Identity in flux – again

What a moment

The internet has been a powerful tool for me in my journey into motherhood. It has given me the possibility to be in touch with (mostly) women who inspire and inform me on topics that I am passionate about. It has also triggered me to reconsider who I am and what my values are. Many of the choices I have made as a parent and a person are considered to be way outside the realm of what is acceptable.

It has been hurtful to read some of the scathing and bitingly rude opinions that exist on topics that I am passionate about. It has also been humbling to find very solid and sound support.

I am still somewhat naive and somehow hope for a reality where people are tolerant of differences in opinion and do not feel the need to attack with quite so much viciousness. I think I need to let go of that ideal. There are people who will wish me ill, question my intelligence, question my reasoning/judgement, question my decision making ability. Essentially my choices will intimidate some and there is nothing I can do about that.

Through this process I have learnt that I too have been judgemental.

There is no right or wrong. Although it pains me to write that. I desperately want there to be a right and wrong. It makes life so much easier.

However, there just is not a categorical right or wrong that can be applied in every situation when it comes to being a parent. Short of parents being true to their abilities and doing the best they can in any given situation.

Why all this contemplating my belly button?

I feel the need to check myself and the more unorthodox choices I have made. Have I just been brain washed by forums on the internet? Am I loosing my ability to think for myself and subscribing to ‘group think’?

On the issue of vaccinations, I wrote about a year ago on my suspicions for not using vaccinations as my preferred choice of preventative medicine. Today I am still not 100% confident in my choice not to vaccinate my son.

My choice lies mostly in my concern with the lack of long term safety known on the practice of artificially stimulating the immune system, as well as the missing data (and curiosity) on the safety of injecting common vaccine ingredients. I also am concerned about the efficacy attributed to vaccines. I do not think enough is known about how vaccines work in the body for there to be a clear enough understanding on what the side effects could be.

I also do not think vaccines are ‘causing’ anything, from diabetes to autism. I believe they can be a trigger for some babies/children/adults in some cases. The individual make up of the person: their genes, their nutritional status, their overall health. These things make a difference with regards to how people respond to vaccines. And unfortunately this seems to be little appreciated by some people who like to shroud themselves in science and say that they are 100% certain vaccines are safe and effective for pretty much every baby, child and adult – bar the odd very unusual case.

I don’t know if I am making the right choice or not. At the moment my choice is based on a hunch that the medical scientific community are not necessarily telling the whole truth when it comes to vaccines and diseases. They put all the benefit on the vaccine and all the risk on the disease. It is a very biased and overly simplified approach.

Being told I was too stupid to make the choice for myself, that my baby would die without the vaccines and to stop reading on the internet only piqued my anger and curiosity. It did not make me trust the people who were insulting me, and it did not make me think I should do as they say. It made me think that I need to understand just why they are so scared that they are prepared to bully me.

So, today I am in a situation where my 21 month old son has yet to be vaccinated. I check myself constantly. And for now I have yet to find a compelling reason to go ahead and vaccinate my son. I might find that reason. I am open to a sincere discussion. I might need to ask many more questions before I have a firm enough handle of the issues.

It is not easy to make choices that are ridiculed. It is horrible to have people mock and insult you, like what I have seen on the internet. And yet, as in the playground, that is not a good enough reason to just do what other people are doing, just to get the bully off my back



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11 responses to “Identity in flux – again

  1. This is a wonderful post. It really spoke to me. I’m going to feature it on my blog today. Thank you.

    • mamawork

      Hi Annie,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment.

      This post came after days (well make that going on two years actually) of questioning my choice and trying to understand the process by which I have made that choice. It also came with the realisation that despite my passion on this topic, there is room for different choices.

      It is similar with breastfeeding. I have had to learn to not see the sadness of a mother weaning her infant from her breast, but rather see the positive of the period of time she did breastfeed. I think as a society we would probably be better off if most infants were exclusively breastfed. And yet, it is such a personal choice, and bullying women into making such a personal choice is only going to undermine them.

      I have LLL to thank for much of my tolerance. It is only through seeing how essential support for new mothers is, that I have been able to swallow my judgement when a mother chooses not to breastfeed, and listen to her reasons why with a compassionate heart.

