I understand why you said no

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I almost said it too.

parents with new baby

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.

8 Comments

  1. Thanks for this Tricia. It is but one of many lately and that can certainly get old, but it’s an important debate. I live with Rheumatoid Arthritis which means I have a compromised immune system. My health depends on the health and immunity of those around me. My child is vaccinated – for her health and mine. And I thank you and all the rest who have done the same. Best of health!
    Lisa @ The Meaning of Me recently posted..Awards Time – AKA Potentially Useless But Interesting Information About MeMy Profile

  2. Definitely agree – I had no doubt vaccinations were the way to go. Knowing there are cases of measles nearby is scary.. Thankfully, my son has all his vaccines but what about those kids who aren’t? My coworker had it and she was vaccinated so that freaked me out too but either way all we can do is make the best choices we can with the information given. Considering the horrible effects these diseases can create, I opt for the vaccine.. As you pointed out, they worked so hard to develop them and we work hard to keep epidemics at bay here – we all should do our part. Have a great one Tricia! -Iva
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  3. Tricia, I don’t think you could have tackled this more delicately or considerately, so bravo. Yes, we have an obligation to think about the way our decisions can impact our community and those who can’t vaccinate for whatever reason and those whose immune systems are compromised. These are terrible diseases, and I for one want to do my part to help keep them away.
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  4. What a thoughtful, calm response, Tricia. Well said!
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  6. We definitely questioned and actually changed the vaccination schedule a bit for my oldest son at the suggestion of my allergist who’s also an old family friend. It’s all so confusing and there’s no clear answer but I do know that I do believe in vaccinations. We ended up getting him back on schedule and glad we did.
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  7. This is probably my favorite post I’ve read on the topic. Most everything else out there right now is so shrill, but you’ve managed to hone in on the exhaustion/confusion/fear that we all feel as brand new parents.

    We have a four-year-old son and, like you, we were hesitant to just automatically vaccinate with no research or discussion. After a bit of trying to figure it out on our own, we concluded that we simply didn’t have the experience or knowledge to go against our doctor’s advice. So, we vaccinated. But I can understand the hesitation that others have. Anyway, thank you. Great post.

  8. This is just so beautifully said, Tricia!! Thank you for your tender heart and clear perspective into such a heated debate.

    The health of our community, our nation… is at stake.
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