These are the 3 topics that most people know to avoid discussing in polite company (and I'm not sure I agree--especially since the latter is the most significant thing you can discuss with the people you love).
But since becoming a mom, I've found a new taboo topic that, in comparison, makes expounding on your political beliefs or telling people how to spend their money seem trivial.
The debate over whether to vaccinate your children didn't really exist when I was a kid, so I think people in my parents' generation got off easy. Back then, you simply did what the doctor said.
Simple as that.
But it's not so simple anymore.
The purpose of this blog post isn't to try and change anyone's mind. This is simply my attempt to make sense of the enormous decision that parents are faced with today; I also want to talk about the elephant in the room.
I'm talking about the haters.
I have rarely seen such hate-filled, judgmental, and disrespectful comments on any subject than I do whenever a thread about vaccines pops up online.
It's really amazing how polarizing the debate is.
The anti-vaccine side shouts "vaccines are a government conspiracy that cause autism and ADD/ADHD in 100% of cases, and anyone who gives them to their children are terrible parents who are brainwashed by the institution!" The pro-vaccine side roars back "vaccines save lives and eradicate disease! They are 100% safe and pose absolutely no threat to children and anyone who doesn't vaccinate their kids is a terrible parent!"
So what is a new parent with a new baby (and a big decision to make) supposed to do? Try to find an answer online?
If you want to bombarded with contradicting information, than yeah, go for it.
My husband and I have spent countless hours researching the subject before Sarah was even born: reading books, looking at BOTH sides of the debate, and getting the opinions of people we trust. Both sides.
Here's how I see it:
As a reasonable person, you cannot deny that in the United States, the use of vaccines has practically wiped out diseases that have killed (and continue to kill) hundreds of thousands of people.
Also as a reasonable person, you cannot deny that institutions like the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program exist. And they exist for a reason.
It would be quite impossible for any one person to be able to sort through the data on this subject; to even know where to begin is absolutely mind-boggling: Do you start researching the disease itself, then the history of the vaccine? Do you look at the ingredients of the vaccine itself? What about the manufactures? Or you do you try and find the studies? Peer-reviewed articles? What about court records? Who do you trust--the CDC? Jenny McCarthy?
Both sides of the argument can be SO convincing that my response to them can sometimes be comical: when I read a pro-vaccine article that site convincing statistics and uses confusing medical jargon, I find myself thinking "all those hippies who don't vaccinate their kids! Science reigns!"
But then the next article is written from the broken heart of a mother who took her son to the doctor one day to 'catch up' on several shots he missed. And how the next day he woke up as a different child and how he will require special care for the rest of his life. And how that mother knows, in her heart of hearts, that it was the vaccines. And I find myself thinking "big pharma is corrupt and is intent on hiding the truth!"
My knowledge on the subject is so limited that it's absurd to think I could debate it with someone who has SPENT THEIR LIFE and career studying the matter, so I'm not going to kid myself that I am expert on vaccines.
So I want to encourage moms (and dads). Don't hate on each other. If someone has a different view than you, by all means, discuss it. But don't be hateful with your words or attitudes. What I've found is that no matter which side of the debate you are on, we all have one thing in common: we want what's best for our kids. We are doing what we think is best for our kids.
But I also want to encourage parents to educate yourself on the matter: don't make a decision based on a facebook thread you read or because of the personal experience of your neighbor's cousin's niece.
Read. Research. Talk with your doctor. If your doctor isn't willing (or competent enough) to discuss vaccines with you, find another pediatrician.
Don't believe everything you read online. Remember that money talks, and as a reasonable person, you've got to know that the vaccine debate is fueled by politics, and that ridiculous amounts of money is changing hands of very powerful people in very powerful organizations. So keep an open mind to both sides. (I, for one, am usually inclined to believe the person who ISN'T selling something.)
Every time I feel overwhelmed by the subject and feel that I'm making the wrong decision for Sarah, I'm comforted by the fact that I have the greatest physician who has ever lived on speed dial. He also happens to be the wisest doctor and most merciful healer that's ever been. Oh yeah, he also created us. In His image. So I'm comforted by the fact that I can rely on the Lord to lead Randy and me in the right direction of raising our daughter. I can pray for peace on the decisions we make, or pray for uneasiness if we are on the wrong path.
And I'm comforted that everyone's decisions for their kids might not be the same; that's fine. Just make an informed decision: ignorance is not bliss when it comes to our kids' health. And know your rights as a parent: you don't have to "pick a side." Consider making vaccine decisions on a case-by-case basis like my husband and I do: we consider the disease (the severity of the disease and how common it is) and the vaccine (the ingredients--which sometimes vary based on the manufacturer--and the possible side effects) then make a decison. And we don't move forward until we both agree.
But most importantly, we pray about it. I think Christians sometimes skip this step because we're in such a hurry all the time.
Thanks for reading--feel free to comment, but please keep it kind.