Informed Consent for All

America’s kids are getting sick from either vaccines or vaccine preventable diseases (depending on which camp you’re in) and all we adults do is argue about it instead of working together.

While government and health officials run scared trying to figure out which side to pander to, because well, that’s what many of them do.

Nice.

To make it abundantly clear to anyone who hasn’t met me in real life, I am in the pro-vaccine camp.

As many of you know, there are now approximately 100 people with measles in 14 states. They are part of an ongoing outbreak stemming from Disneyland.

Measles is back in the United States with a vengeance, thanks to pockets of very low vaccination rates in Southern California. Herd immunity in some Southern California immunities has significantly eroded due to parents opting out of vaccination and even sending their children to school with “personal belief” exemptions.

Many of these parents believe that they should not have to disclose their vaccination status or their children’s to anyone. They shouldn’t have to. But here is why they still should.

I have no doubt that parents that don’t vaccinate (for personal belief reasons) believe they are doing the best for their child. That’s what any decent parent wants to do.

“Best” does not equal “perfect”, however. “Perfect” does not exist.

The anti-vaccine movement seems convinced that it does. They believe that herd immunity does not exist and the diseases the shots protect against aren’t that bad. Instead of accepting the very real consequences of not vaccinating, they have convinced themselves there aren’t any.

For some reason, they do not believe our passion comes from wanting to protect our own children as theirs does. Although they want the benefit of the doubt, they cannot give it to us. They believe we simply want to control them. (Like it’s possible to control anyone, as most parents well know.)

Nobody gets “perfect” in this world. Vaccinating isn’t perfect and not vaccinating isn’t. If we have to adjust to parents not vaccinating, then they need to do the right thing and allow us the “informed consent”, they so passionately insist upon. They want to know the true dangers of vaccines and I am all for the dissemination of accurate information about them. I also want to know the true dangers my child is exposed to. Walking past them in the store is one thing. Sitting next to them all day in school is another.

If I’m going to consent to send my child to a school that allows personal belief exemptions, then I deserve to know how many unvaccinated kids attend that school.

You have the freedom to avoid the minimal risk of vaccines. We deserve the same freedom to avoid the risk of exposure to a vaccine preventable disease from an unvaccinated child. It’s not fair for you to be able to protect your kids from the risk you perceive to be bigger (vaccines) and not allow us the same privilege.

If parents won’t step up, then doctors, school officials, and government officials need to quit running scared and take a stand. Do away with personal belief exemptions or require schools and daycare to provide the number of unvaccinated kids at their facilities to all parents.

Meanwhile, the adults need to learn how to debate civilly and brush up on science and logic while they’re at it. Arguing will not help our children. Neither will ignoring the subject. That’s what got us in this mess. Finding common ground with the anti-vaccine side (in this case, wanting informed consent, albeit about different risks) and taking baby steps to rebuild their faith in science will.

Yeah, we all want to win or be right sometimes. Both sides are guilty of hysteria and exaggeration.

However, we all want to protect our children. Let’s start behaving in a way that will actually accomplish that.

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Please Don’t Wake Up

“Please don’t wake up.”

Four words every parent has thought at some point.

I’m still a normal parent in many ways, these words streaking across my mind, followed by a twinge of guilt. I am a superstitious sort, often knocking on wood to stave off misfortune.

Every parent fearfully imagines saying these words:

“Please wake up.”

But I have said these:

“You have to wake up, baby. Please wake up. Please wake up.”

We all want our children to stay asleep. I can’t stop the cringe, the silent prayer for continued sleep, when I hear rustling or noises over the baby monitor. But I try to feel gratitude for the plaintive cry in the night. Because I have felt these words with a chill in my core:

“She’s not going to wake up.”

The price for love lost and found again is the fear every morning when I wake before my new daughter. My recompense is the overwhelming joy at the feel of her breath and the sight of her smile.

Letter to My Daughters

Dear Lucy and Scarlett,

Parents count the time in hours, then days, then weeks, then months. We hold on to that last one longer than non-parents can fathom. Even though we have good reason (A twelve-month-old is very different from an eighteen-month-old, although they are both one-year-old.), part of it is sentimentality. With your youngest child, especially, you do not want to let go of the last firsts.

I still count the time in months for each of you.

Scarlett, you will be six months old in one week.

Lucy, you have been gone for twenty months.

About a month ago, I finally lost track of Scarlett’s age in weeks. About a month ago, I found myself telling people Lucy died “almost two years ago”.

We parents might hang on too long, especially with our youngest. Most especially with the one who is gone forever. But we always know when it is time to move forward. We might fight it, but we know.

I love you both. I will write you individual letters for that six month birthday and Lucy’s upcoming third birthday soon. Lucy love, keep looking out for all of us. Scarlett, keep showing us glimpses of your sister in your face as you grow into your unique, beautiful self.

All my love,

Mama

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