No fear is greater than that of a new, young mother. You’ve been handed an adorably petite and squishy person and essentially made aware of the fact that “you’ve got it from here.”
Yep, that’s what a nurse said to me as we left the hospital with our daughter. She patted my hand and smiled at me knowingly; walking away with the wheelchair she all but dumped me out of on the curb as my husband brought the car around. I was petrified—there were so many ways I could mess this up.
All I’ve ever wanted is to be a mom and be the best one I could be. So, there I was: one of my biggest dreams made a reality was in my arms, and her tiny 6-pound body felt immensely heavy in that moment. I’d be making many tough calls and had been for my entire pregnancy thus far. An important one I made, though, came after a lot of research and backing down from social media.
I was scared to vaccinate my daughter.
The common reasons for choosing not to vaccinate were ones I had little interest in: I’d long ago decided I would love and cherish a child with any medical needs, and that would include autism if it were to arise. This common misconception is one that did not deter my decision-making at all.
No, my fears were based purely on the seething words and images posted by a friend for the entire duration of my pregnancy, encouraging others to “do their research” and to “look into vaccine injury.” I did, of course, fall down quite the rabbit hole—Google is both friend and foe during pregnancy and early motherhood while you’re figuring it all out.
I spent hours before giving birth to my daughter poring over medical literature, statistics, and more. I spoke about it with trusted healthcare professionals, friends, other moms, and family. Though most supported my research and understood why I was taking extra precautions in protecting this tiny person, others were less empathetic. Those who were dismissive, irritable, or condescending towards me and my fears only furthered them: I began to panic and fear that my friend was right. I slowly became scared to vaccinate. I’d become accustomed to getting shots myself as a child, with no regard until pregnancy that they could negatively affect babies and small children.
I was worried about damaging my daughter, and I needed time to process the information before me and consider alternative options. Would a delayed schedule prove to be less intense on her little body, or would we nix the idea of vaccinating altogether?
Scared to vaccinate but having to make a decision.
Before I knew it, the final hour was upon us: I began to labor, was admitted to the hospital, and spent time distracting myself from the pain in talking with the nurses and doctors present about my concerns. Their compassion and true regard for my difficulty in making a decision are what helped me to land on one: my daughter would be cared for not by a big pharmaceutical company, not by a group of government conspirators, and not exclusively by cold and unfeeling healthcare providers. She would be born into a world largely eradicated of disease and a sterile environment that would allow her to thrive well in her earliest days. She would be under the most capable care, and above all else, I would be there to make decisions and adapt to her changing needs. She was born healthy and will be for the long haul—because I chose to vaccinate her.
I nearly didn’t vaccinate my daughter on the strongest negative emotion there is: Fear.
I feared what I didn’t know, what I couldn’t predict, and what I couldn’t prevent. I wracked my brain over possible outcomes, how to soothe her, and what worked best as we moved forward. My eyes stung with tears when thinking of children and families who have been the unfortunate victims of illness due to their lack of access to these medical innovations. I reflected on my Aunt: one of the last known living people who contracted Polio before the vaccine was made widely available, and how she has struggled with this disease for her entire life. Armed with these feelings and what I’d discovered in looking into the issue deeper, I removed my selfishness from the equation of not wanting to hear her cry when she got vaccines at her well-visits. We’d move forward on a normal schedule and adjust if we needed to.
I acknowledge that things do not always work out as well as they have for my healthy daughter and that the increasing number of parents who opt not to vaccinate does feel as though they are doing what is right for their little ones. So many decisions made in parenthood are taken too lightly. I am proud of the people I know and love who do their due diligence and have a reason behind how they do things.
With that being said, I couldn’t be more relieved that I decided to vaccinate my daughter in the end. I’d love to say I no longer let fear or negative emotions run rampant in my mind when it comes to making parenting decisions, but I do put much less emphasis on what I feel than what I understand to be necessary. My daughter is thriving as a toddler, and her father and I will continue to do what we feel is best for her—and beyond feeling what’s best, knowing what’s best. We do this based on facts and understanding our child well, and we call the shots accordingly.