By Cathy Jameson
A few years ago when a blizzard kept us home for days on end, I had lots of extra time to clean out the closets. From that cleaning spree, I had 2 very large bags and 1 big box of items to donate. The items may not have been brand new, but they were in good condition and could hopefully serve a purpose for someone else.
My daughters were not sad to see their things go. I wasn't either. The things I was donating to the giveaway pile were a few t-shirts I no longer wore and a pile of books that I knew that I'd never read cover-to-cover. Only a few of the chapters and topics in the books interested me anyway.
I'd bought the books one or two at a time at thrift stores over the years hoping to use them for a research project. Instead of finishing the project, the books sat and sat and sat on one of our bookshelves. I spied them on that snowy weekend and decided that it was time for them to go back to the thrift store. I wanted to add a page of my own to each book before they were donated though.
I’d considered it a missing appendix or sorts. These books, all of which are meant to educate women during pregnancy or during the first few years of parenting, were missing something: the whole truth.
- In sections regarding autism, there was no hope that autism could be prevented (and treated).
- In sections describing vaccines, I found no warning that all liability-free vaccines come with risk and that they had side effects (or what to do about those side effects post-vaccination).
- In other sections of these books, when listing the vaccine schedule, information about vaccine exemptions was missing (including that all 50 states offer at least 1 exemption).
- In sections describing well-baby visits to the pediatrician's office, not one author mentioned that parents can (and should) question what their providers were saying.
What could be done? It would be too messy to jot some notes in each of the books, so I thought I’d add a bookmark. I’d place it in the sections that I thought needed further information, information I’d wished I’d known back when I was pregnant and also as a young mommy. Tucking it neatly, the bookmark held just enough updated information to the sections that I thought need clarification.
It was a small piece of paper - on one side it listed a few websites and names of other books I'd found helpful. On the other side was a simple yet incredibly important handwritten-message by me. Originally said by another advocate, it still resonates with me to this day: Parents, Do the Work!
Since I'd bought some of them at thrift stores, several of the books were already rather old. Some information was still relevant, but other data in the parenting books was no longer current. Moms and Dads could easily find more current information on pregnancy, on parenting, and on what happens during well-baby and well-child visits now while reading online. But some people, like me, can't resist thumbing through books looking for information. That's why before these books went back to the thrift store, I slipped that bookmark in.
I like it when something I have in my possession can help another person. Sometimes it's things. Sometimes it's advice. I don't expect everyone to take my advice, but it is nice to know that other people occasionally do seek it. When what I have to offer is gently used children’s clothes, toys, or a stack of parenting books, like the ones I donated after the snow stopped, I hoped that they landed in the hands of someone who truly needed it. At one time, those types of books were like a motherhood bible to me. I'm sure they could be like that for a new generation of young parents as well.
Who knows where the information I'd inserted in the pages of those donated books eventually went. If only one brand new mom or one mom-to-be read it, I'd be happy. That’s because what she read could have led to more reading, more wondering, and maybe even to some questioning. As I've learned from past experience, reading and questioning and wondering are never bad things. They are all are very good things indeed.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.
Got a favorite book or website about autism, vaccines or special needs parenting you’d like to share? Go ahead and post it in the comments below.