The anti-vax movement and the pursuit of perfection

⇒  Parents just want what is best for their kids  ⇐

So, Easter season seems as good a time as to resurrect this blog from the grave, eh?  Just as I was hitting my stride as a stay-at-home mom, hubby and I decided to upend ourselves and move from South Florida to Orlando.  Pros: better job opportunities for him, proximity to Disney World.  Cons: have you ever moved with a toddler???? (see Hyperbole & a Half’s post about moving with her dogs here, but replace it with a human being with the ability to recall people and places to you and the same amount of ability to cope with change).  Needless to say, we’ve lived here since late January and he’s finally just getting used to it.

Anyway, I felt a pressing need to share my thoughts with the internet today because of the anti-vaccine movement getting attention in the national media (although I just had to Google how to spell vaccine, so maybe I’m not so qualified to speak on the subject).  First of all, as an avid reader of mommy blogs, mommy boards, mommy Facebook groups… well, pretty much any part of the world wide web that can be modified with the word “mommy”, this stuff is old news to me.  I can even give a startling list of reasons why people don’t want to vaccinate their kids that goes far beyond “Jenny McCarthy said it would give my kid autism”.  A lot of the commentary towards this group is now happening from people who are not parents.  They don’t hear the debates going round and round between the pro- and anti- groups.  Furthermore, they don’t understand the pressure and fear and sense of responsibility that a parent feels for a child.  And that is what it comes to – wanting to do what is best for our kids.

There is a problem, though, with this kind of thinking, this “crunchy mom” mentality, when taken to an extreme.  It’s this idea, it seems, of reaching perfection.  They use words like “clean” (anyone should know that is an impossible standard with kids) to describe their diets.  They think that just eliminating all “toxins” from their diet, health/beauty products, cleaning supplies, etc. will protect them from getting cancer or autism or any disease for that matter.  Now, there is nothing wrong with eating healthy and knowing about what is going into our food supply (using the term “food” loosely here).  We read ingredients, try to buy organic and non-GMO while we can, and, for the most part, avoid processed foods.  There is also nothing wrong with avoiding problematic chemicals in our cleaning and health regiments.  As we get new information about things, it is always good to reconsider what we are bringing into our homes and bodies.  The issue is when you think that you can control every variable, every bad thing out there to manufacture this perfect life for yourself and your family.  You can’t.

I know the anxiety, probably better than those trying to live that lifestyle.  I know it isn’t possible.  I know we live with risk.  It’s hard going against the mainstream.  It is even harder trying to know where to put the balance.  Which battles to fight.  It’s a lot easier to throw yourself completely to one extreme.  You don’t have to think – you just follow the prescribed path.  No vaccines, only organic foods and clothes, only babywearing, only breastfeeding, only wait-it-out, only RIE, only attachment parenting.  Let someone else create the guidelines and you just follow them.  It is so much harder to know which parts of which “philosophies” to follow (sorry for all the quote marks – there are just a lot of buzz words floating around my head when I get on this subject).  The anxiety of giving my kid non-organic meat on occasion.  Trying to find the *right* cleaning supplies to not kill us but will still actually clean.  Should I do more research on fluoride?   Is letting my son cry right now going to ruin him psychologically?

As I keep repeating, we all want what’s best for our kids.  No one is going into this trying to be a bad person.  The problem is, while we should continue to question and research what goes into vaccines, we should also not simply fear-monger and protest something that has clearly demonstrated its effectiveness over time.  We are lucky to live in a time where these diseases are so obscure that we can tell ourselves that they are no big deal.  There is this quaint belief that people all lived these healthy, non-toxic, blissful lives before technology changed things.  Everyone was having natural births, breastfeeding, and never suffered illness (and, if they did, it was purely due to unhygienic practices).  C-sections, formula, and other medical interventions somehow get labeled as hurting us.  I do agree that the *over use* of any medical intervention is worse than letting nature take its course.  However, when someone asks, “Well, what did we do before _blank_?”, the answer is probably something related to death.  How did all those babies eat before there was formula?  Well, if the mother was having supply issues, and there wasn’t a wet-nurse available, they most likely died.  All those women birthing babies out in the fields without ultrasounds or doctors or midwives present  – a lot of them died.  Medicine does have its place.  It is not necessary in every or even a lot of instances, but doctors aren’t always out to get you or make a quick buck.  If vaccines were really as bad as the anti-vaxers say, 99% of pediatricians in the U.S. would be committing malpractice.

