When I finished telling the story of my ordeal with Evan, Oprah smiled proudly and uttered, "We'll be right back."
I took a big deep breath and leaned back in my chair, though I knew the hard part was not over. I knew at home millions of mothers had been waiting years for what was coming in the segment after the commercial break. Mothers who have been silenced, mothers whose child's own pediatrician had called them stupid and ignorant, mothers who had been accused of causing their child's autism with their own negligence, mothers who had waited years for one person to break through in the media and say what they have been screaming for a whole decade. This wasn't my moment in the spotlight coming up. It was theirs. I was their voice and ready to speak on behalf of these amazing women.
"FIVE, FOUR, THREE, TWO, ONE."
When the red light on the camera came on and we were back on the air, Oprah asked me to explain why I think Evan became autistic. In that next moment I actually smiled. At first I couldn't believe I was smiling and I imagined watching that moment on TiVo, screaming at myself again and again, "Why are you smiling?" And then it clicked. Oprah was finally giving me the chance to speak about Evan's autism without being censored. That's why I cracked a smile: The truth was about to come out of my mouth.
"The statistics are one in one-fifty. I'd like to know what number will it take, what number does it have to be for everyone to start listening to what the mothers of children who have autism have been saying for years, which is ... We vaccinated our baby and SOMETHING happened. SOMETHING happened. Why won't anyone believe us?"
The audience began to clap that deep, sympathetic applause again. I looked around and saw tears on the faces of mothers who I knew had children affected with autism. It seemed as though their anger had been released in that brief moment.