      That was a rather long reply. I know you are passionate about breastfeeding and I often use your blog for inspiration and information.

      Thank you

  2. Pingback: IComLeaveWe: Day 7 | PhD in Parenting

  3. I came across your blog via PhD in Parenting and feel compelled to leave a comment on this entry. Essentially: yes–I hear you. I’m in the same boat with vaccinations (or non-vax, specifically) and while I’m attempting to make the best decisions for my 13 months old, and I think I am, my confidence isn’t necessarily always at that 100% level of which some others (in the pro-vax camp) seem to boast. As much as I would like to bask in the glorious radiance of my peers’ acceptance (hah!), I can’t ignore the voice of caution that starts hollering whenever I begin to feel like lying down and throwing my hands up. And so I go on, reading more, listening to my intuition, and building my base of knowledge in an attempt (continuous) to not only reassure myself that I’m leading my family down the right path but also to keep an eye out for signs that we’ve made a wrong turn. What else can you do as a parent but your best? And then do your better best if you realize that you’ve made a mistake along the way (surely not me! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). Anyway, just some solidarity of motherhood coming your way this morning. Thank you for honesty in your post.

    • mamawork

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving your message. I sometimes feel myself torn between people who are very confident in their opinions. Both sides of the debate will not consider changing their opinion, and at times, both sides sling mud and perpetuate myths.

      I too am slowly building my knowledge. At times I am reading up studies on vaccines, the ingredients, the populations studied, getting my head around how safety and efficacy are defined. To be honest, it has been quite an eye opener. However, recently, I have been more interested in trying to understand the immune system. Particularly the innate immune system. This has opened up a whole new avenue of discovery for me as I have started to look at how immune systems develop and what factors support their development.

      Long ramble ๐Ÿ˜‰

      In short, thanks for stopping by and offering your support and sharing your experience. It is not easy.

  4. I came across your blog via Phd in Parenting. Love the picture on this post! Great moment to capture for years to come!

    On the question of vaccinations, I feel that you are trying to deal with two issues at the same time. Your choice of NOT getting your son vaccinated appears to be based on your feeling that not enough data is available on safety and efficacy of vaccines. At the same time, you feel less than 100% confident of your choice, because there is not enough data to show that not getting vaccinated is safe.

    There will never be “enough” data to reduce the risk of vaccines to zero. Similarly, there will always be cases where children who are not vaccinated will grow up to have robust immune systems. In science, we call this a distribution – there is a “tail” at each end with a big middle. The question is – do you want to be in the tail or in the middle when it comes to health risks?

    The only thing I will say is that you should make your decision based not only on personal feelings, but also a careful understanding of risk based on whatever data is available. Luckily for the most part, getting vaccinated is not like flipping a coin
    anymore. The odds that you will get your answers are quite high. Stay on it – whatever decision you end up making, convince yourself that you made it based on the best information at the tim. If you are unsure of your decision, it means you need to re-examine it.

    Good luck!

  5. mamawork


    First off, thanks for leaving your comment. And most importantly for doing so respectfully.

    The writing of my post came in the wake of me re-examining my choice in light of wading through posts at orac, mainstreamingparenting and sciencebasedmedicine. When I go to those sites, I try to sift through the rhetoric to find some substance. And, TBH, I do not find much reassuring *information*. Certainly not reassuring enough for me to go ahead and confidently vaccinate my son. The bias is rather stark.

    I do not see the risk benefit as being quite so clear as it is presented. Most often the disease is presented as risky and the vaccine as safe. That is an oversimplification and ignores the potential that the illness might not be that dangerous or that the vaccine might not be that safe.

    The questions of efficacy of certain vaccines are just swept under the rug and the questions about definition of safety and establishing safety are very problematic.

    The blanket recommendations to vaccinate every child with every vaccine are not followed up with the information that there are host factors (under our control) that impact on how effective vaccines are. Like breastfed infant’s mounting a superior immune response to vaccines when compared to formula fed infants. I was amazed to read that overweight children do not respond to the tetanus vaccines as well as their healthy weight peers. And it seems fairly well established that nutritional status impacts on how well adults respond to the influenza vaccine.

