It sounds like I’m sharing a dirty secret just by typing that title, but I am. For the longest time, I would hedge the vaccination question because I was really afraid of losing my “crunchy” card. Now, I am secure in my parenting choices that I can say, “I yam who I yam” without fear of repercussion. Parenting is not something that you can neatly categorize into a box, even though we try. We use terms like “crunchy” and “mainstream” and “positive” and “natural” and “gentle” and exert our energies trying to prove why our particular method is superior. Why? To make ourselves feel better? Needed? Invaluable?
When I was newly pregnant in 2006-7, I slipped down the rabbit hole that is “crunchy” parenting. It began innocently enough… I knew that I wanted to breastfeed and cloth diaper, and while at a prenatal yoga class I spied an issue of “Mothering” magazine. The yoga studio was handing them out and I was instantly hooked. I loved everything about the natural parenting movement, from the attachment parenting to gentle discipline but one thing kind of bugged me: the anti-vaccine stance.
You see, I have a bachelor’s in bacteriology and a Master’s in forensic pathology. Disease and death was a huge part of my life… when I was little, I even wanted to work for the Centers for Disease Control. My favorite movie was “Outbreak” (now it’s “Airplane!” but “Contagion” is a close second.) I loved learning about diseases and how they spread and how they can be contained. I knew what could happen with an unchecked outbreak. I knew how the immune system worked. I knew that vaccines were a good thing… my head was on board, but my heart was questioning.
You see, when your newborn baby is placed on your chest shortly after birth, this intense feeling of protection comes over you. You can’t imagine allowing anyone to harm your child… even if it’s for their own good. The thought of filling my little baby with a chemical cocktail of antigens, metals and preservatives was appalling! We limit the number of preservatives we eat, we buy organic meats and produce… why would I inject this into the blood of my child? But my head kept on saying: “But what if?”
Thankfully, I was introduced early on to the selective/delayed schedule by a friend which did help alleviate some of my fears. We’ve chosen to [indefinitely] delay a few vaccines and spread the others out, rather than getting a bunch at one time. This option gives me time to really watch for an adverse reaction and having only 2 possible causes to choose from is easier than having 4. It means more “shot-only” trips to the doctor, but we make it work. It helps that our particular insurance does NOT charge for “shot-only” visits. I have friends who are completely un-vaccinated and I respect their parenting decision as much as they respect mine. When my kids are exposed to vaccines, I let my un-vax parent friends know so they can make the best decision for their family and children. I do not fear un-vaccinated children nor their parents and I know that vaccines are not 100% protective against disease. I am not called to parent my friend’s kids or question their parenting decisions. I am tasked to care for the little people God has placed in my care, and that’s what I’ll do.
I took a chance and visited the “Mothering” Dot Com Online community for the first time in about 5 years. I was pleasantly surprised to see a small subsection of crunchy moms who vaccinate and I couldn’t help but smile. There is plenty of room at the parenting table, pull up a chair and stay a while.