One thing I quickly learned when I became a parent was that the world is not nearly so cleanly black and white, as I thought it was pre-motherhood. I was so sure how I would parent and what decisions I would make before I had kids. I thought working in a classroom made me uniquely qualified to make parenting decisions. I was wrong. As soon as that sweet bundle was placed in my arms for the first time, all the thoughts I thought before went straight out the window to be replaced with the thought that
all I must do from now one will be to protect this person whatever the cost.
And I was certain, almost within the first few minutes of her life, that no one knew this baby like I did and therefore no one would be more qualified to make the decisions to protect her best. I was only sort of right on this one. I do know my babies best, but I do not know all there is to know about everything that is there to protect them or cause them harm. For that, I rely on research, not emotion and let me tell you, THAT may be the hardest part about parenting. When it came time for vaccinating my first baby, it never occurred to me no to, but then I started asking questions. I had heard the “risks” about Autism and read countless horror stories of children’s lives changing after that first needle prick. So I started questioning the decisions, but I wasn’t willing to let the heart-tugging truth of those stories be my only guide. At the time, I was fresh off a newly printed Master’s Degree, which meant years of hours upon hours researching and analyzing data. So, I wasn’t afraid to get down into the numbers and statistics of studies on everything from the safety of the MMR to efficacy of a flu shot. And I did. I researched both, anecdotally by asking everyone I knew, doctors and parents alike, their experiences and opinions, and the good old-fashioned way, finding actual scientific/medical studies and following the path of those toward a conclusion for myself and my kids. Here’s where we came down on things: all the traditional vaccines were necessary, there was no disputing that. We worked out a schedule with our doctors to space the shots apart differently in order to maintain maximum effectiveness while also allowing our baby a bit more time to bulk up and grow to better handle the trauma of shots and the possible minor side effects that come with them. These schedules were different for each of our kids based on both body weight and temperament. They always included doctor input, often as the final say. I chose my pediatricians very carefully in both states where we lived, so I trusted their advice and knew, no matter what, they knew more than me about this stuff no matter how often I read medical journals. They were also parents, so I trusted they were looking out for our best interests as parent and child, not the best interest of the pharmaceutical company who provided them the shots.
I believe in most doctors. I believe, they believe in their oath to do no harm. I do not consider that one of my flaws.
My reasoning for these choices was this: all of the vaccinations our kids got are potentially life-saving, if not my own child’s, then others’. In addition, the only true, scientific study I could find on the link between autism risk and vaccines was that Lancet study that has since been proven fraudulent. I didn’t know that at the time, but I did know there was a lot of story and not a lot of fact for me to dismiss the shots out of hand. I’m not saying there is no link. I just knew then that there wasn’t enough of one for me. The risk of not being vaccinated far outweighed the potential risk of an autism coming from any vaccine. As I had more babies, more vaccines popped up. First there was rotovirus, then flu, then Hep A, then chicken pox, then HPV. With each and every one I dug in and tried to find studies to show me why I should get these vaccines. Some, the law required us to get if I wanted my kids enrolled in school and while I could have fought, I didn’t. I took other kids into consideration, not just my own. Others, our doctor gave me information on need that I chose to take into consideration when making our decision. Some, I never did find a compelling reason to get, while there seemed to be a pile of reasons not to. We are lucky. We have had doctors that we trust who allow me time to work out my parenting role before they enforces their doctor role. I love them for that. I am lucky to have the time and the where-with-all to do the research-real research, not trolling the internet for horror stories. My kids don’t have all the vaccinations that are on the schedule. They don’t all have the same vaccinations as each other. But I can promise this, they have all the ones that they need to protect themselves and the general public from potentially dangerous disease. This, I know for sure, because I did the work to find out. Parenting isn’t black and white but some truths should not be left up to parents alone to decide, especially if they’re relying on fear, popular culture, or Dr. Google to make the decisions.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.