I can remember when I was a little girl, hiding under the exam room table at the doctors office, and crying hysterically with fear. The people in the other exam rooms really must have thought someone was being murdered with the amount of noise coming out of our room. I’m pretty sure I tried to kick the nurse that unsuccessfully attempted to remove me from my hiding place. My mom, who was terribly embarrassed, was trying her best to coax me out from under the table. Eventually, she was successful, and I met the business end of the needle. It wouldn’t be the last time I was petrified of needles, either…
From the years of 2011 to 2013 I was pregnant three times, and gave birth to three boys. The first little boy, however, wasn’t born alive (If you’re new to my blog you can read our whole story here). After Max was born in 2011, I was pregnant again shortly after and gave birth to Little J in 2012, and Baby L in 2013. Three boys birthed in the period of 25 months. Needless to say, needles started to become just a regular part of life for me. When you’re an extremely high risk pregnant person you better get used to seeing a needle. Getting poked at, giving blood for this or that, amnios, genetic testing. You name it, I’ve done it or had it done to me. Throughout all of that, I had to at some point realize that needles, pain (both emotional and physical), and discomfort are also just a part of life.
When my living children were born I was extremely neurotic about something bad happening to them. I had some definite post-traumatic stress from giving birth to a non-living baby, and I was scared that they would also die. Scared that they would have some genetic abnormality. Scared they would just stop breathing in the night. Scared they would fall down and bump their heads. Scared they would get autism. Scared, scared, scared. I’m even ashamed to admit that I would google symptoms and watch videos on YouTube of kids with Down syndrome and autism, to try to see if my first living child, Little J, also had those markers. (Looking back, this was probably some postpartum depression creeping in, which thankfully went away, but that’s a whole other post for a different day). Many of the articles I read and videos I watched warned against giving your children the MMR vaccine, and basically blamed vaccines as a whole for things that happened to their children.
My own non-scientific research and my personal life experiences added up (not to mention people like Jenny McCarthy adding fuel to the fire), and at a very early point in my parenting journey, I made the decision to be a delayed vaccinator. To clarify, I wasn’t swearing off vaccines. I just wanted to space them out. I wanted to wait it out as long as possible for my kids to grow naturally without being injected with a bunch of “stuff”….and I have been doing just that. Up until Little J started preschool I have vaccinated on my own terms, and I didn’t really see anything wrong with it. (For the record, Little J is now fully vaccinated and on schedule for where he should be for his age).
Today, February 3rd, 2015, I changed my mind. I was at the park earlier with my group of moms. We were all talking about how the measles has finally made it’s way to Florida since the measles outbreak happened at Disneyland. There are now four confirmed cases of measles in Florida, according to health officials. I was holding my friend’s 5-month-old baby, as she was sharing about her fears of the baby contracting measles. A 5-month-old can’t get the MMR vaccine. (FYI – The CDC says the first dose should be given to children between 12-15 months old).
My younger son, who is turning 17-months-old next week, has not yet received his MMR vaccine. (The last time we went to the doctor he had a cold, so we didn’t do it.) When we left the park I picked up my cell phone, dialed the kids’ pediatrician and made an appointment for this coming Thursday morning to get his vaccinations.
I am not a scientist. I am not an expert in vaccines. I am just a mom. As a mom, I seriously couldn’t imagine if my child was to be the one exposing young babies or chronically ill children (who cannot be vaccinated due to age or other health reasons) and being the cause of a child contracting the measles. If the tables were turned, and I was the mom on the receiving end it would infuriate me. So, today, I am officially changing my stance on the MMR vaccination.
All along I have been doing what I thought was best for my children, and (in my mind, at least) trying to keep them safe from something happening to them. It is my job as a mother to keep my kids safe. What I see now, though, is that the risk of them getting an undesired (and unproven) side effect from a vaccine, is far lower than the very real risk of them getting a preventable disease (or transferring that disease to another person). Getting the MMR vaccine now makes sense as the best way to protect my kids. I’m still doing my job as a mom to protect them, I’ve just shifted my view on what is the best way to go about protecting them.
As humans, we are allowed to make mistakes. “To err is human”, no? What we learn from those mistakes, and try to do better with the knowledge that we gain from the mistakes, is what really matters. Here’s to being a better parent, and a better human.