Vaccines. They are probably one of the hottest topics of conversations among parents right now. And personally, I am glad that folks are talking, because the first step in figuring out where you stand is to set it all out on the table.
I have wanted to write about this topic for a while, but there is so much to say, I don’t even know where to begin. I have a lot of emotion and anxiety regarding the issue because of what I have experienced with my own daughter. Because everyone’s experiences are different, the best thing one can do to make an informed decision is to empower themselves with knowledge. Well rounded education is key in making the most appropriate choice for you and your family.
The topic of vaccines is an ongoing debate in which I have always been somewhat aware. But the subject became more personal to me once I was pregnant. It was one of the main concerns we would raise when interviewing pediatricians. As someone who has always thought outside of the box, it was important for me to align with a doctor who wasn’t afraid of taking a second look at things and forming their own opinion instead of going with the status quo.
We chose Harper’s pediatrician for many reasons. But what we liked most about her was that in the midst of her practice, she was the only doctor who supported an alternative vaccination schedule versus the one that is recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Not only was she open to being flexible on what shots we decided to give Harper but she was flexible about when we gave them to her.
Harper was scheduled for her first set of shots at her 2 month check up. At that time, her pediatrician wanted to give her Pentacel, which is Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis (DTAP), Meningitis (Hib) and Polio (IPV) all in one shot, and Pneumococcal. Because this was the first time seeing our doctor since Harper was born (her doctor was on vacation during Harper’s birth so we saw another doctor in her office), we wanted to talk to her more about the shots before going through with them. We were glad that she was understanding and told us we could come back at Harper’s 4 month appointment and do her shots then.
When Harper’s 4 month appointment rolled around I had time to go over more information and talk to some of the moms who chose to follow alternative schedules. Freddie and I decided to skip the Pentacel and give her the DTAP and Hib separately. Since Pentacel is a rather new cocktail, we didn’t feel comfortable overloading her immune system with all three viruses at once. Plus, because Polio is unheard of in the US and we do not travel much, we figured we were safe to skip the Polio vaccine for now. We also decided to skip the Pneumococcal all together for the time being. We thought two vaccines at once was plenty. When I told Harper’s pediatrician about our decision I could tell she wasn’t totally happy, but she was respectful.
That was a tough day. Harper was definitely traumatized by the shots. I could tell she was in pain and would wake up from her nap in tears (which she never does). My normally happy baby was very upset and was hard to calm. I finally called the nurse and she told me I should put an ice pack on the site of the shot and give her some baby Tylonol. That seemed to work to ease the pain but she was still very fussy for about a week. On top of that, she had terrible diarrhea that lasted for two weeks.
When it came around to giving Harper her next round of shots at her 6 month appointment I talked to the doctor about her reaction the first time. She brushed it off, saying Harper probably had some sort of bug and said she would be fine. The predicament that I was in at that point was that we had already started Harper on a series of vaccinations. In order for the first round of vaccinations to be effective, you need to follow-up with 2 rounds of booster shots. So even though I was reluctant to give her another set of shots, I felt that I had to go through with them so that her first round wasn’t for nothing. Well, Harper did a better job at recovering from the initial poke and didn’t seem to be as sore. However, she was plagued by the same diarrhea for another 2 weeks straight! I called the doctor to tell her about it and she said it was probably just a coincidence.
As much as I respect and am grateful for the medical community, as a mother, you blessed with a greater wisdom than any number of years of schooling could get you. I know my daughter well enough to know that she had a strong reaction to the shots. Luckily, the fussiness passed and she seemed to be unfazed by the diarrhea after a while. But as her 9 month appointment rolled around, I was having a hard time deciding what I would do for the third and final booster. At this point, she has gone through 2 rounds already and has experienced a hard time with both. I am grateful that she seemed to recover but it took 2 weeks. I feel like I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I would hate for her to have gone through all of that for nothing and miss the third round, but at the same time, I worry about her reaction to the third shot being worse than the previous reactions. It is hard to see your baby go through something that. However, the bottom line is, I would probably feel a whole lot worse if she ended up getting any of these diseases as a result of me choosing not to vaccinate her.
Well, I seemed to have dodged a bullet, at lease for today. Uncle Quincy was in town visiting so I asked the doctor if we could postpone her booster, just in case she did have a reaction. I would hate for her to have to miss out on spending time with her Uncle because she wasn’t feeling well. So we scheduled her final booster for next week. Which gives me some more time to think about it and do more research on possible alternative options.
It is times like this that being a parent is most difficult for me. You want what is best for your child. Yet, the decision isn’t black or white. Standing at the fork in the road, it is hard to see where each path ends up. I guess you just go with your heart and trust that it is right.