Five years ago, we had a very sick baby. She wasn’t gravely ill, mind you, but sick enough where there was a lot of fretting on my part. Would she ever sleep? Would the reflux that usually goes away in infancy ever actually go away? Would the ear tubes make a difference and finally give her some relief? Would the medication I was leery about help? Would it present the scary side effects I’d heard about?
Hannah had chronic ear infections beyond anything I’d ever heard of. One on top of the other, never fully going away. A side effect of her ear issues was horrible acid reflux. Hannah didn’t sleep through the night until she was well past 3 years old because she was so sick as a baby that she never developed the good sleep habits. Even after we got her tubes placed, she required a year of medication to basically dry her up. I worried constantly about her during that time. I wanted her to be better right away without having to go through surgery and medications. I didn’t want to play a game of wait and see, but unfortunately, I had no choice.
As a result of her already compromised immune system, Hannah’s vaccines were severely delayed. I worried about so many things then, but it never once occurred to me to worry about her contracting measles or any of the other communicable diseases for which we are routinely vaccinated. Herd immunity wasn’t a term I knew then. It didn’t even begin to occur to me that she could be in danger. Why? Because people vaccinate! Duh!
Of course now we live in a world where we know that isn’t true. The anti-vaccination movement is in all of our faces. Multiple times a day on Facebook. Debates on Twitter. On both local and national news. Everybody is talking about it. Everyone has an opinion. Until now, I thought my role in supporting vaccines was to quietly stand by, share some articles on Facebook here and there, and just be glad that all five of my children are fully vaccinated. I thought to myself countless times “I’m not well spoken about science. I’m not great in debates. This is about all that I can do.” That is, until I remembered, and I went from being a quiet advocate to being really pissed.
MY BABY WAS ALREADY SICK AND SHE COULD HAVE GOTTEN SICKER.
I have a fury in my gut that I can’t even place right now. I’m not angry at any one person or even anti-vaxxers in general. I don’t think that someone who doesn’t vaccinate their child doesn’t love them and I believe that most who are anti-vaccine have actually done a significant amount of research. My problem is that none of the research that supports the anti-vaccine movement has any basis in science, but so much of it is presented as such.
Thankfully, Hannah is 6 (and a half, she will remind you) now, is perfectly healthy, and as I mentioned before is fully vaccinated. I am grateful for the modern medicine that first got her well, and later gave her immunity to deadly diseases. I’m not going to be as quiet anymore. What we went through is not very uncommon and it pains me to think of the fear that parents going through the same thing today must feel. Vaccines are important. Herd immunity is important. I’m just a small voice. I can’t force anyone to listen to me, of course, but knowing now that things could have been worse, I have to try.