I've become guarded, wary; walking gingerly and with great trepidation, least I should unwittingly put my foot in it and set off an explosion.
As mothers, we have become militant. We are an army of one, and lord help anyone who cannot, for reasons of their own, share our ideal.
THIS IS THE EXAMPLE WE ARE GIVING OUR CHILDREN.
With the media attention given the recent measles outbreak (114 children from December 28, 2013 to February 6, 2015), social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest have become incredibly volatile with forceful, angry opinions aggressively being discharged like missiles into civilian zones.
Parents, grandparents, and caregivers are scared. We share the basic human need to protect our loved ones, but if an innocent bystander is hurt in the process, does the end justify the means?
Overwhelmingly judgmental and militant, advocates both for and against immunizations defeat their own purpose by alienating those they wish to convince. Strong feelings about sensitive topics like vaccination are understandable, but the strong ideals seem to be overshadowed by the name calling, ridiculing and insults. ("You think you are protecting them through extracts and homeopathy and positive thoughts and Laws of Attraction and dancing by candlelight on a full moon?" and "Beware the VacciNAZIS!")
Parents who choose to have their children immunized have a host of reasons to do so, as do parents who opt out. The good news there us that unlike twenty plus years ago when I had my first child, clear, concise information is available, and new parents are taking the time to make an educated decision, rather than blindly handing their newborns over to the on-call pediatrician for his first series of shots before they've even left the hospital. That's what I did. I had some idea that I needed to make a decision about vaccines, but had no idea it would be so soon. (I had counted on staying under the radar with a home birth, but had complications.)
Twenty years ago, it was extremely difficult to gather any information about potentially negative side effects from immunizations. Internet was only beginning to become available (dial-up), and most people didn't own computers. Hell, CELLPHONES were still bigger than the handset I now on as part of my landline. The limit to my generation's knowledge of inoculations was limited to a thick, triple-fold infograpic handed out at scheduled well-child exams almost as an afterthought.
Without the benefit of living in a progressive community, my only opportunities to learn anything of a bigger picture came from the rare, fringe groups of hippies passing through my hometown on their way to Rainbow Valley to drop acid, who just happened to stop in at my yard sale needing a new futon mattress for their VW bus, OR copies of Mothering Magazine that, unless you knew someone with a subscription card to get you started, you had to drive a hundred miles away to find a hard copy in a Portland health food store.
I was advised not to bring her in, but only to keep an eye on her. Further, I was informed that her adverse reaction would NOT be documented and forwarded to the health department, as was protocol, because it was not listed on the brochure as a symptom of a negative reaction.
After that experience, those unanswered questions floating in the back of my mind began to unfurl.
If my daughter's adverse reaction was not reported, then how many other ill-effects in recently vaccinated babies and small children have gone unreported? Isn't that something vaccine manufacturers would want to know? Do they already know?
So I began my hunt for information. I snuck into the computer lab on my town's college campus with my daughter tied to me in a sling to gain access to their internet and printer. I STOLE information. I subscribed to Mothering. I had clandestine conversations with midwives who imparted their knowledge in whispers. I was a renegade.
I am now the mother of five children. My oldest two are grown, and my middle child, now fifteen, has made the decision to experimentally live in Seattle with his favorite uncle. Two sweet babies left, no longer babies.
In my years of motherhood, I've been amazed by the advances in communications that have ultimately, empowered us. They have brought a world of knowledge to our fingertips. All those statistics I travailed for on the early 90's can be had in the time it takes for a page to load. The days of dialup are long gone.
We are given the incredible opportunity to educate ourselves and make educated decisions for ourselves and our families. Nobody, at any point in time, has had such unrestricted access to information.
And we know just about enough to be dangerous.
Let me be your mother for a moment, and embrace you. Let me tell you how much you are loved. You are uniquely you, and nobody knows your babies better than you do. You are fierce, and would do anything to keep your sweet babies from harm's way.
That mama, over there on the other side of the fence, she'll sink her teeth into your jugular if she senses you intend to do harm to her offspring. She knows a mother's love with a feral ferocity.
She is you.
The immunization decision is a terrifying one, no matter what decision you make. But it IS a decision, not a stance. Both decisions for and against vaccinations have as many pros as they have cons. We all want to protect or children from terrifying deadly diseases, and we all have moments when we second guess ourselves and the choices we've made. But it doesn't have to be a warzone.
Let us not be in enmity with one another.
Let us be Sisters, sharing in wisdom and community.
Let us share in joy and compassion, and celebrate our motherhood as one.
We ARE one.