Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Measles, Autism, Parenting and Staying Sane

There is a measles outbreak in my area. The local news is publishing a list of public places that were contaminated and warning people who visited those spots on certain days and times to be aware that they could have been exposed.
With a newborn this is terrifying. Every mommy instinct in me wants to hide my baby inside to prevent any possible exposure to a sickness she's too young to be immune to. I also want to scream at the anti-vaccinators from the roof tops. "What is wrong with you? Why would you expose all of us to this? Why are you hiding behind faulty beliefs that go against science?"

But the thing is, I kind of get where they are coming from. The same mommy instinct that makes me want to hide my child inside made me worried about vaccines. Worried in that way back mommy crazy place many of us work hard to ignore, but worried nonetheless. In each of us there is an understanding of reality and then there is mommy-worry. 

A friend of mine has twins with autism. She's read the studies, she knows, absolutely knows that vaccines do not cause autism. She gets that on a cognitive level. But she can't get past the suspicion that it did in her case. That until her babies had their shots they were fine. She knows this isn't true, but admits there is a tiny piece of her that still believes. 
I can't imagine the mourning a parent goes through when their typically developing child starts to appear to be not so typical. I can't imagine where my mind would take me if the child I loved wasn't the child I thought he was. I would want something to blame too. I would ask a million questions, look for connections between various events try to find an answer. 
I have a lot of empathy for these parents struggling with the acceptance piece and looking for answers. 
I also can empathize with the parents scared to vaccinate their children. For a few years there we heard a lot of people getting press in the anti-vaccine movement and didn't hear much in the pro vaccine camp. It made everyone stop and think- what's safe?
 As a parent it is your job to protect your child. No one should do anything blindly for their child- they should make informed decisions. 
So I get it. I really do. It's scary trusting that the doctors are injecting something safe into your child when you can't fully understand what's in it.
But what I don't understand, what I can't empathize with is the parents who continue the anti-vaccine fight. Ask questions, yes. Do your research. Are these vaccines ok? Talk to your doctor about your concerns. But then you need to listen to your doctor and listen to the research. Protecting your child doesn't mean fighting the world and going against the status quo. It means doing your research and being open to answers. When your doctor tells you the vaccines are safe, listen. Ask why they are safe, ask for research, for numbers, for statistics. Question but when the doctor gives you an answer listen openly. You owe it to your child, and to mine. 

My hope is that the anti-vaccine movement is dying out. The more press about the importance of vaccines will help more people abandon the autism worries. Meanwhile I hope doctors are doing everything they can to listen to parents' fears openly and then dispell them respectfully so that even the most anxious parent will vaccinate their child. 


Anonymous said...

Part of me thinks that every prenatal class should include a section on immunizations so that pediatricians don't have to address this issue at the very moment when the baby is supposed to be getting one or another of the standard immunizations. It's better to think this through long before the decision is at hand. Only then could there be time to be introduced to the history of the issue, and the reality that the original research tht supposedly showed a connection between immunizations and autism was not just flawed but fraudulent.

organized chaos said...

That's a really, really good idea. That would be wonderful if that was put into place.