In this day and age we have so many hot button topics. Like Linus says in The Great Pumpkin; ”There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin." One could easily substitute the Great Pumpkin for abortion, racial discrimination or same-sex marriage and the saying holds true today, despite our supposed growth in these areas over the last several decades.
In the sensory world, the biggest four letter word, or topic you don’t want to discuss is Vaccines. The looming question of should I or shouldn’t I, or did they or didn’t they has become more heated. Actress and Playmate Jenny McCarthy has even weighed in on this topic as a proponent against vaccination. She has been praised, criticized and gained a lot of press over her beliefs. Most recently, she became the subject of one article that crossed my Facebook Newsfeed.
Last night I read Jennifer Ioffe’s article I've Got Whooping Cough. Thanks a
Lot, Jenny McCarthy. She brought
up some great points in this highly debated issue. I even agreed with most of
them. However, I found her article highly insulting. Ms. Ioffe is funny,
articulate and very well spoken. She is also offensive, judgmental and not a parent.
This actually does matter since she insults parents throughout her article. Is
it to both shock and make her audience laugh, yes of course. Is she right about
some of it, sure she is. Does she have any idea about what she is taking about,
no she doesn’t.
Let me explain. When I talk about my experience with choosing to vaccinate my child, I am speaking from experience. I was there when he spiked 103-104 fevers every single time he got vaccinated. I sat through his screaming, his pain, and his being uncomfortable for days after. I read the books, the articles, listened to the debate and then talked to my doctor about our choices. I didn’t jump on some fad band wagon and just say, “Hey, I’m going to go against the recommended vaccines that may save my son’s life and do what I want.” It was not an easy decision.
But it was my decision, made WITH my doctor. We changed my son’s timeline and spaced out his vaccines, where some he gets on time, others he gets at the very end of the timeline. We go sometimes three times in a year to get him vaccinated. We opted to leave out some, like the vaccination shots for STD’s until he is older. His doctor and I have discussed this at great lengths, and I am comfortable with my choice.
I watch my friends argue this out time and again, and hear their frustrations and fears. They are not uneducated about the issues or the concerns of the public. Ms. Ioffe’s comments about these parents and the vaccine debate like:
Led by discredited doctors and, incredibly, a former Playmate, the movement has frightened new parents with claptrap about autism, Alzheimer’s, aluminum, and formaldehyde. The movement that was once a fringe freak show has become a menace, with foot soldiers whose main weapon is their self-righteousness. For them, vaccinating their children is merely a consumer choice, like joining an organic food co-op or sending their kids to a Montessori school or drinking coconut water.
are both callous and rude. The assumption is that these parents are jumping on some health bandwagon lead by idiots.
Within the Sensory and ASD communities you hear this fight over and over. People are judged for vaccinating on time, using an alternate path, not vaccinating at all, and the debate is never nice. I do not shy away from debate, but when I hear this conversation start, I tend to go the other way. But when people who have no experience with being a parent start insulting our choices, I will jump right in.
So, to answer the question Ms. Ioffe posed in her article:
Carry your baby around in a sling, feed her organic banana mash while you drink your ethical coffee, fine, but what gives you denialists the right to put my health at risk—to cause me to catch a debilitating, humiliating, and frightening cough that, two months after I finished my last course of antibiotics (how’s that for supporting big pharma?), still makes me convulse several times a day like some kind of tragic nineteenth-century heroine?
The truth Ms. Ioffe is that I never thought I would be the parent I am today. I expected to tuck my son into his crib on night one, had no idea what a baby sling was, or why people make their own baby food when I got pregnant. Being a mother changes you. Your child has needs that do not meet your expectations. So yes, he co-slept with us and I breastfed him until he was 16 months, and carried him in a sling or my arms even longer. Yes, I made his baby food, and didn’t give him cow’s milk until after he was a year old. And yes, I debated the vaccination schedule proposed by our doctor. What gives me the right to do this? First of all, because we live in a free society, which means that the rights of the few outweigh the rights of the many. We have the freedom of choice in this country. And while other countries, such as
have already removed harmful chemicals like Red Dye #40 and reduced high fructose
corn syrup in their products, we tend to lag behind when it comes to these
issues. So when a parent is making their decisions, they have a lot of factors
to consider. We are making the best choice we can for ourselves and our
families. Why not try presenting the facts in some way that is not attacking
these parents? Maybe instead of assuming we are all morons following some fad,
talk to us like we are actually intelligent adults trying to make the best
decision. Great Britain
I know, being nice and fair doesn’t get you as many hits on your blog or articles. Yes, you are angry since you have been exposed to a rather unpleasant disease and likely due to decreased vaccinations. Understanding is the key to this issue though. What makes this debate so difficult on many parents is the responsibility for another’s life. Until you watch your sweet child disappear in front of your eyes, and go from doctor to doctor looking for answers and trying to determine where you have gone wrong and wondering what you did to cause this change in your child, you cannot understand the complexities in this decision. Your experience is not the experience many of these families have had. I hope that you never know the pain that comes with having your child diagnosed with a life changing disorder. Until you have been there, you cannot even begin to understand the fear and the frustration that comes from finding out your child is different.
For those of us who have lived through it, we know how difficult it is. I wouldn’t change anything about my son; much of his amazing comes from him seeing the world differently. I do not regret postponing his MMR at age 3 to age 5. I do not regret vaccinating him either. When I am asked to weigh in on this debate, I answer from my personal experience. I let my friends and family know that I do not believe in the one size fits all vaccination schedule. I believe you should space them out so as to not give so many vaccines in a single visit, and that some should be held off as long as possible. I tell them to research it, talk to their doctor and to make the decision best for them. I also tell them there are other factors to consider, like if the child is at daycare, they have a higher risk of getting ill and getting others ill, and they need to consider these in their decision. I wish I could point them to articles that are full of good writing and good solid facts showing both sides of the argument. Unfortunately, there are none. The articles out there are full of derogatory commentary on both sides and always attacking someone. I would love to see this debate become one we could discuss openly and honestly, without it being such a heated issue. For now I suppose, vaccine is sill going to be a 4 letter word.