Well, she didn’t say, “Sara, you are an a$$hat.” She called all people who do not vaccinate their children “a$$hats.”
My knee-jerk reaction was to unfriend her. Then, as is always the case when I am on the receiving end of this type of insult, I asked myself, “is there mirroring going on here? What lesson am I supposed to learn from having this appear in front of my face?” In this case, after several deep breaths, I calmed down, reminded myself how much I love my friend, and went about my life, our friendship intact. And today I write this post in response to her, and anyone who feels so strongly about this topic.
And for the record, I want to be very clear. I am not against vaccines. I am against the forced vaccination of entire populations on a “one timetable fits all” basis. I also believe in a parent’s right to choose what is best for his/her healthy children so that they may remain healthy. How each parent decides what is best is his/her business. I support the personal belief exemption, for what that’s worth.
This vaccination issue is very divisive, and it not only makes friends enemies, it has become a key issue for bitter divorces. The topic is instilling hate in people who normally wouldn’t feel such an emotion. The hate comes from both sides, and it clearly stems from fear. With all the scary images and stories out there about the damage that can be done by measles, HPV, polio-like illnesses, as well as similar stories of disability or death caused by vaccines really puts parents in a no-win situation. The question becomes, “do I spin the roulette wheel and hope my healthy child does not have an adverse reaction to a vaccine that I’m not sure I want him to have?” Or “should I spin the wheel because the CDC says so, because there might one day be an outbreak of an illness, with a small percentage of a chance of causing long term damage not only to my child, but to an entire community, including pregnant women and unborn babies?”
You may not agree with my stance, and that is OK. You are entitled to your opinion. But make no mistake, I and the thousands of parents I’m electronically connected with who feel the same as I do, we have all done our homework. Some of us have honorary degrees from the University of Hard Knocks. We are not, as portrayed in many media stories, uneducated imbeciles who have their heads up their arses. We are not too lazy to take our kids to the doctor or Walgreens. Hell, if I thought a flu shot was in the best interest of my family, I’d love that 20% off of groceries that Von’s offers every flu season with the purchase of a flu shot. Actually, I’d stagger, I’d take my family in one member at a time, each get the shot one week at a time, and get 20% off 4 weeks in a row! Ah, but I digress…
What it boils down to is this. For as strongly as you believe in forced vaccination, I believe just as or more strongly in the personal belief exemption. I am a graduate of the University of Hard Knocks. My son was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Delay (PDD) at his 3-year “Well Visit.” I was suspicious of a problem at his 15-month appointment and was blown off by his doctor, and I allowed my son to be injected. At his 2-year well visit, I was told it was fine that my son lined up all his toys in crack-the-whip fashion. When I asked about my son’s ability to place 50 states in a puzzle and name them all at 18 months, I was told he was very smart. When I questioned his speech development, I was asked if he knew 100 words. I explained that he knew 500 words but couldn’t string anything together. Finally at 3 years of age we had a new pediatrician. He had a similar opinion to my own, and diagnosed the PDD. He also told me that I had to figure out a way to wrap my head around the diagnosis, and the best I could ever hope for my son is that he could be a janitor one day.
So, I found another doctor. And that MD took my family to hell and back with “unproven treatments that are a waste of money and instill false hope,” per our diagnosing pediatrician. We had to refinance our home to pay for the treatments that insurance deemed unproven. In the end, my son is recovered. So who is the doctor I listen to and trust? The one who said my son was developing normally? The one who said my son could perhaps aspire to be a janitor? Or the one who took my 3-year old son with a developmental age of 1.5, and got him to a developmental age of 3.5 in 1 year’s time when “no cure was possible?” Just saying, not all “white coats” are alike.
It is due to the experience that I never wanted to have, that I crusade for families’ rights to act on this issue as they see fit. And I will encourage any parent who is told that their child will always be chronically ill or delayed to seek a second opinion. Or third, fourth, etc. And of the thousands of parents I’m connected with, most have had similar experiences to my own, or someone close to them has.
So, I won’t hide the fact that I no longer vaccinate my children. I will continue to share articles, and people can continue to ignore them. I will accept people calling me “a$$hat,” and I will continue to post the vaccine awareness articles. When people post images of children with measles rashes covering their bodies on my page, I will write back “thank you.” When friends list all the worst possible outcomes of contracting measles, I will not write back “these are the same possible outcomes of the vaccines themselves, except we are injecting this possibility into healthy children.” The information is out there for anyone who reads more than the handout provided by the pediatrician.
The most interesting part of all is I really care about the pediatrician who made the diagnosis. He is a great guy. I know he had my son’s and my family’s best interests at heart. He was just lacking some serious information. I wish him well, and hope that he has broadened his knowledge base since we last saw him 4 years ago.
Just like I really care about all my friends, FB and otherwise. I don’t have a single friend whom I think is a bad parent. We are all doing the best we can, making the best decisions for our families given the information we have. My friend who called me an a$$hat included. She is a lioness; an advocate for her children, friends and abandoned animals. I pray that one day she can see shades of gray instead of only black and white. Until then, I respect her for the amazing mother she is. I fervently hope she never experiences what my family went through. And God forbid, if she does, I will be there to connect her to people who can help.
The last point I want to make is this: If you think anyone decides to skip vaccination without giving it a second thought, you are very mistaken. The first years of my son’s life, and the first six months of my daughter’s life, I agonized each time that needle penetrated their thighs. Was I doing right? Was I harming them? Should I wait until the next appointment, space the injections apart? If I delayed the vaccination schedule, would i be punished by having my children contract one of the horrifying diseases the vaccines were supposed to prevent?
The doctor who provided solutions to my son’s well-being told me to stop vaccinating both children immediately. The decision was made for me by someone who had earned my respect. Thank God. If I had continued to adhere to the other two doctors’ recommendations, our lives would be very different now. This is why I feel medical exemptions are not enough; philosophical exemptions should be in place.
End note: Most of my FB friends don’t know about my son’s PDD diagnosis. I have only shared this information with a few people in an attempt to respect his privacy. When I do share with other moms I meet, I get a “he seems so normal!” response. I want to laugh, and I get pissed off all at the same time. First of all, yes, he does, and that was the goal. Secondly, I’m never sure how to take this type of comment. I don’t feel like it is said in a congratulatory way, like we are being acknowledged for bringing him back from the brink. It usually comes out like “I’m not quite sure I believe you,” or “he must not have been that bad in the first place,” or “you are just a GF granola-eating mother following the trend du jour.” Maybe that’s a chip on my shoulder I need to look at and find a way to remove; however, that is a tall order given the fact that we were physically, emotionally and financially decimated by our son’s illness, and to a lesser extent, our daughter’s autoimmune issues as well. In the end, I let it go, because my friends are normally pretty fine people. Truth be told, I’m thankful they don’t understand my experience. And at this point, I don’t really need anyone else’s validation.
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