I got to hold a newborn. I held him again a few weeks later. It was an exquisite feeling to hold this child.
The new life.
His perfect little body.
That newborn baby smell.
The endless opportunities he will have.
I’d attended his baby shower several months earlier. I bought his mom, a young twentysomething, more than I should have but that’s because I was thrilled to support her. With autoimmune disease in her family history, as well as having had to care for a family member with autism, she was rightfully nervous. I felt it necessary to offer as much support as I could as she prepared to bring a child into the world.
Her own history, plus knowing our family well and the medical path that I had chosen for my older children, prompted her to ask questions and to search for answers. Long before she found herself preparing for her son’s birth, in a quest for knowledge, she’d decided what she would do when it was time to raise a family. Not only did she decide what she would do, recalling my experience with my children, she also decided what not to do. Instead of following recommended schedules and standard American practices, she would be as healthy, organic, and natural as she could. She would be as free from everything “standard” as she could be, which also meant no vaccines.
She knows that I learned things the hard way – that just because a procedure, or birthing practice or a medical intervention is offered, I didn’t have to accept it (but I did); that I had rights and could’ve used them (but I didn’t know about them); and that my child’s doctors and nurses worked for me and not the other way around (but I let them bully me). My lack of knowledge about vaccines, including the lack of guidance from my children’s medical providers, lead to the choices I made. The consequence of those choices can be seen in the struggles Ronan and my other children face. She’s watched those struggles. She knows—and sees how they affect Ronan, his siblings, and our family as a whole.
When I held her baby, he was so comfortable while he was in my arms. As he slept soundly and safely, I couldn’t help but stare. He has dark hair and olive skin like Ronan. A rush of memories flooded me to when my son was just as small, just as sweet, and just as perfect as this new child is. How I’d hoped to do so many things with my son as he grew. How I’d hoped to make him feel happy and safe and always cared for. How I’d made some choices, though. How those choice resulted in life-long medical issues and frustration. How the plans I had for Ronan have totally changed.
This young mother knows not to follow my path. She knows what I’ve witnessed and cares not to subject her son to those experiences. She knows she has other options—healthier ones, better ones, ones many other young mothers are realizing, too. She knows that I am behind her 100% in support ready to help her and her perfectly healthy child. She knows that, and she loves being able to reach out to me.
This mom has the chance to do the exact opposite of what I did when I was a young mom. She is going to give her son everything I did not think about let alone know to provide to my children. Her choices will result in positive, healthy, and successful opportunities for her son, and I will never take offense to the choices she has made. She’s doing things differently, and her baby will be better off because of it.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.