Fear you have to live with
I write this post with a certain amount of trepidation. For those on the outside who may not be aware, the topic of vaccines is the most divisive in the autism community. It can pit parents against those on the spectrum, and against other parents. It puts the scientific and medical community against alternative providers and the people who use them. I hate this division, there are bigger things to fight than one another. So I don’t really want to write about this debate. I’ve read a lot on both sides, and both make compelling arguments. There may be different kinds of autism, not just in severity of challenges, but in varieties too. Some may be genetic, some may be toxin-caused, and some may be a mixture of both. There may yet well be an as yet undiscovered auto-immune element to autism that will vindicate both sides. I don’t know, I may never know. I just have to make the decision for our family, because we have Cubby, and last week we had his appointment for his MMR.
When we look back at how Pudding was as an infant, before she even had any vaccinations (she was born in Europe, different vaccine schedule) she was intense, required more sensory stimulation than other babies. Of course, I didn’t know that then, but it has become more developed over time. There are family traits that can’t be ignored. She never had an adverse reaction to her vaccines. Everything points to her variety of autism being inherited. Don’t get me wrong, I still went through the process of blaming myself for some unknown event during my pregnancy or her infancy, but the evidence just wasn’t there. I just think she was born with this neurological difference, I don’t think her brain was damaged by toxins. I fully appreciate, however, that this isn’t the case for everybody.
So the rational part of my brain had no qualms about taking Cubby for his MMR. I thought of the evidence. I considered the opinions of medical professionals I trust. No problem.
Except…Fear isn’t rational. It takes facts and evidence and turns them upside-down. And when I was in the room waiting for the nurse to come back in, I worried about if I’d got it wrong. I was thinking of accounts I’d read about children who were typically developing until they got the MMR, and the child they knew disappeared. I was thinking about how it would feel if this was one day revealed to be the cause. What if he developed a more severe disability than his sister? The answer is, we’d accept it. We’d live with it. I thought I’d got over blaming myself, but here I am, still thinking that something I do could affect his outcome negatively. Am I ever going to stop doing that? Spectrummy Daddy and I had discussed it, and concluded that we needed to give him the shot, but Spectrummy Daddy was at work. I resented that I had to be there, that ultimately it was down to my say-so. So it was just me, Fear, and my two beautiful but quirky kids in that room. I would do anything to save those kids from harm, and with Fear in the room, I felt they were about to be attacked.
Cubby had his vaccines, but I didn’t defeat Fear. There is something every parent is more afraid of than autism. There has already been a reemergence of measles. It can be fatal, particularly in less developed countries, like the ones we might potentially move to next year. If I made the choice not to vaccinate, and the worst happened, I couldn’t live with it. When the rational part of me was gone, and I’m left with fear on all sides, there could only be one choice. I went with the one I can live with.
Now that Fear has moved on, and I’m back to being my somewhat rational self, I find I can live very well with my decision. Fear has definitely overstayed its welcome though. It is time it found somewhere else to live.