Ten years ago, before I ever had children, and before I even knew why anyone was against vaccines, I supported vaccines. I remember hearing stories about people who didn’t vaccinate and thinking that they should vaccinate their kids, but I didn't give it a lot of thought or discussion because, as a non-parent, why would I? I got my shots when I needed them.
It wasn't until we were pregnant with our twins that I learned all the "dangers" of vaccinating. It was the worst possible time to absorb information like that because I was more prone to irrational thinking due to the effect that pregnancy had on me. My husband had been sent some links to websites making claims against vaccines and he was instantly worried about them. He showed it to me and I thought that it looked dubious but also thought that maybe they were on to something. I told my husband that I thought we should talk to our OB/GYN about it at the next appointment.
We asked our doctor at the next appointment what he thought about vaccines. Immediately, he got up and closed the door to the office. He said he believed vaccines caused his son's autism and that children receive too many vaccines too soon. To say that my heart sank is an understatement.
When our twins were born and the pediatrician was in the room, my husband asked about delaying vaccines for the babies and the pediatrician, whom we had just met, said abruptly and somewhat rudely: "That's the most dangerous thing you can do to your children." It sounded like an exaggeration and a lie, and it made me distrust him. I had a relationship with my OB. He delivered my beautiful babies, he told me he had a child with autism and that I could prevent that in my own babies by delaying vaccines. Now I have this, according to my perception at the time, lying asshole in my room telling me that it's worse to not vaccinate then it is to drive home with my babies in my lap. I'm just saying, he could have won us over if he had taken a kinder, gentler approach.
The next few times I tried to talk to the pediatrician about vaccines he treated me like complete garbage. He accused me of getting my information from Jenny McCarthy and Oprah, and that really insulted me because I don't like Jenny McCarthy at all. The only people who were kind to me were the people telling me it was ok to delay vaccines, and so those were the people I spent time with at the pediatrician's office.
20 months after my twins were born I had a son. I stopped working when my twins were 10 months old, and the only people I really had contact with were moms online on discussion boards. During the late 2000's, it seemed that worry about autism was sky high. Vaccines were being blamed for everything from SIDS to colic, behavior problems, autism...everything. The arguments were stirring, because you always had the mom of a child with special needs sounding the alarm and warning us not to make the same mistakes they made. As a parent myself, it was hard not to feel deep sympathy for these moms. Every mom's worst nightmare is that their child is going to get hurt or fall ill. Living in a disease-free community (thinking of the diseases that have been eradicated by vaccines) it became very easy to feel like my children would be safe without vaccines.
My son wasn't given a single shot until he was about 5-6 months old.
I felt safe about that choice until I went to visit my grandmother in a nursing home. She started putting her fingers near his mouth. I took a closer look at her fingers and I saw that they were not clean. My mind started racing and the first place it went was polio. I wondered if she had ever been vaccinated against polio, and thought “probably not.” She was too old. I thought about how polio is endemic in Afghanistan, and that we had troops at war in Afghanistan. My thoughts continued: If a soldier came home from war and still had shit on his boots, he could track it into the nursing home, give it to my grandmother with the dirty hands, and then she could give it to my fucking baby! MY BABY IS GOING TO GET POLIO AND IT"S ALL MY FAULT!
So my baby got his polio vaccine, and a bunch of other ones that were mixed in with it, because I freaked out about that disease. However, I still wasn't moved to fully vaccinate my kids, because I still believed that doctors gave too many too soon. I was upset that he had to get so many other diseases in his "fragile immune system" at the same time because my hippie friends all warned me about how awful that new vaccine was.
A few weeks later, I went to a family reunion and started talking to a family member who doesn't vaccinate and has never even brought her kids to a doctor. I was very impressed with her and decided to do what she was doing and just stop bringing my kids to doctors at all.
My children didn't see a doctor for several years. My kids were healthy and thriving so I didn't think it was necessary. My husband had lost his job (we didn't have insurance anyway), so it's a good thing they were healthy and they thrived! I want to take this moment to thank all the smart people who ignored the woo-pushers and kept vaccinating your kids. I should have been one of you but I succumbed to fear and irrationality. Thank you for vaccinating your children and keeping my previously undervaccinated children safe from diseases.
I ended up coming back around to the pro-vaccine side at around the time I started sleeping well again. I saw healthy and well developed kids who had been fully vaccinated. I saw some kids who had autism who never had a single shot. I had done research on Ancestry.com and read very sad death certificates of young people who died of diseases that we have vaccines for. I learned about the naturalistic fallacy and said "OMG I'm so stupid for falling for that!"
When diseases started breaking out I began to push for my kids to get fully vaccinated even though my husband is still not a fan of vaccines. I ended up convincing the kids to demand to be vaccinated, and they did. Now I feel kind of pissed off at the anti-vaccine movement for making me feel stupid, and do stupid shit. They've duped mothers all over America.
I think that with the debunking that has been done, there is no reason for anyone to stay on the anti-vaccine side, but my husband still is. We don't talk about it anymore because the kids are vaccinated and there is no reason to beat a dead horse.
Not sure if that story helps at all, but there it is. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to tell it.