Thursday, June 16, 2011

What Defines Us

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.


HereWeGoAJen said...

Oh, me too. The anger and righteousness that it out there is scary.

~Hollie said...

Wow, just wow. I have no idea how to feel about the vaccine thing, because like you, I find one person saying one thing, one person saying another, and no REAL data. I like DATA. Heck, I'm a lab tech, I LIKE DATA. But your post was an eye opener. Thank you.
It will also make me remember that we are all in this together, trying to do what is best for our children. And I'm going to try not to be judgmental because, heck, I don't want anyone else to judge ME!
Thank you!

It Is What It Is said...

You can see fear throughout our society, far beyond the confines of parenting. Fear mongers prey on those that are insecure and uninformed and they seek to divide rather than unite.

However, if you believe that the opposite of fear is love and try to come from a loving place in decision making by gathering information from trusted sources then you can also rise above the frey.

There isn't always going to be enough scientific evidence (with apologies to Dr. Google) to help us make decisions and that is where instinct and common sense come in.

Women and mothers in particular can be hateful to each other and that is a shame.

Pamala said...

When I have questions about the big things I tend to stay away from other parents and stick to my doctor (since I do trust him and he's always provided me the info I wanted, which typically includes data.) That's why I like him so much.

Tracy said...

Ok, just going to add another perspective here...

I am pro-vaccine, because I do believe it is the lesser of two evils. The disease and illness that has been eradicated because of vaccines is, in my opinion, amazing and wonderful.

With that said, the reason I wish everybody would take advantage of vaccinations is simply this: when I was pregnant, I was exposed to somebody that had rubella. Even though I was vaccinated, my unborn children were not.

Now they both have irreversible hearing loss.

I am slightly resentful towards the person that was not vaccinated, for whatever reason and was carrying this disease (was it a child whose mother made that choice for them?)

Like I said, just a different point of view from what you mentioned in your post. It's hard for me to be respectful of other mothers' choices when it has had such a direct and permanent impact on my kids' lives.

Katie said...

Tracey, I often use your example when I discuss vaccines with other people. I consider myself pro-vaccine. Both kids are on-schedule for their vaccines. But that doesn't mean that I still don't cringe when those needles go into their little thighs. And after Emma's reaction, I did feel the need to investigate a bit further. I 100% trust our pediatrician, but when I asked her about the fever reaction, she seemed doubtful it could be connected (this was before it happened the third time). I haven't seen her since it happened again, and I wanted some questions answered. So that's how I ended up dancing around this issue and being shocked by how horrible parents (mostly women) can be to each other, which is really what this post is about.

I still am pro-vaccine, but I am anti-tearing-each-other apart over it (not that you did that in your comment at all, but most people are not so polite). I think that both sides have some valid points and it would just be a lot more productive to band together, ask for more investigation and research, and possibly get more definitive answers to the true side effect profile of vaccinations.

Tracy said...

Agreed. :)

kim said...

My kids are vaccinated, but like you, I too am worried about side effects. Especially when the news is so back and forth on the autism link.But what scares me more is that I have a 13 year old niece who at 5 months old came down with a type of meningitis that was preventable with vaccines. My sister in law didn't believe in vaccines at the time. My neice is completely deaf and brain damaged and will never live on her own. The family was devastated. My sis in law loves her daughter very much and was trying to do the best she could as a parent. I'm sure there are personal stories that support the contrary, but the story that touched our family made the decision easy for me.

Rebecca @ Unexplained X2 said...

You write some seriously heavy posts that always make me think.

You're right...we should be together. I have my opinion, but I don't go voicing it all over the place. I'm not Husband, after all! LOL

I love the idea of togetherness.