    I would want to know why that is? How can nutrition be so relevant to vaccination? Is it just some vaccines or is it relevant to all vaccines? And in the case of breastfed infant, why do they respond better? Are parents who choose to formula feed their infants intimidated with their choice possibly reducing the efficacy of vaccination programmes?
    Why are public health officials not doing more to ensure that the mass vaccination initiatives are supported by breastfeeding mothers? Are parents of overweight children told this could impact on how effective the vaccine booster will be?

    What other host factors impact how effective vaccines can be? Where is the discussion on these issues?

    I was also interested to recently read that while the P portion of the DTaP does make a case of pertussis milder if the child is recently vaccinated, that does not mean the case of pertussis will be milder if the vaccinated child contracts pertussis when the immunity from the vaccine has waned. From what I have understood, there could be a mechanism to explain why the coughing could be worse in a vaccinated child whose immunity has waned. And it lies in the innate immune system, the part of the immune system that the vaccine bypasses.

    I am re-examining my choice. And I will continue to question my choice until I have a clearer understanding on how vaccines can fit into the health of my child. I do not see this as a weakness. I see this as a mother who has largely lost her trust in the medical profession and as a result has to rely on herself to look after her family. I know that my pedi cannot answer my questions and would likely just tell me again I am risking my child’s life, again.

    Vaccines are not a simple straightforward drug (although what drug is?). And I think it would be more productive to talk about all the issues with each individual vaccine, rather than lumping them all together.

    I will no doubt requestion myself again and again as I find new information. I do not expect to reduce the risk of vaccines to zero. But I do expect to reduce it well below the risk of the disease itself. My definition of not vaccinating and being safe could be different from yours.

    If you have the time, I am curious about a statement you made in your response:
    “Similarly, there will always be cases where children who are not vaccinated will grow up to have robust immune systems”

    I am not sure if I am understanding this correctly. Are you saying that vaccines play a role in the development of the immune *system*?

    Again, thank you for stopping by. I appreciate your comment. My mind is not made up and I will no doubt still be wrestling with this question for some time to come.

  6. I also came from PhD in Parenting, and I have the same dilemma. I appreciate your writing so intelligently on the subject. My attempt was here: Why we haven’t vaccinated. I have felt out of place in both camps, because there is so much dogmatism and so many polarized viewpoints that it’s hard for me to feel comfortable in the confused and conflicted middle.

    Thanks for writing to my situation, and for inspiring me to keep examining, to keep my mind and eyes open, to keep researching โ€” and to keep hoping that we have made the right choice for now.

    • mamawork

      I am coming to accept that there is no risk free option. For a while I was sure that vaccines were the most monstrous evil and that a parent who vaccinated their children was unintentionally injuring their children. By the same token, I thought the diseases would be 100% ok for a healthy well nourished child.

      Now I am not so sure.

      I do not think either nutrition/lifestyle or vaccination offer a risk free option when it comes to building health.

      At the moment I feel more comfortable building my sons health and doing what I know to support the development of his whole immune system.
      Not stimulating a specific immune response to a specific disease, but rather supporting an immune system that can handle itself with any disease. More to the point, supporting the innate immune system. I also feel more comfortable knowing how to identify the diseases, recognise when complications are arising and how to manage my child’s convalescence.

      I am still learning. I know there is no ‘insurance’ that my son will live to the ripe old age of 90. Neither option is risk free. Right now I just am not comfortable with how the risk/benefit analysis is done for each person along the same line, regardless of the huge array of differences between people when it come to their risk factors. Not every child is at the same risk for complications from the disease, and I am sure not every child is at risk for complications from the vaccine.

      Anyway, as is evident from my replies to comments here, this is a topic I am passionate about.

      I wish you the best in your journey to finding the right choice for your family

  7. This was beautiful. I think it is horrible that women cut each other down so much. Parenting decisions are hard and I try to be respectful of the effort each one takes.

    I also agree that it is hard to be “sure” about anything. I don’t vaccinate but sometimes I get so worried I’ve made the wrong decision. When this happens I go back and re-read all the research that led me to the decision and it usually makes me feel better.

    • mamawork

      You were one of the mothers at MDC who helped me understand more of the issues and inconsistencies in the mass vaccination programmes. I have come a long way from where I was a year ago as I tried to figure out how Hib vaccines were manufactured.

      I still love your seatbelt analogy ๐Ÿ™‚

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