No, I’m not actually here to call out parents who vaccinate. It’s the other side I’m concerned with today. My side. The “ex-vaxxers”, the “pro-choicers”, the “antivax” moms and dads. We aren’t perfect either. And it’s high time we take some accountability for it.
Sure, it turns my stomach to see parents at war. We’re all trying to do what is best for our kids—or so we tell ourselves. We’re all battling the same misinformation in the media, the same hunt for the perfect doctor, the same doubt in ourselves some days that we could be making the wrong choice. We’re alike in more ways than we are different. And yet we let this one, single factor of vaccination get in the way of what could be perfectly happy friendships. Why? The answer isn’t always what you think.
No, it’s not pro-vaccine parents who don’t want their kids around children who aren’t vaccinated. Do those parents exist? Oh yes! And even though science doesn’t support their choice, it’s still their choice. But they aren’t what is keeping the two sides divided.
No, it’s not the media either. Yes, absolutely, the media puts on a farce like no other every day to convince parents that the news they are touting is accurate—despite their numerous ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Sure, they’ve been contradicted many times and science may not support what they say either. Well, not the un-cooked version anyway.
But the biggest factor that is dividing provaccine parents from antivaccine parents… it’s us. It’s the “anti-vaxxers”.
I too had a skewed view of this, years ago. I certainly knew and understood how I personally felt, but I couldn’t have possibly comprehended how others felt before I decided to be open and public about our choice. And it wasn’t until then that I started to see the shift in my friendships. No, I haven’t lost anyone. No one has come forward and told me to keep my kids away. No one is worried we have the measles. Thank goodness I have intelligent friends.
But I have felt a transformation in my relationships, and it’s not all bad, but it’s not all roses either. On the upside, I’ve met some amazing parents along the way that I really resonate with. I’ve honed my research skills, learned more about the human body than I ever expected to in all my years, and really feel a passion for life, a deep gratitude for health, and a purpose for helping others. Going public about being an ex-vaxxer definitely taught me that your vibe really does attract your tribe.
On the downside, I don’t have as much love for people who aren’t like me. Nah, my friends don’t have to see the world the way I do; I’m not seeking a carbon copy bestie. We disagree on many things. Abortion, politics, religion, etc. All the “big” things, you know? And I love my friends, regardless of their stances on any of such. But I just don’t get excited about people who don’t have a passion for life. What’s the point of this journey then? If you aren’t learning, evolving, growing, maturing… what’s the point?
It’s truly not personal though. It’s this simple. I can’t grow if I surround myself with people who are committed to staying behind.
And for me—and for many in this ex-vaxxer community—nothing wreaks of “staying behind” more than the friend who won’t even look at the research. The friend who won’t even try to be better today than who they were yesterday.
I can’t align myself with that and expect that I will keep growing. And I want to keep growing. Because I love me, too.
The Slow And Steady Ache
I already have a special needs child that consumes 80% of my energy each day. The leftover 20% gets divided up between three more kids, my guy, my career, the house, a dash of creativity, and activism. That’s me in a nutshell. I don’t give up though. Because I love them. I love my family. I want better for them.
But I’m depleted now. I walk through life drenched in empathy—something that’s a bit of a blessing and a curse. And I worry about the people who will be left to defend themselves and don’t know how. I worry about who will fight for them if they don’t have people like me. Because I love them.
My other half often remarks people in other nations who don’t understand why we are so pro-military in America only have that luxury because they have us to fight for them. I think the same applies to vaccines.
I’ve done the legwork, and it took so many years of my life to both feel educated enough on this topic and secure enough to handle my emotions and reign them in to go public with my beliefs. I still see people I love dearly vaccinate their children. I still see those children end up sick frequently. I see those children developing autoimmune issues like diabetes and eczema, and their parents don’t want to hear the evidence that we’ve known for years that vaccines cause such.
In order to change, they’d have to accept that they were a part of what caused this damage. And for what reason? Nothing more than—dare I say it—laziness. A lack of interest. A lack of education. Whatever it is, I can promise no explanation can justify it in your heart. You just have to grieve, forgive yourself and move on. Hopefully, with a child whose faculties and bodily functions are still intact.
These are scary times. We’re living in a world that aims to keep parents down by making sure they don’t unite.
The joke’s on them, because I know I’m not alone. My sisters are by my side. Some of the most intelligent and thoughtful women I’ve met in all my life are here with me, though they’re scattered across the country. We’re scared, but we’re together.
