But moving to a place you've never been to is hard. You start by grabbing a map and a compass and drawing circles from work, 15 minute commute, 30 minute commute, 45 and so on. That city has a KKK chapter, no. That city has heavy drug traffic, yes, I mean, no. That county has no Jews, no. That county has a crappy special needs department, no. That county has a lot of kids with Autism and a lot of rec activities, yes.
We looked for houses and areas for over a year and after our house sold, we were forced to make a decision. We chose a very nice neighborhood with an HOA. Although there were over 700 homes in the neighborhood, there was a close knit group of families and there was a welcoming committee, and a mom's co-op for play-dates.
When we moved in, we were welcomed and I was invited to join the co-op since I had children under five. Being from NJ, I thought it was a big strange that everyone was so friendly and helpful. I lived in a neighborhood for 18 years and didn't know most of my neighbors and it was fine that way. I wrote on Facebook how nice it was and my friend Jay wrote, "Wait, just wait." I really should have known better.
It started slowly. I started going to a playgroup with five other moms with kids the same age as the twins, they were 18 months old at the time. Some of the moms were first time moms, a couple had two children, but I had the most overall. No surprise there. One day, one of the moms asked me about Autism. She was very curious and had a lot of questions. She asked, "how did you know #1 had Autism." I replied, "because right after his MMR shot, he stopped talking. He shut down. I know there is a lot of controversy about the subject, but that is what I saw, and I believe it. That is why I chose to delay the girls MMR until they are older." (Mind you, the MMR can be administered until 24 months and still be considered "on time", so I thought that was benign information.) I was so wrong.
Within the next week, an email from the Co-op circulated that information regarding immunizations, flu mists, and medical conditions needed to be made known to members of the co-op. It was like overnight, the co-op became the gestapo for paranoid moms. I read the email and thought it didn't pertain to me since all the kids were indeed vaccinated and the girls were still in the window to have it. However, that was not the case.The message was intended for me.
After weeks of wondering why certain people weren't showing up to playgroup and people avoiding interactions with me, one of my friends asked me, "there are rumors circulating that you don't vaccinate your kids, but you just delayed them, right?" What? Seriously. At least I had one friend that could retain the correct information. And then I laughed about how stupid they all were. But the more I thought about the stupidity the angrier I got. It was like high school revisited. Everyone was willing to dish the dirt but no one wanted to check their facts. I sent out an email to try to clarify things, but it didn't change anything or stop the rumors.
And with that misinformation, combined with ignorance, paranoid moms looked to my family when someone's child got a staph infection, a rash, a cold, a booger nose, anything. According to them, we were ground zero for any and all illnesses and on the CDC watch list.
With the spread of one rumor, I became pariah. I quit the co-op but still felt the peering eyes at school, the pool, on the street, at the store and felt the isolation. So I stayed home and buried myself in busy.
My life wasn't hard enough, apparently. Leaving my job, my friends, having a shoe full of kids with issues and having to settle a new home and feeling alone wasn't enough. In a flash, I was the outcast and it was the loneliest place on earth.
I stayed away from the pool and any Co-op events. Once bitten, it's over. I made a few friends within the neighborhood outside the grasp of the Co-op and made several friends beyond my neighborhood who had kids just like mine. I was lucky enough to have found a group of moms I could trust and slowly recovered.
I am grateul for the large Autism population in Baltimore. That is the one thing NJ didn't have. There was no unity, no friends to share stories with, and no support. I had plenty of sympathy from my friends, but no empathy in sight. I was surrounded by people that didn't really understand, and although my friends tried, you don't really get it unless you live it. My core of Baltimore friends get me, my kids and my crazy life and when I look at them, I realize that we are exactly where we need to be.
In the end, the mom who was behind the rumors, moved away. I wished karma to take care of her and squelched fantasies of egging her house, punching her face in, getting Jersey with a pick-axe, and having a face-to-face-soap-opera-moment. I still get anxious when I see all the cliquey moms "high schooling it" outside the school at pick up time, but I just remember that I am capable of kicking all their asses and I stand up taller and walk on by. Bitches, I know how to use my pick axe. Oh, sorry it accidentally banged into your head. Hope you're immunized.