Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tristen's Story: How Pediatricians Can Make a Difference

By Tristen Warner

I was terrified to vaccinate my son. I am a pretty crunchy mom, and had been hearing non-stop about "problems" with vaccination. My fears kept growing, but I decided that I needed to have real information on why vaxing was horrible. Until then, I’d protect my son the best way I knew how. And that was going ahead with the vaccination schedule.

So I went ahead and put my son through the whole vaccine schedule, but decided to skip the chicken pox vaccine. As a “crunchy” mom, it was impossible to avoid the blogs, posts, and articles about the so-called “dangers” of vaccinating. My chiropractor hated both the chicken pox and the hepatitis b vaccines; he and many other people warned me away from them. And yet I was given nothing but false information wherever I turned, including admonishments about “loading down his system” with an “unnecessary” vaccine.

Still, as my son’s next well baby visit approached I decided I would not vaccinate him against chicken pox. I was fine, my partner was fine, no worries, right? I thought back to when I had Chicken Pox as a child. I itched. I slept a lot. My mom brought me a ton of books from the library and I snuggled with my cats eating soup. How bad is chicken pox really, I thought to myself. I had never heard of any horror stories related to chicken pox (at least not until I joined a pro-vax Facebook page). 

The night before my son’s appointment, I talked to my mom again. Our conversation that night prompted me to ask more questions and give our doctor a chance to actually give me information before I made up my mind--though I will honestly say that as I walked in that exam room, I had already decided not to vaccinate. Still, I wanted to act like I was being fair.

The initial part of the visit went well. Then my doctor politely mentioned which vaccines were due at this visit. I held my breath and started asking questions, many of them based on misinformation I’d heard from blogs, websites, and other parents. 

“Can you get shingles from the vax?” 
“How bad is chicken pox, really?”
“Why all this worry?”
“Is chicken pox a form of herpes, and can you get herpes from the vax?” 
“Do you have to re-take the vaccine ever ten years for it to remain effective?”

With grace, patience, and ease he answered each of my questions, even though some of them were probably "momma-worry-stupid" type of concerns, but never once did I get the impression that he thought any less of me. He took all of my questions seriously. Nothing was brushed aside.

His honesty when answering each question, and his respect for my intelligence and my desire to protect my child, made me feel safer. There were, of course, potential side effects to the vaccine, just like they are for any medication. The fact that he didn’t gloss over this fact helped ease my mind as well. He didn't push and he didn't make me feel like vaccinating was part of a big "agenda." His calm kindness, soft humor, and real information I felt more at ease with the idea of giving my baby the chicken pox vaccine. After all, if he didn’t need to get sick to develop an immunity that would help him later in life why should I force that on my little guy?

When I got home and talked about my decision with my mom I heard a sigh of relief over the phone. My mother had had chicken pox herself as a child.

She had almost died. 

I realized then that I had the best pediatrician in the world.

Tristen Warner is a first-time mother to a one-year-old boy, an artist, and a critical thinker. :-) She was a vaccine-hesitant parent, but changed her mind through research and soul searching. 

Editor's Note: If you are a parent who choose to vaccinate and would like to share your story or otherwise contribute to Moms Who Vax, please contact us at momswhovax AT gmail.com. Dads are especially welcome.

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