There is a reason that the new outbreaks are happening specifically in wealthy areas.  It is like the ultimate #whitepeopleproblems.  These people have access to good health care as well as good nutrition and general living conditions – that makes them less vulnerable to the effects of the disease if they were to get it as well as a strong immune system to fight it from the beginning.  Not everyone has that luxury.

Which brings me to my next point – while we all want what’s best for our own children, we cannot ignore the greater good.  There are things I do for my family that are not benefiting our society or planet.  I cannot stand used baby/kids items.  I don’t care how clean it is.  It is horrible that I will not go into a consignment store or even borrow from a friend unless absolutely necessary (one friend gave me a few pieces of baby clothing that she no longer needed – I was so happy to find out that she was pregnant again just to have an excuse to give it back).  I also don’t share my son’s clothes (thankfully I had the excuse of moving before, and now they are all airtight sealed and stored).  This is horrible for the environment.  I do, however, cloth diaper.  Most people use disposables.  That works better for their family (generally speaking), but worse for the planet.  We all do these things, but, sometimes, we need to recognize that our children are part of a global society and that their actions, as well as our actions on their behalf, impact the world at large.  Not vaccinating a child makes them a better transmitter of that disease than a vaccinated child.  This has a huge impact when it comes to the immune-compromised, pre-vaccination infants, and those actually allergic to the vaccine components.  These are people who need all of our protection.  It is more than just “well, if vaccines work so well, then your vaccinated kid shouldn’t be affected by my decision to not vaccinate” (also, fun fact, vaccines are NOT 100% effective, so, actually, that statement is false).  So while you are trying to maintain the crystal clean bubble around your family, it is not possible to actually live in a bubble at all.

One last piece to my rant – just because a group is supposedly on the liberal side of the spectrum, especially when it comes to these “crunchy” issues, doesn’t mean that they are not also trying to make a dollar.  Sign up for the Environmental Working Group “information” emails; every single one of them is a plea for donations.  These groups have the ability to make money off of misinformation and ignorance just as well as anyone else.  Not only is education invaluable, but so is the knowledge that you may not be educated enough to do the research on your own and interpret the science and data accurately.  Intuition is great, but it is not enough.

Where I’ve been…

Well, it’s been a while, guys.  Don’t even know where to start, but I better make it fast since Dylan just woke up from his nap (A real nap! An hour and 40 minutes! Maybe I should have taken a shower instead…)

Dylan is 10 months old now and much more toddler than baby.  He is highly social and HUGE!  That six-pound little dumpling I gave birth to is now over 22 pounds (estimated – he was 21.5 at his 9-month checkup).  He is “talking” like crazy and already says “up” and “dada” (well, he was saying “up” at 5 months, but prefers babababa and some noises that I can’t really replicate on a keyboard much more now).  He smiles all the time and flirts with strangers.  Daddy is the funniest person in the world, but if Mommy “exceeds maximum distance” (I feel like I’m writing a research paper with all of these quotes), it is very sad.  He started out strong with solid food, but is still a boob man and we are trying to work on introducing more foods to him as he has taken a step back.  Not crawling yet, but rolls and reaches like nobody’s business and is starting to cruise alongside his crib and pack ‘n play (and anything else within reach.. couch backs, strollers, etc.).  He will also do “monkey face” on command, which is him sticking out his lower lip and sometimes his tongue.

