Welcome, new moms! We’re glad to have you join us…
I see vaccine-related posts all the time when I log in to Facebook. Not a day goes by that I don’t see some vaccine link being shared. I sometimes feel overwhelmed when I see that topic in my newsfeed. That’s because some days, the news isn’t good news - people are still being injured by vaccines, vaccine efficacy is waning (but we should still go out and get that bum vaccine anyway!), and mandates are looming. It can all be rather depressing. I’ll admit that I’m guilty of clogging my friends’ newsfeeds with all sorts of vaccine news and information, but that’s because when you’re a parent of a vaccine-injured child, being vocal about vaccines can easily become a habit.
Last week, logging onto Facebook was no different than other weeks. I saw posts about the Zika vaccine, about the Tdap vaccine, and about the DTP vaccine. I saw those being mentioned in some FB groups as well as on some of the autism advocacy and vaccine safety pages that I frequent. Not surprisingly, I saw those posts on friends’ walls, too. I expect to see that from certain friends, especially the ones who have a vaccine-injured child who is also on the autism spectrum. But last week when I saw that news pop up in my newsfeed, I didn’t cringe like I sometimes do when I see a vaccine link. I did a double take instead.
The posts that I saw were not being shared by moms like me. These moms were different. Their kids were different, too. The kids didn’t have seizures. Their weren’t in therapy. They weren’t in self-contained special ed classrooms either. It was a different population of moms fairly new to the online vaccine scene who were chiming in, and I couldn’t believe it. Typical moms of typical children were sharing articles about vaccine bills, about vaccine ingredients, and about the vaccine schedule. All out in the open and on Facebook!
I didn’t want to question why, but why? Why did these moms go from completely silent on what’s become a controversial topic to linking these sorts of articles to their FB walls? And why all of a sudden now? My mind was spinning.
Maybe they saw the 2016 schedule and were shocked at how many vaccines there are.
Maybe they came to realize that following the vaccine schedule is not safe, is not effective, and in actuality, for some people, is downright dangerous.
Maybe they recently took a verbal beating from their doctor about declining some of those vaccines.
Maybe they realized that if they don’t start being vocal now, they’ll lost their chance to speak up in the future.
Maybe the reason these moms are sharing what they are sharing is because they’re finally ready to say enough is enough. Whatever their reasons are, I am glad to witness what I am witnessing.
A few of the women hail from states where vaccine bills were recently introduced. The bills, had they passed, would have taken away their parental rights. As former vaccinators who previously had a choice to vaccinate or not, these women would now be forced to have to vaccinate their children. No questions. No exceptions. No exemptions. That can be pretty scary to realize. Thankfully, these moms aren’t afraid to share their thoughts on the subject. I just hope that they are prepared for what comes next.
Waking up to vaccine reality isn’t easy. People recognize how blind they were. They realize that they’ve trusted the wrong people. Worse, the more aware and vocal they become, they’ll begin to lose friends and others close to them. It can be a long, hard and sometimes lonely road to walk. As the mom of a vaccine injured child, I know this, and I feel for the moms on Facebook who are walking that path right now. That’s why I’m cheering these women on as much as I can. I’m ‘liking’ their vaccine-related posts. I’m commenting on it. I’m adding to a conversation that they started, and I’m sending them private messages of encouragement when that conversation, which inevitably draws their pro-vaccine friends in, gets heated.
At one time, I, too, was pro-vaccine. I created my own vaccine logic to justify my decisions. I refused to see the other side of the conversation – that vaccines were not always safe, effective or life saving and that the ingredients could cause more harm than good. It wasn’t until my child’s health started to go downhill that I realized that there was another side to vaccines. It took me watching his health worsen for me to wake up. While transitioning away from being pro-vaccine to being more informed, my eyes were opened but my heart was crushed. I was confused, angry, and lost. It was going to take time to heal, but I knew that something better would eventually be around the corner. And it was: freedom.
I was free. I was free from working with people who did not have my child’s health in their best interest, and I was free to make better choices for my family and for myself. I’m encouraged that some of my friends who have typical kids are starting to free themselves, too. This waking up period is exciting. I let one mom know that I can’t even put into words how grateful I am to see her recent posts on Facebook. She’s coming out of the shadows. She’s tippy toeing into reality. She’s cautiously testing the waters and also bravely planting seeds of truth at the same time. One article. One link. One statement against vaccines in her Facebook status at a time. It’s quite thrilling to see.
It takes courage to go against pro-vaccine logic, to speak up and say no way are all those vaccines ever going to go in my child. It takes even more courage to say all of that on social media. Juggling what usually comes next – the harsh comments and the personal attacks from others and dealing with any unsettled feelings of doubt after going “public”, can be a struggle. So can losing family and friends who cannot respectfully agree to disagree when it comes to discussing anything related to vaccines. Which is where we come in.
Those of us who’ve been vocal about the vaccine schedule before know what it’s like to be attacked. We know what it’s like to be ignored and discriminated against. I don’t want these new moms to have to experience all of the harsh vaccine reality that many of us have endured for years, so let’s welcome them to our online community with open arms. It may have taken some of them a long time to get here, but we can let these new moms know that we’re so happy to have them join us on this side of the vaccine conversation.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.