In 2008 I joined an online group for women expecting babies in December of that year. I needed to talk to other women going through the ups and downs of pregnancy, who could commiserate over our achy body parts we didn’t know we had, celebrate all of the little moments that you only “get” if you are expecting, and help me navigate the onslaught of information on parenting- how to choose a car seat, how to choose a pediatrician, natural birth or epidural, etc.
I went into this pregnancy with pretty high ideals- I was going to be a natural mom. A crunchy mom. A cloth-diapering, breastfeeding, baby-wearing goddess.
That didn’t actually work out as planned, at least not the first time around.
One of the biggest things I needed to consider as a parent, was whether or not to vaccinate my babies. And if I was going to vaccinate them…when, and how was I going to do it?
It was 2008, so I obviously read The Vaccine Book like it was the Bible. And I listened to every impassioned plea to not “overload” my new babies system with multiple shots at once. That was dangerous, y’all! Blood Brain Barrier! Scary shit.
And then some people were always talking about autism, but I didn’t know what autism was, and anyways I was plenty convinced by the “overloading the system” rhetoric- my boys would be following the Alternative Schedule set forth by Dr. Sears. The CDC was not going to dictate this one. I’m the mom. I knew best. I obviously knew better than our pediatrician.
So in November I had twins. We moved forward with the “alternative” schedule, and our pediatrician, who actually sited “vaccines” as one of his key interests, didn’t question our decision. We ended up going in like every other month or so to keep them on the schedule. This was after we had to drag them in every few days to get bilirubin checks, and every week for weight checks- what’s an extra appointment here and there?
Around 15 months we noticed that both boys had pretty much tapered off their language to nothing. We brought it up at appointments, but we were blown off. They were boys, they were twin boys they were identical twin boys, they were premature identical twin boys…you get the drill. Nothing to see here folks! Your babies are fine.
Except they weren’t. Something was different. They had a speech delay. I just knew it in my bones.
In the meantime we had another baby, and after almost 2 years of constant visits to the pediatrician for vaccinations, we decided that there was no reason to not follow the CDC schedule. Neither of the twins had a reaction to any of their shots, and it was seriously starting to get difficult to stay on top of visits. So boy #3 was vaccinated on schedule from day 1.
When the twins were 25 months old, after 10 months of questions and being told to “wait and see”, we had them evaluated for speech by early intervention. Halfway through, the person doing the parent interview asked me what I knew about autism.
How did we miss this?
Anyway, fast forward a few months, we have many evaluations, get a medical diagnosis of autism for both boys. Our pediatrician still didn’t believe it (“they are too young to know”), but he suggests we hold off on the MMR until they are 3 years old. He never said why, but I believe he didn’t ever want us to think that the MMR had something to do with their autism, and I’m grateful for him not muddying the waters.
Shortly after our boys had their first speech eval, they started school, and there was a small measles outbreak in Minneapolis. Some of the kids attended Minneapolis Public Schools. Some of those kids may have had contact with people who worked with the boys. You can bet I was a bit frantic as we sat there, no MMR, and now what? Do we get it NOW? Do we wait it out? In the end we just waited it out, and they were vaccinated at 3.5 years old.
Every time I take the twins in for a well-visit, I am met with my copy of the vaccination schedule we set up for them, stapled to their chart. It’s embarrassing to me that I was sucked in to making this choice for my kids. That I potentially put their lives, and the lives of others at risk, because I thought of it as just one more thing in the checklist of things crunchy moms did. It’s humbling to know that I was naive enough to be swayed by junk science, and anecdotes.
They didn’t get on track until last year, when they were 6.5 years old. After we got a letter from the school listing everything they were missing. Meanwhile, our younger boys (we now have 4 boys) have been vaccinated fully, and on-time, since day 1.
Since the boys’ diagnosis, I have learned so much about the fear-mongering that goes along with vaccinating your children. What I’ve learned is that this isn’t really something that is up for discussion for the vast majority of people. It’s not a choice. It is not the same as choosing to have an epidural, or to extended rear-face your carseat. Unless you belong to a very small group of people who absolutely cannot be vaccinated, you need to be vaccinated. On schedule. No questions. Vaccines do not cause autism.