My toddler has never been sick. Not once. And though I could go all granola mom and say it’s because of extended breastfeeding, I’m going to give some credit to the fact that I went against my midwife’s suggestion and got baby vaccinated.
I’ve written about my midwife’s questionable practices before. When I first met her, she might as well have been carrying a crystal ball and dealing out Tarot cards. Her soft, high voice predicted that because my husband and I could both curl our tongues, baby would have no problem breastfeeding. That because my husband is, in fact, half Chinese and not Polynesian, our newborn wouldn’t be too big to deliver vaginally. And here’s one: because I’m a redhead, I would probably experience pain more intensely than other people would. It was all kind of fun and whimsical, like those baby gender quizzes. I didn’t think she actually put stock in this kind of stuff.
Well, after getting to know her over the course of a year, I’ve determined that if she had a billboard, her slogan would read: “Lots of Visceral Experience With a Healthy Dose of Pseudoscience.” Her guidance and suggestions were head-on at times, and other times they were completely nuts. So when I was nine months pregnant and asked her what we should do about a pediatrician, I shouldn’t have been surprised when she stared at me deadpan and said, “what for?”
I was under the impression that babies needed pediatricians for checkups and stuff. But judging by the look on her face, you’d think I’d just asked whether babies prefer wheat beer or IPA.
“You mean for vaccinations?” She offered.
“Yeah,” I said. Sure…I wasn’t even thinking about vaccines, honestly, but I figured this could be a starting point.
“You could do that. I have one mama who has a pediatrician she likes. But if you’re wondering about vaccinations, do some research on the Internet. There’s a lot of stuff linking them to autism and other problems. I never vaccinated any of my kids and they’re healthy as can be.”
At this point, I’d never heard anything negative about vaccines. I tried to continue my discussion with my midwife, but she just kept asserting, “look on the Internet.”
I did look on the Internet, for the record, and I couldn’t find any legitimate information from a reliable source on not vaccinating. There were crackpots on both sides, for sure, but the overwhelming consensus was that the benefits of getting vaccinated outweigh the risks. But my midwife had instilled in me a strong dose of skepticism toward the healthcare industry, so I wrote off the vaccine enthusiasts as Big Pharma lemmings and decided to consult a real, live book.
I checked out Dr. Robert Sears’The Vaccine Book, thinking I was going to get elbow-deep in some dirt about how healthly vaccines are. But to my surprise, Dr. Sears weighs the benefits and drawbacks of each possible vaccine and concludes that most of them are very important — especially from a public health standpoint.
After lots of worry and deliberation, we decided to get our daughter her first vaccines at three months old. I was sweating profusely as I stroked my daughter’s little head and waited for the nurse to administer the first shot. Baby’s cry was instant and piercing, a cry I’d never heard her make. That cry alone was enough to make me question my decision on not vaccinating. But moments later, she was nursing and dozing off. She fell asleep in the car on the ride home and didn’t have even the slightest fever later in the day.
Since that first appointment, baby’s been caught up on all of her vaccines. She’s demonstrated no signs of autism, and like I said, she hasn’t been sick once. I’m obviously not qualified to spout recommendations about vaccines (I’m part of the same kooky Internet I was berating earlier, after all) but I will say that I’m glad I went ahead with the vaccinations. Between that and extended nursing, I think I’ve built a strong fortress against disease in my daughter’s vulnerable little body.