I wanted to weigh in on the vaccine issue, which I know is a controversial one that has been gaining attention lately because yet another celebrity has come out as anti-vax, and because measles (which many babies are vaccinated for) is on the rise in NYC and some blame anti-vaxers.
First of all, let me just say that making the decision whether or not to vaccinate your baby can be a highly emotional one, and there is plenty of fear mongering literature on either side of this issue to scare new mommies silly. I won’t use this post to try to sway you one way or the other, but I will share my experience.
When I was pregnant with Miriam I left the vaccine decision-making to the end. I figured I would research each one as it came up. I got the flu shot while I was pregnant, because it seemed to me more likely for my baby to suffer complications from me catching the flu than from any potential vaccine reaction. That was easy because it was a game of statistics. Which is more likely to happen, flu or vaccine complication? Which is more likely to have a serious outcome? I got the shot, and was glad that I did.
When Miriam was born, we had to decide about her in-hospital vaccinations. For some reasons that I’m still not sure of, they did glucose tests repeatedly on her little heels which was excruciating for us watch. Miriam kept almost meeting the criteria to stop receiving the tests, but falling a point or two behind the blood sugar level she needed to pass. They had recently changed the standards too, making the requirement higher and even the nurses were unsure that she should continue to receive the foot-pricks.
I did not let them take her to the nursery except to test her hearing and to do one foot prick. The nurse told me that we were not allowed to do it outside of the nursery, and that I had no choice. I asked Bodie and both the Grandpas to follow them and watch to make sure Miriam was okay. Bodie came back seething, the nurse had treated her very roughly, “juicing” her foot to get enough blood out. “They didn’t even treat her like a person” he said to me. “I wanted to punch them”.
I was very wary of the glucose tests after that point, especially since she had almost met the criteria to “pass” the test so many times. I told the nurse (another nurse, that other one thankfully switched shifts or left) about my feelings and asked her to check with the pediatrician to see if they were truly necessary. He had us do one last test, because it was required by the state for genetic testing, and fortunately Miriam passed this time.
If she hadn’t passed, I don’t think I would have let them test her again. I have discussed it with her pediatrician numerous times and I am unconvinced that it was necessary. I hear that it is necessary for macrosomic babies (which she was not) for mothers with gestational diabetes (which I did not have), and so I remain unsure that there was actually a risk of her blood sugar dropping to dangerously low levels, as the lowest it dropped was within the previous range of normal.
After this experience I was less trusting, and unsure about the hepatitis shot that they give babies in the hospital. It was the day of our discharge, and I remember my mother in law encouraging me to not get it, Bodie saying she could wait, and me sitting in the hospital bed terrified of her somehow contracting this horrible disease because I did not get her vaccinated. I narrowed it down to two options: get it in the hospital, or get it at our first doctor’s visit in a day or two.
I called my Mom (who is a doctor) crying, to ask if she thought it would be very risky for me to wait. She reassured me that it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, and Miriam would have a couple days to grow bigger and stronger (and recover from all the foot pricks).
After that one delayed vaccine, I chose to get the rest on the normal vaccine schedule. To me, the pros outweighed the cons, and the risk of getting the disease seemed to me to be much higher than the benefits. I did not find any sound medical research that vaccines cause autism, or any other terrible problems. I did see that measles, mumps, rubella, flu, all had high risks of death in infants. I saw that vaccines had a very low risk of complications, and that the amount of “bad” ingredients was so tiny, it was probably akin to eating a fast food burger. Not so great for ya, but probably not going to kill you if you do it once every few months.
So that was my decision, and every once in awhile Miri will get a fever with her vaccine, and I’ll spend an hour worrying that I made the wrong call. In the end though, I feel that it was worth it, that we did the right thing, and that we didn’t let the research work us up into a panic.