I recently have been delving into the "anti-vaccine" world. I stepped in there because of concerns I had about Emma's reactions to the pneumococcal vaccine. She had a very high fever in all instances (104) post-vaccination, when she is not a fever-runner (unlike her brother) under normal circumastances (when she is sick, she might run 100 - 101 or so) She also was extremely irritable, restless, and unable to sleep. Very unlike her normal self. This happened all three times she received the vaccine. So it had me concerned, and I started googling. And I was horrified by what I found.
This post is not about being pro or anti vaccine. What it is about is the disturbing elements that I see coming out in parents on either side of the divide. I walked away from both pro and anti vaccination sites, gaining nothing but a bad taste in my mouth, lots of rhetoric, and very little fact, data, or substantiated information on either side. Even after spending hours, researching, asking questions, and being on both types of sites, I was no closer to having any answers. If anything, I was even more confused.
Do you know what else I noticed? It was how the moms tore each other apart, up and down, and sideways. And it was all because they disagreed on an approach to parenting. Yes, I agree, this is an important topic, but everyone had the same intention: to do the right thing for their children. Yet that often got lost as each side argued their own talking points. When I asked for data or for someone to cite the source of a fact they mentioned, I was ridiculed, scorned, called names. . . an the sources were never cited and my questions were never answered. And this was not just on pro or anti vaccines sites. This was on both. And I made 100% to be nothing but polite and respectful in my queries, all to no avail.
It was an incredibly sad experience. After spending days looking into this topic, I found a common thread between the two camps: FEAR. The pro-vaccination folks fear that they are doing something wrong by vaccinating their kids, that they will unintentionally harm them by trying to do what's best. They are scared that there will be a study that proves their side wrong. The anti-vaccination folks fear that they are doing something wrong by not vaccinating their kids, that they will unintentionally harm them by trying to do what's best. They are scared that there will be a study that proves their side wrong. The funny thing is that the parents on both side this issue have so much in common, share the same fears, are looking for the same confirmation and in failing to find it, lash out at each other.
That is what is so sad. Both sides with the same goal, finding themselves fearing the opposite side because it represents what they are afraid of. What if the parents on BOTH sides banded together and demanded better research, more data, and overall more indepth looks at this issue. How powerful would that be? Two sides, together instead of divided? It would be impossible to ignore. Yet two sides of the same coin battle each other and the ultimate question goes unanswered.
I see this recur with everything parenting-related. Whether it's breastfeeding, television with kids under two, blah, blah, blah. . . FEAR is an incredible divider with moms. FEAR is what defines so many choices and how we react to the choices of others. Can't we all just see that we are scared of failing? Of not living up to the expectations we set for ourselves? And can't we be just a bit kinder to each other on this journey? And can't we band together to really get the answers we are looking for?
I know, I have ruminated on varieties of this topic before. I am just so frustrated by what I see.
And I don't know how to change it.