I know millions upon millions of people are putting pen to paper (or, sorry, fingertip to keyboard?) about the whole measles outbreak situation, and in an effort to dust off my soapbox and pretend I’m staying relevant, I’m going to offer up my own opinions as well.
I want to begin this post with the disclaimer that I am lucky and therefore not terrified. I have read several extremely painful articles about measles since that terrible Disneyland trip that I didn’t go on. I have read of families with children whose conditions make it impossible for them to get the measles vaccine, and for whom the measles would be very near fatal. I have read of parents who have tried to convince their communities to get the measles vaccine to save those susceptible children from missing out on their lives, to no avail. I have read plenty of these stories, and so should you. These are the important ones. You can follow any of the links below (and I’m sure there are many more out there) to read the truly devastating stories that will show you just how debilitating this epidemic is. Do that.
Ok, so now that you have read those articles (I just love assigning homework on my blog), you can read my thoughts on the issue.
I believe that the decision for someone not to get the measles vaccine (note I am only discussing this specific vaccine, not vaccines in general) is a selfish one. It is a selfish one whose affects I feel. And therefore, I am angry.
See, my child doesn’t have a condition which places him at such a high risk as those spoken of above. My son, however, is a newborn baby, so no matter what risk he would be placed at once he got the measles, he lives at a high risk of simply getting it in the first place because he cannot get the vaccination against it. This is the case for all babies under 12 months of age. So, while the measles outbreak is not debilitating to us in a tragic way, it does affect the way we live our lives and will do so while we attempt to avoid the virus (or, rather, the infection caused by the virus) for the next ten months at least. And with a recent discovery of a case of the measles in our county, it affects our lives in a real way right now.
When I became pregnant, my lovely fiance and I decided that we wanted to focus a good deal of our energy on retaining our personalities and interests when our new baby came. We had heard plenty of talk from friends about how important things, like being married and having children, can make you forget about other important things, like practicing one’s hobbies and progressing towards one’s goals, etc. So, from the beginning we planned on making time for the things about which we were most passionate and encouraging each other in those endeavors. But what we wanted more than just the opportunity for us to continue doing the things we enjoyed, like go to local shows or take long walks in the woods, was to be able to share those things with our son. I was then constantly making mental lists of all of the things I wanted him to experience. At some points I even imagined us traveling out West and climbing mountains together (two things which I have exactly no experience in whatsoever) to show him just how awesome the world is. No matter what we did, however, we wanted to give our son a front row seat to all of life’s excitement. It was something we talked about often. We still do.
What this goal mostly meant for me since Roland arrived was simply going out into the world. I wanted desperately to show him all of the places we liked to go to: cafes, book stores, parks, restaurants, and even bars (because I happened to work at this awesome and pretty family-friendly bar when I was pregnant with him). We wanted to show him everything all at once. But then the measles came.
I wasn’t super nervous about the measles at first because I was uneducated about the types of people who got the measles. In other words, I thought that as long as we avoided what I would call “kid places,” we wouldn’t have to worry. And we hardly went to “kid places” anyway, so it worked out pretty well for us. But then I found out that the person who had the measles in our area is (lol, of course), an adult. I’m not going to hate on this person, because I’m assuming that person had nothing to do with not getting vaccinated in the first place (and maybe even assumed they were vaccinated). Parents are always the ones to blame when it comes to vaccinations because, no matter what, we are the advocates for our children. We are in charge, which is why they hand the baby to us when he or she comes out.
The point here, though, is that although we are blessed to have a very healthy baby on (and in) our hands, we still feel the affects of the measles on our lives because it keeps us from achieving one of our main goals as parents. Now, not only do we have to avoid “kid places” still, because children spread anything like wildfire once they get it, but we also have to avoid “adult places.” Which, of course, leaves us with “no places.” The only places I feel comfortable taking our son now are 1. outside (because it has been essentially zero degrees outside for weeks, and airborne respiratory infections struggle with that, thank goodness) 2. to church, because I feel spiritual health trumps these things. And while I love going to church on Sunday and being able to hop outside for between one and four minutes a day with my son, I am not fulfilled by this lifestyle. It may be a lot to ask to want to actually live (not just breathe and move) during my son’s amazing month-to-month stages, but I do. I really really do. I want the ability to leave the house back again.
I know it may seem petty that the foundation of my gripe with people who don’t get vaccinated is that I can’t have any fun. I’ll be the first to admit that it is, especially when plenty of people have it way worse than my son and I when it comes to getting sick. But I feel that I am allowed to be angry at those people who made a selfish decision that now directly affects my freedom to give my son the life I want to give him. So I am.