Over the weekend I read the article, “Putting Us All at Risk for Measles” which documented the outbreaks of the once eradicated disease among educated, affluent populations. Why? Some parents are opting out of immunizations.
When we think of the anti-vaxxer movement, images of celebrity airheads pop up (Jenny McCarthy anyone?) Emotions range from eye rolling to outrage. Who ARE these people? Why would anyone ever think not vaccinating was a good idea?
Well, for a minute there… Me. I was one of them.
OK, I considered it for a minute.
Now, I’m a person who gets the flu shot EVERY year. I had the Pertusis vaccine. I think if there was a vaccine out there I haven’t had, I would probably get it.
Let’s just say, I have no aversions to Western Medicine.
So what happened?
A couple of things happened. Not one of them by themselves would have pushed me over the edge, but all together it sent me down a road where I doubted the system.
What’s up with conventional medicine?
It all started in June of 2012. I had just had a miscarriage. Not knowing what to do, or what could have been done. Or anything for that matter, I asked my doctor for guidance. She suggested I had a D&C procedure to remove the fetus. Granted, it was a highly emotional time for me, I didn’t research entirely what that meant, or why she suggested it. To be honest, I really wanted the whole thing to be over. I was so heartbroken.
So, we scheduled the procedure. I had to go to the hospital. We lived in New York at the time, and the hospital the doctor worked at had, let’s say, an “eclectic clientele.” It’s what our insurance covered. I was in a waiting room for two hours until they herded me into another waiting room partitioned by curtains with several patients waiting for surgery. Where they gave me a paper gown, slippers, and a hat. They took my vitals. It was all very matter-of-fact and impersonal.
I felt powerless.
Then I was escorted to a room where they put me “under” I counted backwards, and the next thing I know I was being shuttled to another room with several patients, separated by curtains. I was to recover there for a few hours. Then take a cab home.
I didn’t get a follow up call from the doctor. And all just went as though nothing had happened. The whole experience left me feeling distrustful because even though I COULD have objected, I don’t feel like I was really presented with the facts, and/or choice. What’s more, was I really didn’t know there was any other way.
How can you know to ask for something that you don’t know exists?
So Many Choices…
Luckily, by September, I was pregnant again. Horray! I was so excited. Going back to the doctor, she was thrilled. We took ultrasounds, monitored the progress of the fetus. Everything seemed to be coming along. Weeks went by, my fetus was growing from a poppy seed, to a grape, then to another fruit… and once we passed 13 weeks and everything looked good, I started to tell people.
“What kind of birth will you have?”
Then I started researching different birthing styles. Now, anyone who has done this will tell you, there is A LOT of different opinions. But what really struck me was the Business of Being Born documentary by Ricki Lake. The documentary revealed the broken birthing industry. They showed almost exactly my experience with the D&C. Women feeling powerless, without choice, uninformed.
That’s when I started to look outside the “system” for medical care.
I met with midwives, I joined natural resource centers for parents. I read that hypno-birthing book and that other “mindful pregnancy” book. Pre-natal classes, you name it. I was in it. I was going to be a “natural” parent. Fuck those doctors who herded me like factory farmed cattle.
Because of my insurance, I ended up going to St. Luke’s Hospital for their midwife program. There they have a rather progressive pre-natal program called, “Centering” where expectant couples meet once a month, take their vitals and learn about pregnancy. The group is lead by a midwife, and she encourages discussion among the moms (and dads) about healthy pregnancy, what to expect with labor, etc.
It was a complete 180° difference from my previous doctor.
I felt empowered. I felt like there were choices. It was amazing.
Questions About Vaccines
As we neared the end of our pregnancies, we started to have conversations about what to do with the babies once they were born. Of course, I was going to have that “natural birth.” I had read all the books. I was really going to do it. My baby wasn’t going to get the toxins in his body that I had done to me as a child.
When we came to the point of talking about the Hepatitis vaccine, one of the expectant mothers said, “Don’t vaccines cause autism?”
The midwife just smiled, and asked the group what we thought. I do remember that one year that I got a flu vaccine, then caught the flu, like 20 years ago.. But, other than that, I never even debated the whole vaccine thing.
Was their something I was missing?
Around that time I went to a Labor class at Natural Resources to learn about actually getting the baby out of my body. When we came around to the birth plan, again, the whole discussion about IF we should vaccinate came up. The leader of the class said to put it off. Don’t vaccinate right away. To be honest, I can’t remember why. If it were about putting vaccines in their little bodies, or I don’t know.
So here were my two experiences with birthing styles. One was the conventional way, the other a bit esoteric and crunchy. Surely the people who empowered me had nothing to hide. All they let me know was I had a choice. And I liked that. Maybe, just maybe there is something in this vaccine thing that’s making us sick.
At what point do you separate overwhelming scientific evidence with “propaganda?”
For me, it ended up boiling down to this.
I looked on Google. Duh. It’s amazing though, how many people DON’T do this. Anyway… I read how the links between the MMR study linking autism and vaccinations was discredited.
I looked at my own personal experience. How many people my age had polio? Measles? Surely, since everyone I know has been vaccinated, that if vaccines DID cause autism, I would know at least one autistic person.
While natural birthing and anti-vaxxing are not inherently connected. The only people who I have met that have talked about this “conspiracy” as if it were real are pretty crunchy. I can’t help but to think if I had a natural birth (I tapped out at 5cm… epidurals are AMAZING). If that acupuncture or that special tea did what they said it was supposed to do, I would have gone down that path as well.
IF alternative medicine worked for me, I might have felt different about, you know… science. I mean, doesn’t doing things the “natural” way sound nicer than “that chemical way?” The current system still is pretty broken. The insurance companies, the doctors, the hospitals, the pharmaceutical companies, all that crap on the internet with differing opinions, differing studies. Horror stories. Oh, the horror stories. What can a person believe these days?
That all said, here I am, believing in science. My son is up to date on all his vaccinations. He won’t even get chicken pox. Amazing! Do you remember getting chicken pox? That was the worst.
Ok… I’m pretty sure polio is worse. But I never got polio because I got vaccinated.
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