Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A shot in the dark

    I want my children to be safe.  Like any good mother, I want to protect my children from harm, from illness, and from suffering as best I can.  When I was an inexperienced young mother I assumed the best way to protect my children was to follow the advice of my pediatrician to the letter.  When she said to vaccinate, I did.  Every vaccine, at every scheduled time.  I did not even consider NOT vaccinating.  As my older children grew and my younger children came along I became more aware of some of the controversies concerning vaccinations.  I read up on some things, talked to some friends, and starting questioning more and more.  I did not like that some of the vaccines were developed using aborted babies.  I was concerned about the anecdotal evidence linking autism to vaccinations.  And the additives and preservatives, like mercury and aluminum, surprised and upset me, as well.  When my 4th child was a baby I was much more hesitant about his shots.  I shared my concerns with our pediatrician and though she highly recommended that my son receive ALL his shots (like his 3 older siblings had) she was supportive of my questions and open to discussing my concerns.  In the end, my son did receive all his vaccines except for chicken pox. 
    When I was expecting my 5th child I started researching vaccines all over again, in order to be confident about our approach before she was even born.  I read books and magazines and looked at endless websites on the topic.  A few decisions were easy.  Most of the them were much harder.  I spoke with my pediatrician again, and then again about it.  I just wasn’t sure what to do.  We ultimately decided to take things slow.  I did not like the idea of pumping her tiny body full of foreign chemicals and manufactured antibodies when her little immune system was still developing, yet I did not want her to be struck with any preventable disease either.   She has received only a handful of the recommended vaccines up to this point and, so far it has seemed to be an okay decision on our part.  She is a very healthy and happy and well adjusted nine month old.  
    This was confirmed at her 9 month well-baby visit to the pediatrician yesterday.  Unfortunately, despite her good health and normal development the appointment ended up being extremely stressful.  As usual it went fine until the question of vaccines came up.   Our previously very supportive, very understanding, very patient pediatrician was less so this time around.  I don’t know if she has just gotten fed up with my uncertainty on the issue, if she was having a bad day herself, or if there is more pressure on her to make sure her patients are all fully vaccinated but she was much more pushy about the shots and much less tolerant of my concerns.  I tried to stick to my guns but am still so insecure about what my mothering instincts are telling me to do and just want someone to give me a guarantee one way or the other.  I apprehensively agreed to three immunizations rejecting the many others that were not-so-gently encouraged. Even then, I was a nervous wreck as the nurse injected my daughter questioning all along whether it was safe or right to be doing it.  I left the office feeling tied up in knots, though admittedly as much from the doctor’s demeanor as the shots themselves.
    So far, baby seems to be handling the vaccines fine.  I see no sign of reaction or ill effects but still I am upset about the whole thing.  I know, deep down, the reason behind the vaccines is to save our children from suffering.  Yet, no parent, no doctor, no one at all can really eliminate suffering from life.  Life is not suppose to be free of suffering.  Suffering is redemptive.  It unites us more fully with Christ.  It teaches us to depend on Him and to trust in Him, because He will see us through.  Of course, as a mother, I still want so desperately to protect my children from it.   Yet, I cannot.  For many people vaccines have eliminated certain suffering.  For some people it has caused suffering.  I guess, that is the way of life in this fallen world.  Suffering will touch us all one way or another.  No matter how hard we try, or how many antidotes we come up, we will all experience it.  In the end, we must simply put our trust in God.  
    I’m not sure this issue will ever be easy for me.  I am not sure I will ever be fully at peace or confident about either getting or refusing the vaccines offered for my children.  I am sure that I will never want to watch my children suffer but I am also sure that when it happens, however it happens, God will comfort them, and me, and we will all be strengthened and blessed through our difficulties.

1 comment:

  1. When my son was little I discussed vaccines with our pediatrician, who was my pediatrician from birth and has been in practice since 1951. Yes, 1951. He always encourages parents to do what they think is right etc. and he is always up on the latest research. The pediatric group he started is probably the largest now in S. FL with lots and lots of offices. He told me a few years ago when I talked to him about vaccines that in all the years they have been administering them that they have only had 1, maybe 2 (I can't remember,) bad reactions.

    Yes, things can happen BUT, and I know this is controversial in many quarters, millions of children get vaccines with little bad effect. Children were dying of some terrible diseases (and still do in many countries) but they rarely die here. Just yesterday the British doctor who suggested vaccines cause autism was barred from practicing medicine: http://www.scpr.org/blogs/hettie-lynne-hurtes/2010/05/24/british-doctor-who-linked-autism-vaccine-barred-me/

    As the family genealogist, I came across one of our relatives who died of diphtheria and another of TB, and they did not have pleasant deaths. And this was in the 1930's.

    During the Revolutionary War several of our Founding Fathers and their families literally risked death by undergoing vaccination treatments for Smallpox. You went to a place and were quarantined for weeks and became quite possibly very sick with a mild form of the illness and many did die. (This from Cokie Roberts Founding Mothers book, if I remember correctly.) They would have jumped at today's vaccines and their safety rate. Nothing is 100% safe.

    If you have concerns I would do what you are doing by spacing out vaccines and then be at peace.



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