My youngest was diagnosed with autism at the goddamn peak of the anti-vax movement. I’ve written loads about that time but I haven’t yet been ready to share the intimate details of my righteous anger regarding the anti-vax movement and how it affected us directly then, and even now.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Two years before Kate was born, we had Grace. Sweet Grace, who doesn’t say much, and is a sensitive soul, was our first. She has many vaccinations leading up to her 18 month shots, and we asked no questions, because as a teacher and an engineer we decided to leave the science to the scientists. However, on the day of those infamous 18 month shots, our nurse informed us that our little Buddha baby was going to get three needles. As first-time, overprotective parents, we inquired whether we could split those needles up, just in an attempt to save our Grace from the pain. Our doctor, who I remember as a very sweet, very smart, resident, said the following: “Do you take medical advice from Jenny McCarthy?”
(Disclaimer: This WILL NOT shit on Jenny McCarthy or any other mother led down the wrong path by con-people and the like. I am merely re-telling my story)
Having less than zero knowledge of the anti-vax movement at this time in 2008, I answered, “No”, thinking my doctor was a little odd. Maybe I should have been aware, but after a brutal pregnancy, I was far from up to date on current trends.
The nurse went on to give Grace her three needles and we went home, and continued our sleepless first year.
Over the course of that year, the strange “Jenny McCarthy” commnet began to make sense. I shrugged it off, grateful, that I didn’t get sucked into the drama, and continued on my journey to make that second, most awesome baby, we called Kate.
Now, with Kate, we were very careful to follow doctor’s orders from conception on and will continue to do so, as we do for big sister. The difference was, with Kate, the anti-vax movement was strong. Close friends and neighbors, and even some family, had comments to make about whether we would vaccinate our second born.
We scoffed, of course. We were going to vaccinate our baby, because we knew that vaccinations caused ADULTS, and we so wanted our babies to grow old.
No, I won’t pretend, that hearing these things over, and over, from people I respected didn’t make me wonder, think, question our decision for a moment, but in the end, thankfully, we let the science do the talking and fully-vaccinated our second baby, as well.
It was soon after that we noticed Kate was missing those damn “milestones” that baby books and baby shows, and other parents consider crucial (which is a whole other crock of shit if you ask me).
We were worried, of course, because Kate wasn’t talking, or making eye-contact. She was experiencing, what we now know is, major sensory-overload, and meltdowns that would shake up our home. She was toe-walking and had a very limited palette (many of these things are the same today, and that's okay)
(Disclaimer #2: Please do not try and diagnose your child, grand-child, husband, cat, whatever, with the symptoms I have listed here. Just as with vaccinations, see your doctor, please). Our Diagnosis story can be read here.
After the diagnosis, which happened relatively quickly thanks to a brave family member who had the courage to chat with us about the possibility, we barely had time to process when the comments started:
Did you notice things were different after her 18 month shots?
Well, yes, yes we did. It’s because so many of those milestones she missed were due to come out right around then, but yes, you go ahead and make me feel like a shitty parent for vaccinating my baby, Barbara.
Did she act differently the day she was given the 18 month needles?
Yes, yes she did. She had just been given three needles after an hour long wait in the doctor’s office, Janet, and she was rightly pissed off that day, but you go ahead and tell your whole church group that things changed immediately after her vaccinations.
And so on….
And you know what really sucks.
Beyond the guilt laid on parents and caregivers, beyond the guilt we take on ourselves, for so many reasons, you tried to add more. And worse….
What really hurt was that people then, and EVEN NOW, would rather risk the death of their child from a formally eradicated disease such as measles than have a child, with autism, like mine.
We know vaccines don’t cause autism.
We know the harm the anti-vax movement has done to so many, and still some of you would risk it, to prevent a life like mine. To prevent a little girl like mine.
She’s perfect, you know. You have no idea.
That makes me angry.
Not just angry that you are stupid, but angry that you don’t know how stupid you are.
Now, go vaccinate your babies.
Happy Mail to:
27 Wellington Row
Saint John, NB
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Grace and Kate's mom. (Shanell)