As for me, I guess the big news is that I quit my job back in November to stay home full-time.  For those that read all of my previous posts on the matter, you will know that I am feeling so blessed to be able to do this.  We are surviving off of student loans (If hubby was working and not in school, we wouldn’t be able to do this).  There were a lot of reasons why I left, namely that I was LOSING money going to work, and that was before the daycare bills!  Add on the exhaustion from both of us with prepping bottles and carting the baby around between daycare and my mother-in-law, hubby was really struggling with school, which was a much bigger investment than my paltry salary.  Not to mention, my bosses were less than supportive of my new role as mother, especially when it came to pumping at work.  It was to the point that I was not allowed to attend meetings because I was “spending too much time away from my desk” in order to accommodate my pumping schedule of 3 times per day in order to produce enough milk (most days) to send off with my son.  And this came from the boss that was pro-breastfeeding!  Now, my work performance hadn’t suffered at all, keep in mind.  I was just unsupervised for those times when I was locked up in a dressing room attaching suction cups to my boobs.  A real party if you ask me.  Now, I was already job hunting, but nothing was really coming to fruition.  There was one job that I was in the process of applying for when I gave my 2-weeks notice, but we decided as a family that the house was in such shambles and the baby was on such a non-schedule that he had stopped sleeping through the night that I really needed to be at home for a while to take care of things (plus, we were also talking about moving when hubby graduates, so it would be pointless to take a job only to need to leave shortly thereafter).

So, now I’m a stay-at-home mom (a title I never imagined for myself – it still doesn’t feel real) trying to get the house and baby back in order.  Despite working for 3 months, I was still able to keep up exclusive breastfeeding (plus solid foods now) and cloth diapering, so now I get to be the hippy-dippy, baby-wearing, organic food shopping, co-sleeping (only in emergencies!) mom that I never thought I would want to be.

Crap, I need a not-cheesy way to end this post, but the baby is screaming from the pack ‘n play to be retrieved.  Tootles!

Dylan’s Birth Story

Dylan Alexander Fry
Born 5/17/12
6 pounds
18 inches

A 3 week hiatus after my last entry was probably a bit dramatic, no? Rather than drone on about new motherhood and nursing troubles and baby blues, I would rather focus on telling Baby Dylan’s birth story before mom-nesia (or whatever it is called) removes it from my memory completely.

The day started out with me on the couch for what would be my last day of bed rest. My ultrasound appointment was at 1:30 to recheck my amniotic fluid levels, so, on the off-chance that I would be going to the hospital that day and not allowed to eat, I ate a large lunch of leftover meatballs in cream sauce and corn (foreshadowing: this was a terrible plan).

I was sure that the gallon+ of water I had been drinking daily would maintain my fluid after the IV from the week prior or, at most, it would have dropped by maybe a centimeter, which would still keep me out of the hospital. Someone else had other plans. Fluid was down all the way to 4 cm (for the record, 5 cm is critical, I was at 6 cm when I got the IV, & I left the hospital at 9.5 cm). That meant that the baby needed to be delivered ASAP to avoid compression of the umbilical cord. I figured that would mean a Friday morning delivery (see: monstrous lunch). A call to my OB and, instead, I was scheduled for a C-section that evening.

Hubby was in another county at his new internship. I told him not to rush up thinking that the surgery would be at 7 or 8 pm that night and he got out at 4 (notice the trend – I think one thing, something else happens…). Thank goodness he didn’t listen to me since, when I got to the hospital, my OB said that everything was set for a 5pm delivery. Of course, since it was a “scheduled” cesarean, they would wait for him, but my nerves were shot already, and waiting any longer than I had to for him might have killed me.

After my OB let me have a good, long cry to mourn, basically, the exact type of birth I DIDN’T want (an early scheduled c-section), I was sent to the exam room to get prepped and wait for the OR to be ready for me (there was one cesarean ahead of me). I changed into my hospital gown and was hooked up to the annoying ass fetal monitors for the last time (and I remembered my elastic straps for them for every hospital visit to avoid getting charged as the nurse told me the first time – I like to think I impressed everyone with that). After an eternity, David showed up to relieve my mom.

