I almost said it too.
Sitting in hard plastic chairs with our 2-month old nestled in our arms, we exchanged nervous glances when the doctor told us she was ready for her first set of vaccinations. We’d heard enough of the rumors to be terrified. The anti-vaccine campaign had long legs and sharp teeth back then and the pro-vaccine campaign… well it didn’t exist. Because, of course, why should it have to?
But what’s a new parent to do? New parenthood, the time when you hungrily drink every ounce of information about your new life and how to care for it, is like living against a constant tidal wave. There are so many options, there is so much information. And you want to learn everything and consider everything and decide as if your life depends on it. You don’t want to just follow the crowd. How does the crowd know what is best for the most precious thing you’ve ever known.
So we read the books and tried to understand, to cut through all of the hype and reveal the truth – to see clearly the thing we should do for our daughter.
But pregnancy surfaces so many decisions and newborn babies take so much energy and this question laid in a long line of what-to-dos and how-to-handles. So there we were, at her 2-month checkup, nervous and unsure. Our doctor, of course, strongly advised us to vaccinate on schedule and didn’t try to hide his irritation. How often he must fight this battle. He seemed at a loss with parents like us, the ones who ask questions. So he offered us the documentation that came with the vaccines to read and review.
We eagerly took him up on it, though looking back now, I can’t for the life of me tell you why. Sitting with pages of medical-ease in one hand and our iphones in the other, trying to sort out what it all meant on a couple of hours of sleep as our baby fussed in our arms just made us more confused than we were before. Eventually we threw up our hands, tossed the papers back at him and held our baby still as they stuck needles in her legs. I cried and nursed her and then we took her home, hoping we had made the right decision.
Five years, a dozen vaccines, and a second baby later, I know we made the right call. No doubt remains in my mind that vaccinating my children, on schedule, is the way to go.
But you aren’t so sure. You hear the hype and you haven’t gone through this yet and you can’t look beyond the next feeding or the next nap to the day when your child will mix with other children on the playground, in the toy store, at school. Yes, even at Disneyland.
And I get it. Oh I understand it all. You hear things and you read things and all of it is so terrifying as you hold this tiny, precious, fragile body in your arms. Nobody wants to make a choice that forever alters the future of the people they love. Nobody wants to see their children suffer. And we all want control. We are all tossed into this sea of chaos, the reins ripped from our hands the moment our babies take their first breaths. So we cling onto the things we can control, the decisions we can still make all on our own.
I understand. I’m a mom and I know why you are considering saying no to that shot. Or why you’ve already said no a dozen times.
But I also know that diseases like measles and whooping cough bring suffering too. These are ugly diseases and there is a reason that so much time and effort was spent ridding our lives of them. I know that these illnesses take away control. And not just from you but from the mother whose infant is not old enough to get the vaccine and risks exposure every time they leave the house. From the doctors who are spending their days treating diseases that we haven’t seen in years. From the public health workers, battling an epidemic of a disease they had worked so hard to eradicate.
You want to make your own choices about what is best for your children. We all do. And nothing is more terrifying than sorting out which danger is the most real among a litany of possible dangers. But as you raise your child, you will want to encourage him or her to make decisions based on proven fact and data and clear, well-considered thought. Now is the time that we, as parents, must do the same.