Thursday, April 09, 2009


I want to talk for a moment about something that's on all our minds: vaccinations.

Okay, so it's not on anybody's minds. It hasn't been on my mind for some time as Reed has been caught up on his shots for some time; I think he was probably around 2 or 2 1/2 the last time he had to get any immunations. But it's on my mind now, and I have a few things that I'd like to say.

When I was pregnant I read a LOT of pregnancy and child-rearing books. I think by the time Reed was born I had read eight or ten of them. Any time I ran across an article or website on the subject I'd read that, too. I was pretty much terrified, and the more knowledge I soaked up about the process of pregnancy, labor, and raising a kid, the calmer I felt about all of it. You can never know everything, but in my opinion you can never know too much, either.

One of the issues that started to stick out for me was childhood immunizations and their pros and cons. This has been a hot-button issue for several years, not least because some people claim that there is a link between these immunizations and the occurance of autism. The link seems to revolve around the use of thiomersal as a preservative in vaccines. Besides autism a lot of parents find that their kids have pretty severe adverse reactions to some immunizations like rashes and bad fevers and whatnot.

Listen, I am no expert, but I have read up on both sides of this debate and I have to tell you by the time Reed was born I was really worried about these vaccinations and what effect they were going to have on my tiny baby. Pregnancy is not a condition that is known for shoving one chock full o' logic and reason which is partly why I did so much reading: I wanted to be aware of what was realistic to be worried about and what wasn't.

My opinion by the time Reed got here was that it was realistic to be worried about it. Once he was here, once I knew him, the idea of something changing him (Jerkface get off my wording here, I know that "something" will eventually change my kid, but I think you get my point here) or of my making a choice that might alter his abilities horrified and terrified and paralyzed me. A lot of this was a result of some severe postpartum depression that I have only recently gotten a handle on. I mean, driving with Reed in the car I would think "What if I get in a wreck and he gets hurt?" and when he slept I would think "What if he chokes or stops breathing and I don't hear him?" OF COURSE after all that reading I was going to think "What if I get Reed all those immunizations and he stops making eye contact with me or stops saying a word that he says now?" PARALYZING.

After talking to Reed's pediatrician about it we decided- the doctor, Jason, and I- that Reed would get his immunizations but on a slower schedule than the schedule recommended by most pediatricians. The norm is to shoot your kid up with a LOT of vaccines in a short amount of time, sometimes four or five in one doctor's visit, and I didn't like that. Reed's doctor was understanding and kind and cooperative, and helped us work out a schedule that made me feel a lot better.

At some point a person who I was very close to judged me, openly ridiculed me for my concerns, and it hurt and embarrassed me and ultimately played a part in my total alienation from that person. That person had no children of her own and was very open about never wanting to have kids. She was also in the medical field which I'm sure is part of what made her so sure of herself in her judgements.

Again, I haven't really thought about it much in past year or so, but then I read this post on Dooce and reading what Heather has to say about it really made me feel good about all of it. I appreciate what she's saying about the real and extreme dangers involved in not immunizing your children. But what I really like in this post is her interest in other people's thoughts and her ability to welcome differences of opinion while still expressing her own.

Basically I am meandering around this point: Please, please, whether you have kids or don't have kids, want kids or don't want kids, know kids or don't know kids, allow your friends to grow and learn and work towards their own decisions without the added pressure of your impending gauntlet-throwing. It is always helpful to engage in discussion and debate on these kinds of topics, and if you're lucky everyone involved will learn something from them. But let's all take the time to either sympathise or empathise with how difficult, how mind-blowing, how crippling parenting can feel for some of us. Please know that when someone you love is trying to make any of the myriad important decisions associated with being a mom or a dad that that someone is probably trying really very hard to make the right decision when there is no right decision there. BE SUPPORTIVE, for fuck's sakes, and if you feel differently about something than your parent friend then talk to them about it. Make it a discussion, not a ruling.

Incidentally, Reed had what I'm pretty sure was an adverse reaction to one of his rounds of immunizations once. It scared the shit out of me. Of course the doctors at the emergency room didn't want to discuss whether or not it was related to the vaccine- they literally wouldn't say whether or not they thought the two things were related. But it made all of my fears and concerns and paranoia feel real, logical, tangible. I am a crazy bitch, but that doesn't mean that every thought I have is crazy.

It's kind of like how Taco Bell is really kind of a shithole, but not everything that they make there sucks. You know?


Birdie said...


Anonymous said...

Yes. Now I see the connection between fast food and your thought process. Some of your thoughts are like the fiesta taco salad, looking like a healthy choice, but overloaded with calories and likely to cause GI distress. While other times your thoughts are succinct, coherent, and satisfying like a beef taco or bean burrito.

some jerk.