What was supposed to be a 5pm operation got pushed back due to the c-section before mine taking longer than expected.  The nurse was waiting on the okay to give me all the medicines that were required before I got cut open (most of which were due to me eating lunch that day since generally you want to operate on someone with an empty stomach).  The wait in the exam room took forever, and the bed was ridiculously uncomfortable.  At some point, I started having contractions.  David and I joked that it would be hilarious if, after all that, I went into labor waiting for the OR to open up.  Finally, I was told that I could walk to the OR (really?  they couldn’t be bothered to wheel me to the operating table???).  Of course, gravity took over when I stood up, and I decided that I should probably get one last pee in before I get cut open.  This was not the best plan since I was hooked up to an IV that wasn’t on a pole.  Seriously, the accommodations at this hospital were severely lacking.

Once I got to the OR, the panic began to set in.  The room was small, but overwhelming.  The operating table was too high up for me to sit on normally, so they had to get me a step.  That still wasn’t enough, so I had to hoist myself up under my own power.  Then, the fun part came – the spinal.  I would rather go through an unmedicated vaginal birth than have a spinal put in again.  Each jab was insanely painful – and there were about 10 to 15 of them at least.  After what seemed like eons of needles getting shoved in my spine, I was finally allowed to lay down on the table and the curtain went up.  I didn’t see much after that; all I was waiting on was for David to get in the room.  I knew everything would be okay once he was there.  Once he arrived, he was about to be his charming, joking self, but the doctor had to tell him to be quiet since they had started recording.  David mouthing “I love you” is one of the only clear memories left I have of that day.

Then, the fun began.  While I couldn’t feel any “pain” persay, I felt everything that was going on behind that curtain.  There was so much tugging and pulling and pressure.  David said that it looked like an earthquake with all the movement.  I even could tell the moment they pulled the baby out – there was some extra pressure, then a big release.  Before I heard him cry, I knew he was born.  Suddenly, the curtain fell a bit and my doctor held Dylan up over it to show us.  She was waiting for us to take a picture, but David could see me cut open and just wanted them to sew me back up.  I insisted that he take a picture of our new son or I would never forgive him.  As David says, “that was no place for a baby!”

They took the baby over to the table to clean him.  After insisting that he didn’t want to before the baby was born, David finally agreed to cut the umbilical cord.  I guess after seeing my surgery, cutting an unnecessary organ wasn’t such a big deal.  The most amazing part was that he was crying right until David started talking – then he stopped.  He already knew his voice.  Once Dylan was cleaned and swaddled, they brought him over to me.  I had no idea what to do with him.  I think someone finally told me to give him a kiss.  It was too surreal.  I was just laying on a table, and now I had a baby.  I asked them if I could try to breastfeed him before they took him away.  A nurse grabbed my boob and stuck it in his mouth, but he didn’t take.  They took him away to have a bath while I finished getting repaired.

Once I was done getting sewn up, I was supposed to be taken to a recovery room, but ended up in maternity triage instead, which was much noisier and less private.  I was held there for 2 hours without Dylan while I tried (unsuccessfully) to keep down my lunch and get some rest before being brought to my room.  Someone left the Heat game on, and I felt the need to tell everyone that I didn’t choose for it to be on the TV – it was already on when I arrived.  Finally, David and my parents took turns visiting me and giving me updates on the baby.  He absolutely hated his bath and fought with the nurse the whole time (an indicator of his current state).  He also got 9s on both APGARs thanks to his strength and penchant for screaming.  I, meanwhile, focused so hard on attempting to move my toes that I made myself sick.

After 2 hours, the nursed wheeled me to my room.  All of my family was in there with the baby waiting for me.  It didn’t last long, though, since I needed to try and nurse him again, so everyone left.  I don’t remember the rest of that day very well.  I remember Dylan fussing that night while David and I tried to sleep.  Every time he heard one of our voices, he would stop, though, so we spent most of the night shushing or saying his name to keep him calm.

I will try to remember the rest later & hopefully include more pictures – it’s hard getting an entry written and taking care of Dylan by myself at home (I started this entry almost a week ago).