*I wrote this piece back when Veda was 6 months old but never posted it because i didn't want to invite anymore unwanted concern or feedback. And I still don't, but at this point I don't feel so vulnerable on the topic, and because this is a personal decision that we all have to make I wanted to share our experience 'in the minority'.
A good while back, when Veda was barely 6 months old, we were all invited to go upstate and spend an afternoon of lunch and swimming at a friend's lake house. These friends are more like a surrogate New York family to my husband. We were thrilled to have the invitation, hopped in the car and drove upstate one sunny Saturday afternoon.
Shortly after we arrived lunch was served on the long farm table overlooking the lake. Everyone was oohing and ahing over Veda as they asked, "So what is Veda eating these days!?" Veda was just 5 and a half months old. She was exclusively breast fed at the time (and was for many more months to come). My husband and I used to joke about her diet by asking one another, "So, what's on the menu for Veda this evening?"
"Oh, well she will start with a breastmilk burrata drizzled with a breastmilk reduction and a slight shaving of truffled breastmilk. For her main course she will be having the breastmilk ragu. And for dessert she will have the breastmilk panna cotta."
But I digress. To their question we of course answered, 'breastmilk!' They wondered when we were going to start her on solids, which is a common question. I always found it an odd one though because I don't see what the rush for food is all about. And my answer was always that we would give her food when she seemed to want it. I do not mistake her grabbing a handful of arugula off of my plate to mean that she is ready to eat it. She would grab a heaping pile of poop off of the table and put it in her mouth if she had the chance. Her grabbing reflex is a healthy developmental milestone that is just about grabbing. I believe that when she is able to sit up on her own, no longer thrusts her tongue out pushing the food away when offered to explore it, and seems to genuinely enjoy the experience of food and ask for more, then I will know she is ready. But aside from all that, we explained to our friends that because we have chosen not to vaccinate her, we are hoping to keep the bacteria that comes with eating food out of her gastrointestinal track for as long as possible. I surely will not deprive my little explorer of worldly delight when she is ready, but for immunological reasons the longer we can keep her purely breast fed, the better. Because we are following a more natural course with regard to her development, health and well-being, we believe that her immature and undeveloped immune and digestive systems would be best served with adequate time to blossom on their own before introducing the wild invaders that are vaccines. This is why we are not vaccinating right now, and likely ever. And this is why we are happy to take our time before introducing foods. It worked out well that Veda wasn't really a fan until after her first birthday anyway.
The silence that followed my explanation was thick. I can still hear it now! Apparently, talking about vaccinations is as controversial as talking about religion or politics, maybe even more so. Rookie mama over here did not realize this was the case. People with no education on the topic hold fairly strong views about how we should handle our own child's health. To this I say, thanks, but no thanks. Really, no thanks (insert dead pan stare from mama bear).
In the moment I was not totally sure how to respond to the heavy hush in the room, so I didn't. I do not feel I should have to justify my choices to anyone, especially those whose argument is unfounded and therefore irrelevant. The silence was then followed up with an incredibly awkward segue into a new topic.
The next day, however, the awkward silence was broken when we received a lengthy email with grave concern and a mountain of judgment. A laborious debate ensued as my husband tried to prove that we are thoughtful, responsible, educated people. His friend bombarded us with article after article warning us of the dangers of infectious disease and herd immunity, (as though he were shedding light on a corner of this very serious topic which we may have dumbly overlooked.) Come on, we all know how to google as good as the next guy. We were called both irresponsible parents and citizens.
I didn't realize until then how charged this topic was. I mean, I feel multidimensionally passionate about our choice, but fairly neutral about others' choice on the topic. This is such a delicate and personal choice to make. We live in a toxic world and how we choose to protect our children from earthly filth depends greatly on what we think we most need to protect against. How we see this planet and the various ecosystems at play is a major factor.
In my worldview, the pharmaceutical system and our diseased ecosystem are one in the same and that is what I want to protect Veda from. Preserving Veda from participating in that system and instead keeping her nourished on organic plants and animals from the purist sources I can find and treating any imbalances with natural plants, herbs, oils, tinctures and tonics is the best route I can see to take. I would never turn up my nose at western medicine if it was seriously needed one day. I'm sure it has its time and place, but I definitely do not use that system as a source of prevention. And I find the entire cycle of tampered water, toxic crops and pharmaceutical cures to the imbalances that those things create in our bodies to be the most terrifying thing of all. With all due respect to those who grew up with the fear of polio, I am way less worried about polio today than I am about this vicious cycle we are all unfortunately trapped in. And it's important to note that the vaccines that many of us got in the 70s and 80s were relatively harmless compared to what they look like today, not just in content but in quantity as well.
