She was intimidated by her Doctor, her friends and family. This is a guest column from a mother of three.
I want to ask you all a question. I’ve almost written out a long comment on Dr. Tenpenny’s wall a few times, but simply couldn’t bring myself to push the intimidating ENTER button after filling in a few paragraphs. And I really just thought my question would get lost in the fray. And, well, not to be the dreaded longwinded commenter, I felt I had a little more to say than was worth challenging the spatial acceptance of the comment frame.
I am a mother of 3. I have two twin daughters who are both now age five, and a son who is age nine. I vaccinated my nine year old without hesitation and without really questioning much. I realize that by saying that, I become the antithesis to the cause that you all support. So let me make it worse: My daughters are also vaccinated similarly.
I needed to disclose that, because without doing so, this entire essay really makes no sense. When you read the above statements, it would seem to reason that I’m a pro-vaxxer. I’ve never considered myself a “pro-vaxxer,” but that’s mostly because I’ve never really thought about it. I’ve never really seen the need for a label. I don’t think I should wear a dog-tag defining my point of view on a matter.
But this is where the tale turns to the strange. I am not a pro-vaxxer, instead, I am an “anti-vaxxer.” As stated before, my son was vaccinated without question, without thought, as a process of the system. Much like a child’s toy moves down the assembly line, so did my son’s infancy. Get car seat, get crib, vaccinate, breast feed, vaccinate more, put on classical music near crib. It was the process. It wasn’t an involved science.
However, when it came to my twin daughters five years ago, much in the world had changed. The anti-vaccination movement was feet to the ground and the voices were too loud to ignore. So I began my journey of research and reading. I was pregnant at the time I began doing research. My immediate take on the situation was that the line between vaccination and non-vaccination was brutally contested, almost a state of war. Sentiments on both sides were hostile (so it seemed). I found myself empathetic to the plight of the anti-vaccination supporters. I found them reasonable. I never saw them as slaves to pseudoscience. I have a history of spite towards pharmaceutical companies and the anti-vaccination movement fell squarely in that comfort zone for me.
My “research” went on a bit too long, however, for most people’s comforts. My Doctor threatened to cut off services to me and my family if I didn’t get the girls fully vaccinated within a matter of weeks. My family was barely speaking to me. My friends, I’m sure, were laughing at me when they weren’t busy dodging my communications. My life had changed, all in the matter of a few months of “past due vaccinations.” I wasn’t, however, anti-vaccination. I was more “this seems like too many vaccinations all at once.” I wasn’t someone who posted anti-vaccination news on my Facebook all day, in fact, the main reason most people knew was because I panicked over the Doctor’s threat to remove services. Word spread from there. And it was not good.
Eventually I succumbed to the threat of losing my Doctor and complied with the standard recommended vaccinations. Months later, my sister said to me, “see, they got those evil vaccines, and they weren’t even injured, can you believe it?” My response was, “no, I can’t believe it, how would I know if they were or weren’t?” My point in saying that is that I have often found that side-effects can be subtle, but deadly, when it comes to Pharmaceutical meds. Why would this case be any different?
Now I am sure everyone here is judging me harshly, thinking I allowed intimidation to force my hand and compromise my children’s health. That’s not really the whole story, I did the research, and I succumbed to the decision I felt best suited our family, but the fact that I was harassed and threatened probably did influence things. I was really scared I’d lose my Pediatrician, not just because I’d have to find a new one (I didn’t care), but because I felt it came with a sort of humiliation. I felt it painted me as a failed parent.
In the end, all my children were vaccinated to the fullest potential of the vaccine schedule, but I am not less embarrassed over the matter. I’m considered an anti-vaxxer just based on my initial skepticism. I remain the butt of jokes. I am consistently painted as a believer in pseudoscience.
If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t vaccinate. But more to the point of this: I just want to say I understand what you all go through. I wouldn’t have known had I not gone through it myself. It disgusts me that even considering anti-vaccination is treated so criminally. And to me, intimidating people who merely consider the other side gives the greatest evidence of misconduct. Because if your case is so strong, you shouldn’t care.
So my question is, am I an anti-vaxxer just because I “considered” the idea of non-vaccination? I’ve learned to care less and less about it every day that passes. But I still question so much.
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True science is a process of asking and answering questions, and of developing and testing hypotheses. No-one should ever be intimidated, or discouraged, in any way, from questioning science, whether in medicine, or in any other field.