When I became a mom, my friends say I started to lean a bit toward the “crunchy” side. I like to use cleaning products with fewer chemicals and more natural ingredients. I tend to use essential oils to add fragrance to my home rather than candles. I like to grow my own vegetables whenever I can. I like to read blogs – heck, I like them so much I started one myself!
From a distance, people might peg me as someone who would have chosen not to vaccinate my son. But those who know me well know why I did opt for vaccines. It was because of my own experience.
When I was a few years out of college, I decided to go to graduate school to get a Masters in Education. (I had been an English and Philosophy double major undergrad. I know, I know. Really practical, right?) I needed to get a full physical before entering the MEd program at Boston College and the issue of chicken pox came up. My primary care physician was shocked that I’d never had them.
Now, I wasn’t 100% sure that I had never had them as a kid. I had spent plenty of time around other kids who subsequently came down with chicken pox, so I had definitely been exposed. As a kid who spent a lot of time tromping around the Connecticut woods, I was usually covered with mosquito bites and we figured there was a chance that I had come down with a mild case and just not realized it.
My PCP explained that there was now a vaccine for chicken pox and she recommended I get it. Being a know-it-all, twenty something year old who hates needles with a passion, I said I wasn’t interested. I should have asked some more questions and listened to what she had to say about getting chicken pox as an adult before I so quickly brushed her off.
Fast forward to my first year of teaching elementary school when I woke up one morning with a couple of bug bites itching on my arm. It didn’t register right away that it was the middle of November and there really weren’t any bugs out in southern New Hampshire. Instead, I threw on a sweater and headed to school.
By the time I got to the school’s main office to check in, I had developed some more “bites” on my other arm and I casually showed one of the women in the office who also happened to be a nurse. I’ll never forget the expression on her face. She dragged me into the empty principal’s office and ordered me to lift up my sweater so she could see my stomach which was now covered with red dots.
“You have the chicken pox,” she informed me. “You need to go call your doctor NOW!” She knew (much better than I did) that chicken pox as an adult is a much different experience than it is when you are a kid. She knew about the high risk of complications and that there was a new antiviral drug that might be able to help.
To make a long (and painful) story short, I did get the antiviral drug which managed to keep the breakouts from getting any worse. The pox I did have didn’t itch, they hurt – a LOT. I had some on the bottoms of my feet which made walking painful. I also got really, really sick and wound up taking a trip to the ER to rule out meningitis and encephalitis — two possible complications of getting chicken pox as an adult. I was out of work for over a week and it took several more weeks before I felt like myself again. I kicked myself more times than I can count for not listening to my doctor and getting that chicken pox vaccine!
So when it came time to talk about vaccines with my son’s pediatrician, I was already in favor of them, but had the same concerns all new moms have. I wanted to make the best decision for my son to protect him from the kind of experience that I had gone through, but I wanted to talk about my concerns.
Here’s the key – he and I had a conversation about vaccines.
I expressed my concerns and he listened. He took me seriously and answered my questions. He offered me information from credible sources to answer my questions.
I heard from friends who tried to talk to their pediatricians about their concerns and were shut down and that was the end of the conversation. (My advice for them was to find a new pediatrician – one that they felt comfortable talking to and listening to.) Now, you know I love blogs, but some of these moms had read some pretty sketchy information on some of them and we’re treating it the same as if it were coming from a medical professional.
I know that when my car is making a funny noise, I tend to Google it before going to the mechanic. But I don’t rely on information I find on a fashion blog to diagnose the sound in my car. I might look at a car repair blog for a suggestion of what is wrong, but I rely on my trusted mechanic to look inside my car and let me know what is wrong with it. The same is true here. I give the information that comes from our trusted pediatrician much more weight than what I find on the internet posted by someone with no medical background.
If you’ve lasted this far, I hope I’ve inspired you to give some serious thought about your attitude around vaccines and where you get the information that informs your choices. You can find more reliable information at IVaccinate.org.
This post is sponsored by I Vaccinate, who I have partnered with to share my story.