My baby's well being is the most important thing to me, as it is to every mama in the world. Given the fact that we live in such a toxic world, vaccinating is a perfectly valid idea, but we must look closer at what it's all about. Our medical system is just as corrupt as our political system, food system, and every other system that is contaminated by profiteering. If you look into vaccinations what you find is a really big corporation making a lot of money. And at the risk of sounding like a total hippie, left wing liberal nut job (which i proudly am), if you follow the thread of pharmaceutical greed back to its roots what you will see is that it's a big government/corporation mess. A hotbed of agenda for keeping people fat, sick, and nearly dead. I am not holding off on vaccines to make a political statement, I simply can't bring myself to pollute my daughter's sacred body when i feel i can offer her an alternative path for well being.
In just the past one and half years of Veda's existence, she has never had more then a minor cold where in contrast i have witnessed many of her peers suffering from ear infection after ear infection after strep throat. There is something to be said for the fact that the unvaccinated kids i know of are all the healthiest. Their immunity seems to be stronger by leaps and bounds. That is what we are looking to continue protecting, that natural immunity which no medicine, supplement or money could buy. And breastmilk has a lot to do with the process of building strong natural immunity because our milk is so rich with antibodies.
I can actually understand where those on the other side of this debate are coming from. It's a very tough choice to make! There are risks and fears on both ends. And unfortunately, there are really only two very opposing ends here. That is part of what makes it so hard for parents because there is so little information out there that isn't heavily slanted one way or the other. I don't believe that my daughter is a public health threat or that we are diminishing "the herd" effect. I believe that information and sanitation has more to do with the disappearance of many diseases. In fact, the Center for Disease Control came out validating that the rise in the recent whooping cough epidemic had nothing to do with the lowered "herd immunity" and was actually a byproduct of the vaccine itself; where the vaccine only encouraged the disease to mutate leaving the current vaccine both ineffective and dangerous. This is a common occurrence with vaccines and has also been seen with the HPV vaccine. Speaking of HPV, just as an aside, one of its lead researchers recently came out and spoke against the product she helped create and sell because "she wanted to be able to sleep at night."
There are a lot of facts out there and you can likely find the research to back up either side. There are horror stories on both ends. The topic of vaccinations has been one of the most difficult, complicated, confronting and challenging choices I have faced thus far in my brief parenting career. My brain literally hurt from all the hours I spent, bleary eyed, scouring online research, medical journals, books and films about modern vaccines. I have come to the very delicate and personal conclusion that the risk of vaccinating far outweighs the risk of not vaccinating. And in alignment with my general parenting protocol, I'd like to allow Veda to develop naturally.
If you are a parent still having this conversation with your spouse and/or doctor, I wish you well in your decision making process. At the end of a long road of research, my heart is finally uncontaminated. I know where I stand and I feel peace. My husband still likes to consider the possibility of vaccinating our daughter later in childhood (like after 7 years old), perhaps for far flung travel. I am open to discuss that when the time comes. A seven year old body is a very different system then an infant or toddler's body. As with any complex topic, it's good to stay open and ever-informed.
While I have kept this choice pretty much under wraps since the screaming silence and following shame-a-thon we last endured, I do feel it's good to discuss it within the right company. Is a public blog "right company"? Probably not, but oh well. This conversation is so much more then vaccinations. It's about addressing the paradigm of how we understand health, prevention, healing, natural systems, and organic living. And it's also exposing how we engage with the government and the systems that are currently (unsuccessfully) in place in this country. For me, coming face to face with 'to vaccinate or not' was really about coming face to face with my deepest values about life, well being and my commitment to new paradigms and higher levels of consciousness.
But the reality of this position is that, when I hear that there is a whooping cough outbreak in the Northeast, i get nervous. That is just the reality of not vaccinating, but it's a reality that I prefer to the alternative. And there are homeopathic options for temporary inoculations called nosodes that are very much worth exploring.
Just do your homework and your inner work and it will all work out. And for those of you still on the fence, here is a piece of my favorite advice, "When you don't know what to do don't do anything at all." You can always vaccinate, but you can never un-vaccinate. There is no real harm in waiting until your children are school aged or at least over one. No need to rush it, despite what many eager pediatricians will tell you. Time is a wonderful thing to take advantage of.
Here is a link to why this dad chose not to vaccinate. Clear and excellent points to consider: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11532/8-reasons-i-havent-vaccinated-my-daughter.html
*And speaking of awesomely progressive and unpushy pediatricians, i totally recommend this book: http://www.amazon.com/Raise-Healthy-Child-Spite-Doctor/dp/0345342763
If you take one look at the author you will know that everything he has to say is trustworthy and awesome. Also, note that this forward-thinking book was written in the 80's. This man is a trail blazer and i sort of love him. I trust any doctor who trusts in Mama's wisdom.