M had his first jabs today. It was surprisingly ok. For both him and me. My mother-in-law said to me, when L had her first jabs; "You've introduced pain into her world" and I of course remembered that again today. But despite the crumpling of his face, and the indignant look he gave me, and the tearless wailing, I can't feel guilty for doing something that I believe can only be of benefit to him.
But it made me think about something I read in Juno in the first few weeks after he was born.
Juno (which was very sweetly sent to me by its editor Saffia, of Motherhood and Anarchy) supports and reports on a natural approach to family life and in many ways it doesn't sound like it's aimed at me. I didn't, and was never tempted to, eat any of my placentas, whether fried or encapsulated (who knew you could even do that?), my kids will go to school, they eat meat and were born in hospital, I use disposables. Our family life is often chaotic but not, in the parenting sense, always very natural.
But other people do do these things, and it is interesting to read about them. As Saffia said in the editorial to the Spring edition, "there is no absolute right way to live... no parenting formula that will ensure you will raise 'perfect' children". If I do something and others don't, that's fine. We're all different. We don't need to judge.
And I read that, and nodded, tolerantly and probably smugly. And then I read this letter. And I realised that I do judge.
I have not vaccinated my baby girl and I feel very much in the minority. With so much ignorance surrounding vaccines I feel as though I have to keep justifying my decision, or just keep quiet so as not to invite judgement and criticism...
Because if I met that woman I would judge. I would want her to justify her decision. I would criticise. Because I just don't get it. More than that. I think, and I know this will offend, but bear with me, that not vaccinating your children is verging on the criminal. If I have my kids at home, or I don't send them to school, or I feed them meat I'm not harming anyone else. You might not agree with my decisions for my children, but they affect only ourselves. I am not putting anyone else in danger.
But if I don't vaccinate my children and they get measles, and they pass that measles on to another child, that child could die. He or she could be brain damaged. Or wind up deaf or blind.
If I choose to put my child's life at risk, that is my choice. Whatever others might think of me and my attitude to parenting, it is only my child who is affected. But if I make a choice that could potentially harm someone else's child, and I do it with disregard for the harm it could do to someone else's child, I honestly don't see how that is different from drink driving. Honestly. If drink drivers only ever killed themselves, would it be seen as such a heinous thing to do? I don't think so.
But before you lynch me for my outrageously blinkered judgementalism, read on. Because Saffia's right. We all parent in our own way, and we shouldn't judge others' choices. And although I am judging at the moment, it is only through ignorance. So can anyone explain it to me? Why do people choose not to vaccinate their children? Even if they still think, despite all the evidence, that MMR is bad for their children why would they also choose not to vaccinate against meningitis, or tetanus, or polio? I honestly don't understand. What are they afraid of? What is it that they are choosing to protect their children from that is worth potentially exposing them to these hideous diseases? I've never read or heard anything that has made me even question my decision to vaccinate my children, but maybe I should have done. What is it that I don't know?
Please do tell me. I don't promise to change my mind about what I have done for my children, but I do promise not to judge. And if I understand, maybe I will be less likely to judge in future.
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