the adoption of children with the disease. And a funny thing happened… the MORE I read, the LESS I feared.
My husband started researching with me. Expert after expert, scientific study after scientific study… they all confirmed over and over again that HIV is spread through SEX and DRUG NEEDLES, not bizarre accidents or causal contact Period. (And if we can’t believe experts like Dr. Joel Gallant of John Hopkins Center for Global Health, then who the heck CAN we believe!?)
Is there a teeny tiny, itty bitty, almost imperceivably small risk that an accident could happen and someone in our family could get infected from a blood spill? Well, yes. But there is NOTHING that we do every day that does NOT involve a risk THAT TINY. Eating could involve choking. Going outside could involve lightening strikes or West Nile virus or Swine Flu or terrorist attack. Swimming could involve drowning. Riding in the car or on an airplane could involve a crash. The list in endless.
Every day I put my kids in the car KNOWING that the risk of death from riding in a vehicle is 1 in 84. (According to the National Safety Council.) Even for HEALTHCARE WORKERS (who deal daily with blood spills and needles!) the risk of contracting HIV from one of their patients in a NON-sexual, NON-drug use way is 1 in 1000. Among NON-healthcare workers, causal household transmission JUST DOESN’T HAPPEN! (click for proof)
This was starting to sound much less “bizarre” and a whole lot more DOABLE!
Next stop – our 3 local doctors (our pediatrician and the 2 doctors of mine and my husband’s).
Our pediatrician said it was “Great that you are doing this! How exciting!” and wanted to make sure we were aware of the financial aspect and that we could find a good pediatric infectious disease specialist. She discussed how she worked with other HIV+ kids and, thus, had experience in this area. As she talked for several minutes about these things she ever-so-casually slipped in
“…and of course the child would present no danger to your family…”
and then continued on to other matters. I was so pleased with yet another resounding confirmation that HIV is nothing to be scared of.
Then I met with my main doctor and asked, “Do you have any thoughts about the safety of my other kids living with an HIV+ child?” to which she leaned back in her chair and quickly answered,
“Oh no, I wouldn’t BAT AN EYE at that!!“
(Those were her exact words. When she left the room for a minute to get some paperwork, I grabbed the pen in my purse and WROTE IT DOWN!) She then shared that a relative of hers is HIV positive and has done wonderfully on the ARVs for over 16 years now. She did warn us, however, that the STIGMA might be the only real challenge in regards to raising an HIV positive child. (making that about the zillionth time I had heard that warning)
My husband’s doctor was also very positive and encouraging and had no pressing worries for our other children whatsoever.
SO…Of course initially we had all those thoughts, What about our other kids? Would they be safe? What about accidents?” But, for us, it came down to a CHOICE between LOGIC or FEAR.
If we’re going to go with FEAR than we had to at least be consistent. If being around an HIV+ child was too much of a risk, then we should stop using cars, going outside when it’s raining, visiting amusement parks, going swimming, jumping on trampolines, horseback riding, and every other widely accepted but FAR more statistically ‘dangerous’ activity.
Just because the letters ‘H’ ‘I’ ‘V’ strike fear in our hearts doesn’t mean that this fear is LOGICAL or that we have to RESPOND irrationally to it. My 4 year old is afraid of ANTS, but that doesn’t mean his fear is LOGICAL. In the end, we decided to choose Logic and tell Fear to take a hike.(because, contrary to hanging out with HIV+ people, hiking IS dangerous!)
So, after all the research and consultations with medical professionals, the fear faded away and in its place came hope and potential for the future. Now we are the proud parents of a beautiful little 6 year old HIV+ girl from Ethiopia who has richly blessed our lives.
Thus, now I am an overprotective mom to 5 kids instead of 4. And still proud of it. :-)
-Daniel & Chantelle
Daniel & Chantelle were The Answer for this child, Be The Answer by reading and learning about HIV. Click here for more information.