The Vaccination Conversation

Throughout a woman’s pregnancy, there is so much emphasis on pregnancy health, adjusting to life after baby, and, of course, the “big push”, including how unbearable contractions are, what the “ring of fire” is in all its glory, and the overwhelming joy (and relief) of pushing that baby out. On the other hand, with the help of modern medicine and trained surgeons, the big push might not happen for women (for whatever reasons), yet the feeling is the same: your baby is here, you both made it, and now you can enjoy life together at home. Well, almost…

If you have a baby in a hospital like most women in the US, hospital postpartum care involves lots of newborn testing and examinations, health education for mom and baby, breastfeeding tips, or other feeding options, but this is also your baby’s first exposure to vaccines. There are three vaccines and/ or medicines given: a vitamin K shot to help a newborn’s blood to clot which prevents newborns from excessive bleeding, eye drop ointment that helps the baby not contract serious eye infections or blindness if the baby was exposed to a sexually transmitted disease like gonorrhea or chlamydia during a vaginal delivery, and hepatitis B (the first of a 3 shot series done before 18 months old), a disease that attacks the liver, causing lifelong infection, scarring of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure or death, and is contracted from direct contact with blood or other body fluids, which is why hospitals give it to newborns if the mother is infected with the hepatitis B virus during childbirth.

I experienced both a hospital birth (with my 5 1/2 year old daughter, who is vaccinated up to 3 years old), and a homebirth (with my 2 year old son with no vaccinations). While I had an uncomplicated, easy hospital birth and overall good experience, one major difference between the two was the amount of genuine postpartum care I felt I received at home versus the nurses and doctors simply following hospital postpartum protocol. At home, there was much more emphasis on educating me on both sides of vaccinating my newborn rather than feeling pressured by the hospital staff to vaccinate or, even worse, making me feel like I was deliberately harming my child by contemplating waiting to vaccinate or to not vaccinate at all. Given that there is so much information available now about vaccines regarding the ingredients (like Thimerosal, a mercury-containing organic compound, used as a preservative, formaldehyde, which inactivates the live virus in order to make the virus into a vaccine, etc.), a parent’s choice between the standard schedule of vaccines, spacing them out by what a child actually needs (without doing a “vaccine catch up” appointment), or not vaccinating at all, the risks of vaccinating (vaccine injuries including autism, gastrointestinal issues, and other developmental delays), and the risks of not vaccinating, parents should feel and know that they have a choice, and be confident in their decisions about their children’s health. In the end, that is what parents want: the best for their children. Simply put, parents who vaccinate their children do it because they love them and believe that is what is right, and parents who do not vaccinate their children do it because they love them and believe that is what is right.

While my daughter does have Autism, I do not have any accurate recollection as to when her Autism revealed itself and if it coincided with any vaccinations she received. At the time, getting her vaccinated (some were delayed and others we did a “catch up” appointment) was what I felt was best for my daughter, was in the best interest of her health, was highly recommended by her pediatrician, and also served as a quiet sense of approval to myself that I was doing the right thing. Plus, we had two international trips planned, and I did not want to risk exposing her to any dangerous viruses in case she got bit by an infected mosquito or drank the polluted water (dramatic I know, but true). Ultimately, I made a decision based on the fear of what if she doesn’t get vaccinated, as well as following the sound advice from her doctor. I do not regret getting her vaccinated, yet when my son was born, we decided that vaccinating could wait. He is 2 years old now, and we still don’t know when we will vaccinate or if at all. We believe we have no reason to right now, and if/ when it is time, then we will deal with that decision.

 

Ashley Mariko Berg

ashleymarikoberg

My name is Ashley. I have a 5 1/2 year old daughter and a 2 year old son, and I’m expecting my third child November 2013. My daughter has Autism, but my son is the one who gives me gray hair. I’m a stay-at-home-mom. I love all things organic, natural, holistic, and whole, yet I do what I can to live a balanced life (I do enjoy technology afterall). I have a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, but it’s mostly a nice piece of paper sitting in a box high up in my closet. I am not an expert at parenting, but I do what I feel is best for our family.

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