Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Hardest Thing

I'm a person whose mind never really stands still.  If I am waiting in a line somewhere, my phone is usually  handy, and I am browsing my news aggregator.  Rather than close my eyes and drift off at the end of the day, I have to read myself to sleep.  My Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with family and friends, yes, but is overwhelmingly comprised of various sources of information - news, forums, groups of every sort.

I like to think that this information broadens my horizons, informing me and stretching my mind, exposing me to points of view I may never hear in my regular circle of acquaintances.

I came across this link today in my news feed.  In it, a pediatrician discusses their decision to not accept patients whose parents choose not to vaccinate them.

This may sound shocking at first blush, I know.  Shouldn't a physician be impartial, non-judgmental, thinking first of the needs of the child without standing in judgment of the adults who make the decisions for him?

The words rang true to me, though, and reiterate what I've slowly come around to in my own life.

There is little point in arguing with those who choose not to vaccinate.

Don't get me wrong - I understand that there are legitimate medical reasons for vaccination refrain in some cases - compromised immune system, tendency to severe reactions, and various others.  I'm not saying that vaccinations should never be refrained from.

I just don't believe in making uninformed decisions out of fear.  I believe that I have a responsibility to my child to choose a doctor in whom I can place my trust, and to respect the opinions of a professional trained in a field in which I am not.

If my child were born with cerebral palsy, or spina bifida, or contracted malaria, for goodness' sake, I would bring him to a doctor.  What I would not do, however, is patiently let the doctor lay out the facts and course of treatment, all learned during years of hard study and practice, then politely decline to acknowledge or implement any of it.  I would not bristle and accuse that doctor of ignorance of "studies" I'd read about on Wikipedia, or heard espoused from a celebrity's mouth.

I would look at this professional who had spent countless hours studying and putting in clinic hours, and shadowing, and learning the names of chemical compounds I would never be able to pronounce on my best days, and I would listen to the words he had to say.  I would acknowledge that although I know and love my child, this is the first time I have ever seen this illness--and that having seen countless children pass through his doors, it is possible that this professional's knowledge of it is greater than mine.

I would keep in mind that while I am an expert at my job, so too is he an expert in his.  And I don't read medical textbooks for mine.

It is difficult for me to understand, then, why parents choose to adopt this attitude when it comes to vaccines.  It is ludicrous for me to think that because I gave birth to my children, I then automatically understand the inner workings of their bodies and minds.  I love them, but there is not a day that goes by in which I do not look at them and feel hopelessly unprepared to parent them--unprepared for being the guiding light in their lives which helps to shape them into the adults they are to become.  And that's good, I think.  The moment we as parents think that we have it all figured out is the moment in which we fail.  I parent my children for who they are today.  And then I start over tomorrow.

All this is not to say that I do not understand the need we have as parents to know best and fix things for our children.  The hardest lesson I've had to learn as a parent is to let go, and realize that it's not about me.  I still remember the frustration of not understanding why Little C was crying, why he was so frustrated, why he could not tell me what was wrong.  Then I remember the relief that swamped me when we got him into therapy, and realized that they understand him here.  These people, trained to understand how the autistic mind works, got him in a way that I, as his mother, did not.

That was hard.  I struggled with guilt and depression at the realization that these strangers were better prepared to parent him than I was.  I was his mother.  Why didn't I understand?

Years later, I realize now that the relationship of parent to child has no givens.  I don't understand him because I gave him life, I understand him because I make the effort to.  I subscribe to news sources, and peruse articles, and patiently (sometimes painfully) listen to viewpoints that I may disagree with, in the effort to never make a snap decision based on uninformed sources.  I also listen to him, which is a slow process at this point, but is ever evolving.

Until he is able to make decisions for himself, my responsibility as a parent is not just to arbitrarily decide what is best for him, but to make every effort to make informed decisions on his behalf - and in the medical arena, that means choosing a doctor I trust, and listening to what he has to say.

I'm not sure how to end this post, really.  I'm a little sad that the parenting war is so often such a bitter one, and that children so often are the ones that suffer the most for it.

{Helpful Links}



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*including the reddit link because the commentary there is so often thought provoking (and sometimes not, but worth reading nonetheless).  Original video link here:

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