There’s a new surge in the mommy wars and I never thought I would be caught in the crossfire.
The never dying debate between women who choose careers versus the stay-at-home mom has given a platform to categorize every choice mothers make as polarized opposites. Decisions such has how to discipline, private versus public education, whether or not to medicate a child with ADHD, or bottle versus the breast–one type of mothering is seemingly better than the other.
Over the last several weeks, the topic of vaccines has elbowed it’s way to the top of headlines on the Daily Beast, Jezebel, and TIME about the outbreaks all thanked the trutheresque disinformation activists known as the “anti-Vaxxers,” and the Disneyland outbreak.
In the early days of the mommy wars, the primary antagonists were stay-at-home mothers and their career-oriented counterparts and they still exist today because skirmishes continue to prolong the debate, whatever it may be.
At the core of the debates and wars is this: we are passionate for our children. We want what’s best and make informed decisions according to our experiences, education, and values. The stronger the experience, the more we defend what we value; it seems the most recent skirmish are vaccines.
Playing out in my Facebook news feed are posts, articles, and comments, “…don’t be stupid, get your kids vaccinated, parents who don’t vaccinate should go kill themselves” and every opinionated post acts as a social demotion against parents like myself who have chosen not to vaccinate. But that’s because of my experience, does this matter?
Life Threatening Reactions to Vaccines
I’m writing this post as a mother who once trusted and valued the vaccination schedule recommended by my pediatrician and the CDC. My own mother is a nurse which means my opinions are well researched on both sides of the debate. Both my mother and I simply thought the brain damage my brother received from his DTP vaccine as a toddler was an isolated incident until my daughter Cheyenne reacted the same way as a toddler.
Despite having a high fever for days and being nearly comatose, her pediatrician stated, “she just has a strong immune system,” but after Cheyenne got better, she wasn’t the same little girl. She was listless, wouldn’t make eye contact and didn’t recognize me as her mother. Later, we learned she was autism spectrum with Aspergers.
A few years later I pushed aside my fear and ensured my son got all his vaccines and began the same regimen after my youngest was born until her body reacted violently to any of her vaccines. Tori Grace had begun to seizure, she was covered in a red rash from head to toe with a fever of 104.8. She had welts the size of silver dollars at the injection sites, and became unresponsive. We sat in the hospital and waited for her to get better. Deep down, I blamed myself for not trusting my instincts to refuse vaccinations. After I expressed my fears, her doctor replied, “It’s better to vaccinate your child than to risk having her infect others or die because of contracting one of these diseases.”
Her words angered me because in the eyes of the CDC and the betterment of others, my daughter’s quality of life is worth the sacrifice if it prevents others from getting sick. But what about her life?
Why Should I Sacrifice My Children’s Lives for Yours?
Back to the debate about vaccinations and the mommy wars, “the greater good” seems to be the common thread but who gets to decide what the greater good is and why I should sacrifice the lives of my children to ensure yours are safe or herd immunity?
Suddenly, I am a bad mom because my daughter is at risk of contracting mumps, measles, rubella, chicken pox and the like. Not only is she at risk for contracting these serious diseases but she is also at risk to infecting me because I have no immunity against it. I’m one of the minority who has “low blood titers” and doesn’t develop a lasting immunity despite being vaccinated again as an adult.
I’m not advocating against vaccines, nor am I saying my choice is better than yours. I’m simply sharing my experience. I want you to know your careless words hurt. I want you to know I’m weighing my options about how best to protect Tori Grace and those around her when she starts school in the fall. I want you to know I’m doing as best as a can as mother. Aren’t you doing the same for your children?
I also want to speak for other moms here, those who choose not to vaccinate for personal reasons, for those who choose to work, to co-sleep, and to bottle feed; we all need each other. We all need support and understanding.
The mommy wars are fueled by the sentiment that one value is better than the other, one choice is more selfless than the other. The mommy wars continue because the flaming arrows hit us at our core; in the midst of the personalized attacks, we forget we all are mothers. We are human, we have feelings, and we are doing what is best for our children—that doesn’t make us “less than.”
And we will continue to fight, I think, until we are prepared to admit one thing: choice qua choice is not enough to allow us to identify the good and avoid the bad because simply put–one mother’s good choices and bad choices look different for each family.
Strip us bare and at the core, we are same. We are passionate about what is best for our children, so why can’t we embrace each other? Why can’t we pause and think about how our opinions and Facebook posts can hurt another mom? Why can’t we sit down over a cup of coffee and ask why we made that choice? Whether or not we agree with another, we can respect and support our choices and for once, bury the mommy wars all together.