The Great Divide
There are limitations put on these pro- vs anti-vax friendships, too. Certain friends who vaccinate tend to just “not go there” with me. And that’s okay, but it still doesn’t help me change how I look at them. If your child’s health isn’t worth the conversation, if it’s not worth researching on all sides, then yeah, I’m still going to question your priorities. That isn’t to say some of these friends haven’t had such conversations with their doctors that I’m unaware of.
And they don’t want to hear me saying “well, did your doctor tell you this and that?” Of course they didn’t. Of course they don’t want to hear that. They had the talk. It was worrisome. They made a decision based on one side of the evidence, and they don’t want to have to rethink it.
Who would? It’s daunting and boring, remember? It’s overwhelming! It’s exhausting! It’s impossible to know who to believe. And if it turns out you were wrong, then you’ve got to worry about the damage you may have already done. Very few parents want to invite that anxiety on board.
It’s terrifying to think of making a choice based on those mommy instincts versus the doctor’s word, right? Because at least if something goes wrong, you can carry that hatred with you forever for that doctor and not penalize yourself, right? I wish that was the way it worked.
Being “antivaccine” will absolutely divide you from others. It’s not intentional. But I’m certain some of my friends have felt I’ve faded into the background of their lives over the years. I don’t love them any less. I don’t judge them for vaccinating. Hey, I did it, too. I don’t limit myself to only spending time with those who don’t. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about respect.
Sure, plenty of our pro-vax friends respect our choice not to vaccinate. Sorry, but it’s me who has lost some respect for you.
Maybe that’s brazen. I’ve never been accused of not being bold enough. But I can’t help it. I tried hard not to let this happen. At the end of the day, I’m quite confident that most who doubt our choices have little to no actual knowledge of vaccines. I’ve heard enough from those friends over the years to solidify that belief.
One friend said the research was “so boring” and she’s “only got so much free time.” Oh, don’t I know it! And imagine trying to reconcile with yourself over this after your child has been harmed, and you have to swallow the bitter pill that you chose not to research it because it wasn’t as entertaining as the latest rerun of Big Bang Theory.
Another said she doesn’t know if I’m right or wrong but vaccines have never been important enough to her to look into. Another once told me her husband would never go for not vaccinating, so it’s not worth bringing up. All of them being mothers. Those statements… things like that… that’s what has divided you from me.
It’s not that you vaccinate. It’s that the latest episode of your favorite show and a glass of wine is more important than standing up for the future of this country, and for bodily autonomy for your kids.
It’s that you giggle about it and paint my child’s chronic health and behavioral problems like they are routine issues all parents deal with.
I’m scared to death of a day when that’s actually true.
Why I’m Still Here
Many people offer comments like why don’t you just sever ties then? Well, who would that help? Why sacrifice a friendship because it’s going through a hard time? That’s not what we’re supposed to be doing with relationships. We nurture them. We grow them. We encourage the other half of our yin and yang even when we don’t feel we’re perfectly 50/50—even when it’s more like 80/20 and that 80 is falling on you. Relationships are hard work, and that extends beyond the intimate type.
Don’t get it twisted. I love these women dearly, but I won’t apologize for how I feel.
My soul is aligned with women who honor their role as mothers. It’s hard work! It’s supposed to be! We’re raising human beings. I don’t take that lightly just because practically anyone can have a child. I don’t aim to normalize lazy parenting just because so many are doing it. I’m better than that. So are you.
But that doesn’t mean I won’t acknowledge it does have an impact on our friendship. I’m not afraid to offend you. Because I know you, I know if my words offend you, that speaks volumes. Because I love you, I want you to know the bubble eventually bursts. You know… the one you’re keeping yourself in where ignorance is bliss. Where your child won’t be harmed as long as you don’t know they can be. Where you think “mother knows best” applies when it’s you vs. me, but not when it’s you vs. your doctor.
I wish the statements I see moms make online were at all true. “I respect your choice to vaccinate.” Let’s not mince words. I respect that under our government, you have that choice. And hey, I can even respect it if you actually do the research and still decide to. What I can’t find any respect for is a failure to research it at all. It leaves the same kind of bad taste in my mouth that I get when I look back at pictures of myself holding my son as an infant, before I consented to changing his life—our live’s—forever.
I will be here no matter what. I will continue to pray your children never see the harm so many others have. But I will also continue to pray that you won’t wait for that to happen to convince yourself that they’re worthy of doing the same boring research I did all too late. If my prayers don’t come true, I’ll be there to hold your hand and help you through. I’ll never say I told you so.
You see, this isn’t actually about who is right and who is wrong. I want all of us to leave our egos at the door. There’s no place for ridicule here. But there is room for improvement, and I’ve waited too long for someone else to say it. I waited too long for someone else to say it to me. So I’m saying it to you. Because I want better for you and your children than I was given. Because I love you.